January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. It's the perfect moment to take stock of where we are, what we need to accomplish and how we're going to make change in 2014.
It's important to start the year thinking about ways to address and prevent trafficking in persons, given that, throughout the world, so many workers and young people experience this assault on their dignity and autonomy.
These are the larger, longer-term solutions to ending modern slavery:
• Enhance and protect the rights of workers
• Create safe ways for immigrants to travel and work
• Invest in more living-wage jobs and economic opportunity
• Provide education to young people on issues of gender and sexuality and offer appropriate support for homeless youth
• Demand transparency and accountability in supply chains for goods and services.
This informs the five action items you can put in place right now as we begin the new year:
1. Map Out Your Action Plan: Plan out your calendar for the year. Write down events and conferences you want to attend (like the Freedom Network conference in April 2014), articles you want to write and actions you want to take. Planning it now and putting it in your calendar makes it much more likely you'll do what you say, and you're less likely to feel overwhelmed by what you want to accomplish.
This is also a great way to get trafficking on the radar of your personal network. Strategize about timing and how you can bring people together at the optimal time. Write down who you'll talk to and when. They can be friends, co-workers, family and people in organizations you belong to.
Explain that trafficking is about people working in a climate of fear in all kinds of industries: restaurants, domestic work, sex work, agricultural labor and construction. They often experience isolation and invisibility; are subjected to abuses of power by their employers, and they have little or no access to help.
2. Plan Your Donations: Whether it's $5, $50, $100, or more, you probably donate money to different causes throughout the year. Be proactive and figure out how much, when, and to whom you will give as part of your annual charitable donations. And decide on what you need to do to make this happen. Do you need to give up a few lattes, manicures, or nights out each month to make sure you can do this? Do you want to give a little bit per month, or is one lump sum easier for you?
Most important, make sure you do your research and give to a qualified organization that knows how to work with survivors of trafficking. Check with groups like the national Freedom Network (USA), NY Anti-Trafficking Network or Sex Workers Project about service providers with a proven track record of working with survivors to help them become independent and find their own voices again. A group doing amazing work internationally is Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women. And the Global Freedom Center is very innovative in finding ways to mobilize people with different skills as partners in the fight against modern slavery.
3. Be a Media Activist: Use your social media networks to talk and share information about trafficking in an informed way that respects the dignity and voices of survivors. On Twitter, follow and have conversations with groups like @NYATN, @FreedomNetUSA, and @GlblFreedomCtr. Join the conversation with hashtags such as #humantrafficking, #modernslavery, #trafficking, #forcedlabor and #supplychains.
In other media, respond to articles in the comments sections, or send a letter-to-the-editor the same day the article is published. Demand accurate information and respectful coverage. Push for solutions that help survivors or prevent modern slavery.
4. Look Into Supply Chains and Call for Better Transparency and Accountability: Start with yourself. When you buy something at a store or online (whether it's chocolate, clothing, or a smartphone), or you patronize service-oriented places like restaurants or nail salons; ask about the wages and conditions of the workers involved. If you hire domestic workers to work in your home, do you follow the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights?
But we can only do so much as individuals. With others in your anti-trafficking community, demand that local institutions like your school, your city, or places where you frequently spend money, engage in transparency about their supply chains, and tell them how important it is to you as a consumer that they are accountable for conditions in their supply chain. E-mail companies directly (get the information from their websites) so leadership and their corporate social responsibility division hear from consumers. To give you an idea of mitigation strategies corporate brands can use to prevent trafficking, take a look at the Global Freedom Center's free eBook.
5. Host a Fundraiser or Awareness Event: This is something to work toward -- something that can be successful if you are sticking to your plan to be proactive throughout the entire year. It serves as an incentive to be strategic with your actions, and can serve as a way to further commit both yourself and your circle to making a difference.
There are many creative ways to raise money or awareness. Clothing drives, house parties and movie nights are all great ways to get people together to think critically about trafficking and modern slavery. Free the Slaves has a good guide on how to host a house party. Again, make sure you do your research. Donate to qualified organizations that provide appropriate services rooted in respect for the human rights of survivors.
One option is to have a fundraiser to directly support a trafficking survivor, especially one who is in the middle of a public case. Being in the spotlight and cooperating as a witness in an investigation or prosecution is a strain, both emotionally and financially. Currently, there is a need to raise funds for Sangeeta Richard, the survivor in the Khobragade domestic work case, and her family -- check out #StandWithSangeeta on Twitter.
We all want to live in a world that respects the dignity and autonomy of each and every one of us. Let's use January as a way to start the new year doing everything we can to end modern slavery and help trafficking survivors move forward and rebuild their lives.