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Follow Up: Wallingford Neighbors for Peace and Justice, and What You Can Do

November 2nd, 2009

A couple weeks ago I gave a talk titled “The Faces of Human Trafficking” at the Wallingford Neighbors for Peace and Justice as part of their “Friday Night at the Meaningful Movies” series. This post is largely to answer some questions from the attendees, which the organizers estimated at about 70 people, and provide them with a written list of things they can do. This is also a Thank You– to those who attended the evening’s talk and to the teachers and students I spoke to earlier in the day at Newport High School. Everyone had great questions!

At Newport High I presented media from my work on human trafficking in Cambodia. That evening, for the “Meaningful Movies” I added online segments from Democracy Now and ABC’s Nightline.

I also talked about project I’m working on here in Seattle–about how the City of Seattle is struggling to change its institutional and cultural norms with a pilot project to combat the prostitution of juveniles. What does this have to do with human trafficking? Find out after the jump.

UN protocol, US and Washington State laws say that if a minor is engaged in commercial sex, they are a victim of human trafficking. The idea is that someone under the age of 18 cannot voluntarily sell his or her body for sex, that there must be some form of force, fraud, or coercion.

Knowing the definition of human trafficking, and of slavery, is essential to understanding both the crimes and their possible solutions. The United Nations uses a complex and long-winded definition which includes the terms those terms: force, fraud, and coercion. It’s an important definition because how it is legally interpreted is what gives teeth to anti-human trafficking laws and programs.

When speaking, I prefer a simpler definition. It mashes the “force-fraud-coercion” components of human trafficking with the circumstance of slavery and goes something like this: “forcing a person through violence or threat of violence to labor for little or no compensation.”

I’ll spare you the melodramatic citations of many well-documented cases, but I do want to mention a couple of points from my talk. Most US citizens, when thinking of human trafficking, imagine commercial sexual exploitation of girls from eastern Europe or southeast Asia. Forced prostitution, if you will. But sexual exploitation is merely a subset of the many forms of abuse comprising human trafficking and slavery.

Our chocolate is tainted by slavery. Components in our cell phones and computers may result from slavery. We can choose to buy Fair or Direct Trade Coffee, but I don’t know if my tomatoes are slave-free. Sweatshops still exist, but so do respectable garment companies providing fair wages. Do you know the difference between a B-1 and J-1 visa and how that difference makes it easy to enslave a domestic worker in the US?

Our knowledge of human trafficking and slavery is going to be the first step to changing the lives of an estimated 27 million people. (Read more about human trafficking statistics here).

I believe knowledge will help people see how human trafficking is merely a symptom of greater issues–overwhelming issues, but ones we can still act on.

Talking about human trafficking at cocktail parties is a real conversation killer (I know, I’ve done it). But talking about your direct link to a fair trade coffee co-op and how you’re supporting the education and economic success of people half a world away–well, that’s downright uplifting.

You see, buying the coffee means a young girl gets an education; she learns about proper hygiene; her family has fewer illnesses and can be treated at the local clinic supported by coffee earnings. The result? When the girl’s mother gets sick, the girl doesn’t go to the city for a job a neighbor knows about–a job that is really at a brothel, where the girl is forced to work to ‘pay off’ her travel expenses. This is a hypothetical, but very real scenario.

I’ve found people like to feel good about helping others, but for many of us it’s hard to break from our daily rhythm and follow through with action. We have the power to help and I believe the easier it is, the more likely we’ll do it.

For the attendees of my talks at Newport High and Friday Night at the Meaningful Movies, plus everyone else out there, here are some of my suggestions of what you can do:

• Talk about the issue of human trafficking and slavery. Watch my media, follow the links I’ve provided, check out some books from the library. Read my Human Trafficking Resource Page

• Be vigilant and be willing to ask tough and embarrassing questions

• Learn about one of the stories I have started reporting on: “Safe Housing and Treatment for Children in Prostitution” is a pilot project Seattle is struggling to start that will address the prostitution of juveniles with a more victim-centric approach.

• Lobby Kurt Triplett, the King County Executive who cut $1.25 million of funding from the County’s battered budget intended for the “Safe Housing and Treatment for Children in Prostitution.” Phone: 206.296.4040, email: kcexec@kingcounty.gov

• Support the work I am doing: hire me for commercial or corporate work, refer me to someone who can hire me, purchase prints, or provide a direct, non-deductable donation. Everything goes to support the work I really want to do, which is creating media for social change.

• Give to one of three organizations in Cambodia I’ve reported on and whose work I value:

Transitions Global, a victim aftercare NGO with using a model that helps young victims find their voice again.

SISHA, an investigative agency that also trains Cambodia police in anti-human trafficking work.

The Lake Clinic, a floating health care clinic that travels to remote floating villages on the Tonle Sap lake. By catching illness early they help prevent high-cost treatments or early death, thereby keeping families functional and more stable.

• Help survivors
-donate clothes and equipment
if a victim looks good they feel more confident at job interviews, schools, etc.
give your old cell phones, computers, etc.
-offer language skills through classes or interpreting services
-offer professional skills like accounting, financial management, legal services, etc.
-donate money
-buy survivor made goods at websites like: www.madebysurvivors.com
-educate your community and hold a fundraiser–auction off your own goods or services and donate the proceeds.

• Talk to businesses, start a movement–Where do the products come from? Where do the suppliers get their materials? The them you want guaranteed slave-free products!

Kiva.org: A person-to-person micro-lending website. Kiva partners with existing micro-finance organizations; you choose the person to whom you want to make your micro loan and watch the results of your investment–online.

RallyCoffee.com: A newly started company importing Fair Trade coffee from Laos and sells it to you with custom labels for your fundraisers. You raise money for your cause, Rally Coffee donates part of its proceeds to an education NGO in Laos, and both of you help support the growth of a Fair Trade cooperative.

• Learn more at Freetheslaves.net

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