By Morgan Lane
We all know human trafficking is a global epidemic. While we’ve become more aware of this issue in recent days, the majority of us would not see ourselves as part of the problem. We may even advocate for victims and survivors with anti-trafficking organizations. Unfortunately, as we all have a carbon footprint, we have a slavery footprint as well. From the coffee we drink each morning to the clothes we choose to wear every day to our favorite chocolate snack, we are unknowingly participating in modern day slavery. Or worse, knowingly turning a blind eye to it.
William Wilberforce, a leader in the movement to abolish slavery in Britain, is attributed with saying “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”
Forced labor is happening with the production of so many every day items we use. Sex trafficking is occuring in many recreational (for lack of a better word) activities people are participating in. It is time to make a choice. We can either do a little research to ensure the brands, products, and activities we stand behind are not contributing to human trafficking OR we can look the other way and claim ignorance as bliss. The latter may be more convenient for our lifestlye, but we must begin to think of the lifestlye and livelihoods of the people behind the products.
So what does that mean for us? Where do we even begin?
Here’s a few ways we, as consumers, can reduce the demand for human trafficking:
1. Know Where and From Whom You’re Purchasing. Do a little research to find out what services and goods you enjoy are often Products of Slavery.
2. Know Your Slavery Footprint. Go to Slavery Footprint to find out how your spending habits are contributing to modern day slavery and even see the estimated number of slaves that have produced goods and services you benefit from.
3. Purchase From Freedom Minded Companies. Thankfully, with more attention being brought to the occurrence of forced labor in companies, some bigger organizations have started taking a look at ways they can eliminate slavery from their manufacturing and supply chains. And many companies have even been birthed with a specific agenda to aid in the fight against human trafficking. You can find companies who employ survivors of trafficking, teaching them a trade that will provide a fair wage in a healthy work environment. Once you know your slavery footprint and what goods you purchase are sources of trafficking, consider replacing products you buy with sustainable, slave-free options. To get you started, here’s a list of a few freedom-focused organizations and their missions or values:
a. Backpacks, bags, and headbands - Aruna – Create lifelong freedom through employment marked by holistic care to sexually enslaved women.
b. Clothing - Elegantees – Our aim is to fight human trafficking in Nepal through employment opportunities. All our products are made ethically by those who have overcome.
d. Coffee - Equal Exchange - …to build long-term partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound.
e. Tote Bags, jewelry, clothing - Mata Traders – Providing a stable income to women at the poverty level as a way to combat the problem of child labor at its roots.
f. Essential oils - Simply Earth – Ethically choose farms and harvest oils, 13% of proceeds go to different anti-trafficking organizations like Sojourn House.
g. Home Goods (Bedding, Kitchen, Bath & Body, Décor) - Ten Thousand Villages – Create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our market through long-term, fair trading relationships.
h. Chocolate - Tony’s Chocolonely – Crazy about chocolate. Serious about People! Together we’ll make chocolate 100% slave free!
4. Learn All You Can. Do All You Can. There’s more and more information coming out about human trafficking: what it is exactly, the signs to look for to know if someone is being trafficked, ways to be proactive in preventing vulnerable men and women from being trafficked, what we can do to help victims and survivors, etc. The Polaris Project has a plethora of information from types of human trafficking to ways we can take action. Reach out to safe houses in your community, like Sojourn House, to find out how you can support survivor rehabilitation and restoration.
Changing our spending habits will be inconvenient, maybe even more expensive at times. But the knowledge we have about human trafficking must turn into action. Ignorance is not bliss. Willful ignorance to forced labor practices is an injustice to our fellow man. Will you join me in taking a stand to end modern slavery? It begins with us. Let’s learn all we can and then do all we can.
About the Author
Morgan Lane is the Sojourn House Board Treasurer. She has been an advocate for human trafficking victims and survivors for many years. After becoming aware how her family’s spending was contributing to slavery, she began learning about different companies ethics of production and wages. Her family has begun to change their spending habits to align more closely with their beliefs that all deserve to be free, work for a fair wage, and be treated with dignity.