These guys had no clue. The scantily clad and barely legal teenagers they had draped from both arms were laughing and giggling at every one of their cheesy jokes, not because they thought they were funny, but because they wanted these two Australian men to help feed their families back in the countryside. They were hoping for a bigger tip at the end of the night. I shook my head at the men’s ignorance.
I was in Southeast Asia helping existing organizations on the ground that were fighting human trafficking. While in Bangkok, my friends and I hit up the bars near the red light districts to talk with men about human trafficking and the consequences of their actions.
Most didn’t know that 27 million people are enslaved worldwide, 60-80% being women and children trapped in the sex trade.
In Thailand, I learned that the youngest girl in the family has the responsibility of providing financially for her parents. Once she’s old enough to work, she’s encouraged to work. Many end up in the big city and work in the red light districts. Prostitution is fast and easy money, despite the risk of physical abuse, sex trafficking, or even death. Plus, the girls can send the money back to their families without questions asked.
Canvassing Southeast Asia, and several years passionate on the issue of human trafficking, I was able to learn a lot about the root causes of this global injustice. One of the many factors leading to trafficking: poverty.
While working with Transitions Global in Cambodia, a country known for child sex trafficking, I was told that many parents in the countryside will sell one of their children to traffickers so that they can purchase food to feed their other children.
They [unnecessarily] sacrifice one for the sake of many.
Being aware of this, human traffickers flock to poverty-stricken areas and exploit the poor for their own malicious benefit. Unfortunately, it’s a story repeated all throughout the world in some of the most poverty-stricken areas.
Do the math: if 26% of the world’s population (7 billion) still lives in extreme poverty, that means that 1.8 billion of the world’s poor are at high risk for human trafficking.
What are you going to do about it?
I hate to say it, but knowledge begets responsibility. I don’t share this information – that poverty is birthing grounds for human trafficking – to shame you into action; I’m sharing it with you to empower you to change something.
Here are a few ways that you can get involved:
1. End Poverty. It’s easier than you think. If the global poverty rate has been cut in half in one generation, then eliminating it over the next 20 years is easy as cake. Watch the 58: Film and learn how to become one of our partners in killing off this issue.
2. Educate yourself. There are some great resources on human trafficking and global poverty out there. Learn about the issues so the next time you’re standing in line at Starbucks, you can strike up a mega awesome conversation with a stranger.
3. Buy Fair Trade. You would be surprised at the effect this has on the global and your local economy. Check out the Fair Trade Resource Network to learn more.
4. Advocate for victims of trafficking. I believe that one of the greatest justice-killers out there is silence. Now that you know 27 million people are in modern-day slavery and millions of women and children are raped for profit every day, open your mouth and tell others about it. The Not For Sale Campaign is a great place to start.
In case you’re wondering, the men who my friends and I ran into the bar on that night in Bangkok walked away having been educated on the issue of human trafficking and the woes of poverty and its brutal effects on the culture in Thailand. If you want to read more about that encounter, you can check it out here.
So what’s it going to be? Are you going to speak out for justice or aid human traffickers with your silence?
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Matthew Snyder is a twenty-something writer and passionate world changer. He likes to share about ideas that are changing the world, especially in human trafficking. He is also one of the newest members to the Trinity Effect team. You can follow him on Twitter @matthewlasnyder.