November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – a day each of us can think about steps we can take to end abuse.
According to numbers recently released by the Untied Nations (U.N.), one of the many ways women endure violence is modern-day slavery. The U.N. estimates that today there are 1.9 million women and girls in forced labor, and roughly half of them were trafficked specifically for sexual exploitation. They are part of the largest slave trade industry in human history.
Jennifer was one of them. At the age of 14, she was one of 30,000 children abducted by Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) during a brutal 20-year civil war. The boys became ruthless soldiers – sometimes forced to kill their own parents. The girls were given to older soldiers as wives. If they refused, they were beaten into submission. They had a one in one hundred chance of rescue and even less of a chance of escape. Abused. Enslaved. Hopeless.
Jennifer and her daughter were among the lucky ones who came home – but only to find that she and her daughter would be shunned. Fortunately, they received help from Food for the Hungry (FH) at the New Life Center in Northern Uganda. Jennifer grew from hopeless to expectant, from unemployable to skilled, and from lost to alive in Christ.
But there are still 1.9 million women and girls who are victims of a $31.6 billion industry that exploits 2.5 million desperate and vulnerable people who are now modern-day slaves – girls, boys, women and men. They are laboring against their will in every corner of the earth – maybe even in your own town. They are children working in fields and sweat shops to supply the products we enjoy (such as chocolate and cotton), boys and girls walking the streets as prostitutes, and worse.
The toll to society
Besides the immense toll that human trafficking has on abused individuals, there is also a cost to society.
- Breakdown of families and communities that are left behind. Since many of those abducted are women and girls, families lose the traditional caregivers for children and elderly people.
- Lost economic development, especially when the abducted are children who will have no opportunity to finish school and contribute to the economies of their communities.
- Higher health risks, not only among those abducted, but also among those with whom they come into contact – including sexually-transmitted diseases and tuberculosis.
- Mental health issues – trafficked children are more likely to develop mental health issues and to abuse substances. They require rescue from their circumstances, rehabilitation from the traumas they have endured and reintegration into their communities.
- Rule of law – where human trafficking exists, most likely so does organized crime – beyond just trafficking and perhaps impacting the national security of numerous countries.
What you can do
- Learn – do some research to understand the extent of the problem and how it impacts innocent victims as well as entire societies.
- Speak out – ask your local media to cover the human trafficking problem; and contact local and national lawmakers to make stronger laws against human trafficking; ask local police for stronger enforcement of anti-trafficking laws.
- Disrupt demand – write a letter to the editor of your local business publications asking for businesses to ensure that their supply of labor doesn’t include forced labor.
- Seek justice – become an activist to bring attention to human trafficking and insist that they be brought to justice; avoid using brands that come from countries that knowing use forced labor.
- Give financially – help organizations like FH who help victims of human trafficking regain their lives, their self-worth and their livelihoods
Watch a video
See how FH helped Jennifer and other women who had been “formerly abducted children” in Uganda.