I am excited for you to hear Jen Hatmaker’s heart on this important subject and how life and fair trade blend can change lives…
I first heard the phrase “human trafficking” just three years ago, having precious little context for the scope of this crisis. Armed with just enough information to be dangerous, I assumed this referred to the brothels in Cambodia and the cocoa bean farms in West Africa.
And it does.
But I had no idea it was also in my backyard. Until a story broke locally about a handful of young, young girls rescued through a sting operation from a huge, fancy, rich house in west Austin, right in the middle of the American Dream, where a group of affluent men “bought them” and abused them without end. They’d leave their respectable jobs as bankers and lawyers and real estate brokers and patronize this house where these young girls were held captive, pay for the privilege of abusing their bodies, and then go home to their wives and kids.
Then there is debt bondage.
And child soldiers.
And forced labor.
And house servants.
And sex trafficking.
And I kind of wanted to throw my hands over my eyes and ears and unsee and unhear it all. The systemic issues that fuel human trafficking as well as the pragmatic struggles of liberating those in bondage are entirely overwhelming. How do we raise the value of women and convince men they are worthy of respect? How do we infiltrate these dangerous cartels profiting so heavily off free human capital? How do we convince consumers to investigate supply chains and buy based on responsibility instead of preference?
Especially since I’m not an investigative journalist or an undercover agent or a Senator; I’m a mom. I drive a suburban, for cripes sake. I live in the visible population, safely insulated from the invisible men, women, and children trapped in slavery, tucked away in dark corners and dark rooms for profit. It’s very tempting to imagine I am powerless in such a difficult, global struggle.
Except I’m not.
And neither are you.
Here are five things any regular, ordinary human can do:
- Educate yourself.
You can’t address what you don’t see. And it is very hard to see human trafficking. Learn from organizations like:
This will help reframe your thinking on trafficking, making the invisible visible, which is the very first step toward abolition. If we’ve learned anything from the recent Stop Kony campaign, it is that awareness can absolutely raise a crisis to international attention and intervention.
- Shop responsibly.
Labor trafficking is highly dependent on the concept of supply and demand. It happens when fair labor practices are undercut by cost-cutting measures that encourage trafficking. Check out Free2Work and download the barcode app, allowing you to scan items for information on their supply chains. Identify fair labor products and stick with them. Watch for red flag products, heavily supplied by forced labor. Here are the top 13:
- Donate intentionally.
Buying a bag? Buy it from Freeset, turning your consumer power into activism. Need a gift? Order it from Made by Survivors. Need fabulous body products? Skip Bath and Bodyworks and head over to Stop Traffick Fashion.
Think through every single thing you need to buy. Could you purchase it from a vendor who will use your money for more than padding profits? If we reimagined every gift, every piece of jewelry, every bag, every t-shirt purchase as an opportunity to fight trafficking, we could fund those on the ground rescuing, rehabilitating, and empowering victims into a stable place in the economy.
- Use your influence.
I am a small player on this earth. I have a small amount of influence. But like Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I decided to rally my readers to build anti-trafficking homes in Haiti through Help End Local Poverty through the easy idea of hosting garage sales and donating our profits. Between what has already been donated and what is pledged, we will easily build 3-5 houses, providing security and a future for young girls aged out of the orphanage system, heavily preyed upon by traffickers within days.
One of my favorite stories so far was from the high school cast of Les Miserables in west Chicago at Wheaton Academy. They decided to throw their hat in the ring, and they funded an entire safe house by themselves, raising $7000 together. BAM.
What could you and your people do? Dream together. Lead the charge.
Humans are not for sale, not on our watch. Let’s not waste our resources and privileges, imagining they are simply for our enjoyment and consumption. When my grandchildren learn one day that more slaves existed during my lifetime than ever before in human history, and they ask me what on earth I did to help – because surely I didn’t stand by idly while innocents were abused and exploited – I am determined to have something to say.
Check out Jen’s book 7. 7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. In the spirit of a fast, they pursued a deeply reduced life in order to find a greatly increased God. Click HERE for more info on 7. (Thanks to the good folks at Barnes and Noble for believing in 7 so much!)