Human trafficking and modern-day slavery are clandestine issues. They are hard issues to track and address because of this. Yet, hidden within these hidden issues is the less acknowledged ‘why’ people are susceptible to being trafficked and brought into slavery. Many organizations like IJM and the FBI do great work in arresting traffickers and knocking down doors to rescue victims. However, they address only a very small portion of the problem. The real issue is that less acknowledged vulnerability of individuals to being trafficked. This is especially important when you consider that many victims that are rescued from trafficking are actually deported home and then re-trafficked at a later point. So, how do we address this issue? We address it the Not For Sale way, by investing in futures and working upstream to prevent trafficking.
By investing in futures we can create sustainable employment opportunities for victims and vulnerable communities. Sure, it’s more glamorous to kick down a door and rescue a victim, but by investing we can prevent that victim from being re-trafficked. Furthermore, by investing in futures we can also prevent individuals from that person’s community or other vulnerable communities from facing a similar fate. We must be more than just a reactionary organization that rescues victims; we must be proactive in preventing vulnerable populations from getting trafficked in the first place
When we invest in futures we are creating programs that train and develop victims and vulnerable communities to have personal and professional job-related skills. Then we offer them programs of sustainable employment. In doing so, we are addressing issues that make communities vulnerable such as poverty and lack of opportunity for employment.
Now, we also have to be sure to make smart investments. Our investments must not only address the vulnerability of men, women, and children who could be potentially trafficked, but also we must empower those individuals. It is not enough to develop a standalone microfinance program where groups of women in villages are given loans and expected to start a business and pay back those loans (with interest). We must also take a look at the social rather than just economics, as money alone is not enough to empower vulnerable populations.
Investing in futures is important. As Not For Sale says, we must move upstream and address the vulnerability of populations for being trafficked and re-trafficked, not just rescuing those already in captivity. We must also remember to have empowerment as a goal and pair our investments with social programs that address this. Many NGOs ignore the social impacts of their programs. For example, women in microfinance programs often come from patriarchal households with traditional gender roles where even though these women make money it is their husbands that decide how that money is used.
Some of the ways Not For Sale pairs investments and sustainability with empowerment are through vocational training, providing childcare facilities, and providing education for victims. These programs address job-related and gender-related issues, creating opportunities for victims to have a sustainable and dignified future. When we invest in futures, when we address vulnerability and empower individuals we can prevent the need for kicking down doors altogether.
For example, women in microfinance programs often come from patriarchal households with traditional gender roles where even those these women make money it is their husbands that decide how that money is used.