Is it about your passion or their needs?

Previously I’ve discussed, as have the other fellows, the concept of working ‘upstream’. The concept of working ‘upstream’ is based on the idea that it is more important to address the root of the causes of human trafficking and modern-day slavery (poverty, gender ideology, etc…) rather than simply treating the symptoms. What I’ve come to see, however, is that it’s not as simple as targeting a different population. When Not For Sale moves ‘upstream’ to fight the battle against modern-day slavery, it is constantly moving against a strong current of ideas, opinions, and stereotypes that are often contradictory to the goals of NFS and ending modern-day slavery. Many organizations focus on sex trafficking only, or only focus on rescuing victims of human trafficking. Yes, both of these are important aspects to address, but by focusing solely on these aspects so much is ignored. For example, the ILO estimates that for every 1 instance of sex trafficking there are 9 instances of labor trafficking. So why are businesses just now beginning to take a look at their supply chains? Why is labor trafficking in general much less focused on compared to sex trafficking?

NFS addresses the issues of human trafficking comprehensively by creating futures for victims and vulnerable communities. Yes, there is less glory and reinforcement of self-worth in such work. We don’t come to work and say ‘we pulled out 5 girls from a brothel today!’ But that’s fine, because we’re not in this to pat ourselves on the back or boost our egos.  By creating futures, sustainable employment opportunities, for not only victims but vulnerable communities as well, NFS is able to address the vulnerability of populations to trafficking and slavery. To some, however, this is too lackluster. Some would rather see 1 individual pulled out of slavery than providing for 10 futures from vulnerable communities, because it makes for a good story. But here’s the thing, the story NEVER ends at the point of rescue. Too many people don’t realize this.

If people truly care, they’ll begin asking the tougher questions. Sure, you or your organization pulled a couple of girls out of a brothel, that’s fantastic! No one should be in slavery, but what about all the other girls that were left there? Will they be punished for the actions of the victims who were able to escape? What about the new girls that will be brought in? Will the traffickers move further underground, making them harder to trace? What will happen to the girls that were rescued? Are there services in place to support them? Will they be sent back home? What happens when they’re sent home to the same environment they were first vulnerable to trafficking in? What direction must we go to keep girls out of brothels in the first place? Who is helping the girl or boy across the street from the brothel stuck in debt bondage that is being ignored in place of the “righteous” work of freeing girls from a brothel?

Many won’t think about these questions. I mean, why should they? Isn’t it easier to pull a fish out of the water and then set it free further up the river? That way, at least, you know that the fish will eventually work its way back and you’ll be able to save it again, thus completing the circle of self-importance! Are organizations here to feel good about themselves, to always stay employed by addressing symptoms rather than causes, or are they here to end slavery? To continue with the analogy, Not For Sale works to lay nets upstream, so when that fish is put back in the river NFS won’t let it follow the same path. Vulnerable populations will be protected.

The whole mindset of directing your efforts so that necessary action (fighting slavery) can be aligned with a reinforcement of self-worth needs to stop. Human trafficking and modern-day slavery must be addressed comprehensively. Even if it’s lackluster and the results of your actions aren’t immediately tangible, have faith that by having an open mind and addressing the root causes of trafficking that you’re making a real, permanent difference.

What it comes down to is this: many people are driven by their passion and they decide to find needs in the world that align with their passion and morality. While these people may be doing good, it is still somewhat selfish in that it is them, their passion that is the catalyst to action, not the needs of others. Not For Sale is different. NFS first and foremost focuses on the needs of those who have been trafficked, those currently in slavery, and those most vulnerable to falling into slavery and then NFS incorporates its passion to help those most vulnerable in order to efficiently and effectively drive its actions. It is only after NFS pivots, adjusts, and changes to meet the needs of women, men, and children who are caught up in modern-day slavery that NFS adapts its passion in order to ruthlessly execute on every single one of its game plans.

To see how Not For Sale is working to create sustainable futures for those most vulnerable, head over to the website at While you’re there check out the free2work app, which grades companies supply chains and reviews industry responsibility standards. The free2work team and app address the largely ignored population previously discussed, those who have been trafficked not for sex, but for labor.


2 responses to “Is it about your passion or their needs?

  1. Thank you! This is excellent!

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