“Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
During my university experience, I spent four years in a state of incessant wide-eyed wonder, completely bewildered at the plethora of opportunities to learn. Electives were an academic smorgasbord, allowing me to register for classes on everything from the social impact of 9/11, to the art of motion pictures, to social justice movements in developing countries.
Gradually, gender became a focal point of my studies. Being a slightly naïve first-year student, I expected to study nothing much beyond women’s rights. But when my gender studies classes began discussing “other” justice issues like poverty and race, I started feeling as though these classes were getting off course. Why were these considered distinctively “feminist issues”? Nobody ever explained to me in a clear, explicit way why these topics had intrinsic relevance in the feminist dialogue.
Once I began working for Not For Sale, though, it began making sense. I remember in my first week of orientation at Not For Sale, the social ventures team spoke to us about our international projects. I was desperately trying to draw the connection between some of our projects and how they related to human trafficking. Why are we working alongside seven indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon? Why are we developing an agricultural business in Romania? Why are we bringing soup to women in the heart of the Red Light District in Amsterdam? Why are we partnering with a for-profit manufacturing company in India?
Over the course of my next few weeks, I became further immersed in a culture of deeply holistic thinking. It dawned on me that—especially as a non-profit organization—we cannot talk about justice for one group of people without discussing justice for another group. Justice is intersectional. Justice is multidimensional. Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.
It cannot be about emancipating people from slavery alone. That is why Not For Sale aims to fulfill a broad spectrum of survivors’ needs beyond aftercare and safety, including opportunities to develop life skills and acquire job training, long-term employment, and viable incomes that create a sustainable future. Moreover, Not For Sale has gone “upstream” to proactively mitigate susceptibility to forced labour through creating social enterprises that offer dignified employment, encourages ethical supply chains, and creates self-sustainable revenue flow. For example, in order to prevent tribes in Peru from becoming trafficked, Not For Sale established a relationship with the leaders of seven communities to create a social enterprise where locals earn a living wage in a cooperative to craft jewelry made from seeds harvested from the Amazonian rainforest.
We, as a whole, are greater than the sum of our parts. From the secular perspective, structural functionalists believe that society is a complex system of interrelated parts that must work together in solidarity to promote stability and cohesion. In a more spiritual sense, some Christians believe that the church must behave like the body—if one part suffers, every part suffers; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices. There should be no division; instead, every part should have equal concern for each other.
Unification, therefore, is an avenue for achieving justice—through pooling our resources, relying on each others’ expertise, building cross-cultural relationships. Not For Sale understands this, which is why we partner with communities and businesses across the globe, knowing that cross-sector collaboration contributes to the vitality of the abolitionist movement.
Justice is holistic. When we talk about empowering women, we need to talk about race, poverty, economics, politics, religion—all of the connected issues. When we talk about survivors of human trafficking, we must also discuss innovative, replicable, and sustainable solutions that mitigate the risk of vulnerable communities becoming enslaved.
Justice will prevail only when it is accessible to everyone—from the women behind the windows in Amsterdam, to stateless children in Thailand, to communities in the rainforests of Peru. Every sector of society is needed in this quest for justice. Everyone has a role, a skill to contribute—educators and students, musicians and athletes, Christians and Muslims, business leaders and grassroots activists. We are all part of the solution.