“I know awareness is important. But what ELSE can I do?”
This question comes up time and time again in relation to human trafficking. People have attended events, shared stories and stats with their friends and communities, and want to get stuck into something more, something else.
Never underestimate the power of awareness. Knowledge, they say, is power. Power to abolish. Awareness is key in something like the fight against modern day slavery: we must be informed, inform others, and shed light on what would otherwise be a very dark, hidden secret.
Moreover, the story of Katya is stuck in my mind. Caught in sexual exploitation in Athens, she fell down the stairs in the brothel that had become her prison. She was seen by several doctors in a local hospital who mended her broken leg – and then sent her on her way. If even one of these doctors, or another member of staff in the hospital, had been aware of what to look out for, had suspected something and known who to speak to – perhaps Katya’s misery would have ended a few months earlier. So, to me, every contact is important. Every conversation is worthwhile. Every community group that raises awareness event after event, campaign after campaign, has an important role to play in abolition.
But of course, there is more than awareness. There are the official bodies who work in policy making, researching, law enforcement, aftercare, working in the wider field of human exploitation, working against poverty or lack of education, exploring cultural currents that condone trafficking.
And then, there’s us. This part takes work as it involves seeking out our own roles – thinking hard about what these could be within our personal spheres but against the backdrop of the bigger fight against slavery.
My parents combined their connections with influential people and their resource of a warm home to hold awareness evenings on the topic. A friend has used his financial abundance to care for rescued victims. Friends in a popular band have decided to use their platform to tell stories of those in need. Still others have set up aftercare facilities. One friend works in education, bearing in mind that those she teaches are the future abolitionists, traffickers, and trafficked people. Another works with vulnerable communities in South-East Asia, some work to find clean water in African villages, some work with the homeless in Belfast – all indirect ways in which a dent is made in slavery. The list is endless and I am privileged to know these people. Your name is on the list, too. You have a role to play. You have a sphere of influence. You have a social circle. You have a job, an interest, a platform. I feel strongly that it is upto us as the general public to take care of the culture that dictates whether or not trafficking is acceptable – and this is an ongoing project we are all needed in.
It would be easier for both you and me if we could come up with a step-by-step programme…”Abolition 101″, if you will. But that’s not how it works. Human trafficking is a complex and wide-reaching issue. Our response needs to be just that as well. There is a long list of areas to cover, involving a lot of different people.
Your name is on that list.