By Jamie-Lee Sonnenberg-Smith, History Major — International Student, Canada
Since high school, I have had a passion and interest in combating human trafficking, which I believe to be the worst injustice a person can face. I had a great opportunity to attend a very informative Anti-Human trafficking conference at the College of Mount Saint Vincent. Although I had a good background on the issue, I still learned many new things about the so called “ins and outs” of the human trafficking underground business and what we, as concerned citizens, can do to help.
One thing that people need to be informed on is that human trafficking and slavery is still very prevalent today. 27 million people are being trafficked world wide, and this is on the low end. We will never know an accurate number because it is an underground industry. Another important fact that was highlighted at the conference is that large events attract traffickers from all over the world. These include events such as The Olympics, The World Cup and The Super Bowl. The Super Bowl should be a concern for us because in 2014 it is being held at the Met Life Stadium here in New Jersey, that hits very close to home. These events are involved with human trafficking in ways that people never even realize. The Super Bowl shirts and hats that are being sold, where do they come from? When there is a large gathering of people in a city for an event, trafficking becomes an issue. This is because of the demand and reducing the demand is the key to ending trafficking.
Sister Kati Hamm, Coordinator of Education, Life Way Network, had a very moving speech at the end of the day. She emphasized that we need to take action to end this problem. One thing she said that really stuck with me is “The Traffickers aren’t going to miss The Superbowl, why should we?” At the conference we learned many simple things we can do to target trafficking at this event, mostly through educating hotels and their staff in particular about the issue.
Many people consider human trafficking and slavery a thing of the past. We do not want to be reminded of the reality of trafficking because we participate in it on a daily basis. From the iPod’s and apple products that we own, to the clothes that we wear. We do not want to envision that New York City ALONE has many enslaved people who are beaten and suffer horrific psychological, physical and sexual injustices on a daily basis. We need to wake up and become aware of this, to stop living in the bubble of ignorance. I learned many ways to do this at the conference that I will carry with me. I would love to start a campus initiative to raise awareness about the problem of human trafficking, and how to combat it. In final thought, one thing I always remember when it comes to making change happen in the world is a fantastic quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”