Of the many issues that fair trade tries to address, the most barbaric is human trafficking. A $32 billion industry, it’s the second largest illegal trade in the world, drugs being the first.
The International Labor Organization estimates there are 2.4 million people lured into forced labor of some sort. It takes many forms, from domestic servitude, child marriage and child soldiers to sex trade, organ removal, and sweatshop work.
It affects every country in the world in one way or another and occurs even in the United States. Women are disproportionately involved, with most reports citing at least 2/3 of the victims are women.
What is fair trade’s role in countering the modern slave trade? Most fair trade businesses, like mine, carry products that are made by women rescued from human trafficking. We also work with fair trade suppliers who donate a portion of their sales to non-profit organizations working to eradicate trafficking.
Equally important, paying fair trade wages to the thousands of artisans around the world gives them a viable, long-term means of support. This is an important point, because living on $1 a day or less means these women are drawn to promises of big money made by the perpetrators trying to lure them into the slave trade. Fair trade provides a stable and sustainable income that makes these promises much less attractive.
Nicholas Kristoff co-authored with his wife Sheryl WuDunn Half The Sky, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the oppression of women. His recent column on the topic cites a powerful but overlooked speech by President Obama this week on human slavery.
No matter what your political leanings, please read the article and watch the speech. Both will open your eyes to this horrendous crime against humanity.
I urge you to do what you can to bring more attention to this issue. Whether it is donating to groups working to abolish trafficking, volunteering with these groups, or buying fair trade products made by women rescued from trafficking, every effort makes a difference.
Please help spread the word by forwarding this blog to your friends and family. The more people who are aware of the broad scope of trafficking, the more help we can bring to its often-forgotten victims.