July 30th is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, an opportunity for us to highlight the lives of millions of exploited women, men and children throughout the world. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labor, sexual exploitation or organ removal regardless of their age, sex or social background. However, precise figures are elusive, due to the illegal and often invisible nature of trafficking.
Trafficking is just one of the many forms of violence that women still face today, and women and girls make up 71% of the world’s trafficked population, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Females are primarily trafficked for sexual exploitation, as well as forced marriages, domestic servitude and forced labor in various industries. Since women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination, and have less access to employment, education and other resources, they are particularly vulnerable to traffickers and promises of fair pay and decent work conditions. Once within a trafficking network, women and girls suffer extreme physical and mental abuse, including rape, imprisonment and even death.
Nigeria holds the record for the number of African migrants arriving by boat to Italian shores, with some 37,500 people arriving in 2016, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The majority come from Edo, in the southwest of Nigeria. Since 2013, IOM has observed an explosion in the number of women being trafficked: 433 in 2013 and 5,000 in 2014, according to the most recent data. The international organization also notes a “significant increase in the number of minors who are easily manipulated” and that the vast majority are being trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Responding to the trafficking of children and young people
This year’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons puts a particular focus on children and young people, who represent over a third of the world’s trafficked population. Via an online awareness campaign and raising funds, the ONUCD brings financial support to international NGOs working with the victims. These resources are then used to offer medical, psychological support and create safer environments for younger survivors.
Taking action to combat trafficking
Many organizations around the world are working tirelessly to put an end to the trafficking of humans. Among them, here are two inspiring initiatives that you can support to make an impact on the lives of survivors:
This social enterprise and Kering Foundation partner offers the opportunity to women survivors of human trafficking to reintegrate into society through a combination of vocational training and support programs that include shelter, counseling and educational grants for women and children. By purchasing a piece of jewelry from Starfish Project, you can support an organization that helps exploited women and girls experience freedom, establish independence and develop careers.
Launched by the UNODC, the Blue Heart campaign aims to raise awareness about the millions of victims of human trafficking worldwide, in order to fight against it and its consequences on society. The campaign seeks to mobilize citizens worldwide to get involved, spread the message and to “wear” a blue heart in solidarity with the victims of trafficking. Find out more here.
World Day against Trafficking in Persons, UN