So now we’ve discussed the problem let’s start talking about what we can do to make a difference. It may seem like a drop in the ocean but if we each do one thing, change one small part of our lives then it adds up to a huge difference. I’m sure there was a time in America and Europe when slavery was so intrenched in every day living that the thought of abolishing it all together seemed impossible and seemed like it would destroy the economy and fabric of people’s lives. But it was an evil thing that had to stop and a couple hundred years later we can’t imagine something like that happening at all.
However, as we’ve already discussed it does happen. Even in this country people are being forced to work for nothing out of fear and desperation. Places where it happens more frequently are “spas” (especially if there is a large privacy fence surrounding the area), nail salons, asian buffets, cleaning services, and other construction migrant type work. For victims of labor trafficking look for these clues:
* They do not have possession of their own legal documents and ID
* They have poor working and living conditions
* They are unable to leave their job or situation due to threat or coercion
Remember: Victims can be seen anywhere along the production line- from food service to manufacturing to farming to domestic servitude. And if the price is too good to be true then maybe it is.
For Victims of Sex Trafficking in Minors Look for these clues:
* The average age of entry into prostitution is 12; this is often due to the presence of a manipulative and controlling older “boyfriend”.
* 1 in 3 runaways are picked up by a trafficker/pimp with in their first 48 hours on the street
* 70-90% of children who have been sexually exploited and trafficked have been sexually abused in the past.
Remember: anyone under the age of 18 who is exploited through pornography, stripping or prostitution is a victim of slavery.
For victims of sex trafficking in adults look for these clues:
* The presence of a pimp or controlling individual
* Substance abuse, signs of physical abuse, and fear
* Often manipulated and threatened emotionally, mentally, and physically
Remember: individuals working in prostitution may not be there by choice; they may actually be trafficked/pimped.
If you suspect any of the above call 1-888-3737-888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The second thing we can do is to educate ourselves and those around us. Consider hosting or attending an awareness event. My dear friend Susie, who introduced me to this tragedy, goes all over our state educating women, friends, church groups, parents etc. about this issue and about what they can do to protect their children and make a difference in the world. She is amazing and I’d like to give her a special thank you not only for her tireless work in this field but in the time she took to give me the information and point me in the right direction so that I can share it with you. To contact susie go to www.betterwayimports.com or look her up on face book.
Susie works for a company called better way imports. Better way is a supplier for several companies around the world that rescue women from prostitution, teach them a valuable skill, give them an education and start to help them heal both physically and emotionally. I could really go into all they do but I’ll let you go to their website and browse it yourself. Every thing they sell is fair trade certified and has to meet standards beyond that. The stuff is cool so if your wanting something unique for christmas gifts this would be a great place to start. Or if you own a shop consider selling some of their items. You know the adage “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a life time?” well that’s sort of what they’re about giving women an alternative to selling their bodies.
This brings me to the final part of my series. I feel like one of the biggest ways to advocate for these women, children and families is by “voting with your dollar” money speaks and it speaks loud. The bible says “the worker deserves his wages” Luke 10:7 and it also says that “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10. Notice it doesn’t say “money is the root of all evil.” it says “the LOVE of money.” when I first started thinking about this problem and being challenged to change my life style the first thing I thought was “how can I afford it? I’m on a really tight budget!” which is true, I am on a tight budget but maybe it just means I buy less, I have less stuff. I only get coffee at places I know are fair trade certified and I don’t eat m&m’s in my popcorn (sigh). I trust that God will provide for me if I do what he asks. Basically all the excuses in the world boil down to “I love my money I love stuff more then people.” Better Way represents 600 women. 600 is not a lot compared to how many are out there but those women will have children and their children will have children. Future generations that will grow up and get educated, who won’t be living in such poverty. Not to mention the more their products sell the more they can hire.
So how do you know if something you consume is slave free? Well you can’t always know but I think every choice we make now when we previously wouldn’t have is a step in the right direction. A lot of it is research (you do not want to know how much time I’ve spent looking at chocolate web-sites) but their are some basic ways to check.
The most well known one is “fair trade certified”. To be fair trade certified a product has to prove and show that it is coming from a place where the people are being paid fairly, and treated fairly. Some of the money from fair trade products is going back into the community and infrastructure ensuring both education and health care among other things. Many fair trade ingredients come from a co-op type plantation or farm rather then one owned by a land owner and worked by workers.
Slave-free means that the product was made with out the use of forced labor. That the people are being paid fairly, but does not include money going back into the community.
The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. You can go to their website www.rainforest-alliance.org to see what products are rain forest certified (my favorite is Caribou Coffee, the first major coffee retailer to receive this certification and presently includes 80% of their coffee soon to be 100%)
The Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) is an alliance of tea packers who are working together to improve the sustainability of the tea sector. The ETP members share a vision of a thriving industry that is socially just and environmentally sustainable. (my favorite Twinings!!)
I think that in order for something to be considered organic it must also adhere to certain labor practices (at least in chocolate but I think in every thing) so that is a very basic guide line. Let me know if I’m wrong on that.
Clothing is a tough one. Even if it says it’s made in the U.S did the fabric originate here? For now I’m avoiding buying things that say they were made in small asian countries because they seem to have more problems with forced labor. Also things that say they were made in Germany a lot of times were made some where else and then filtered through Germany because of restrictions our Country has trading with them. But please let me know if there is a better or easier way to know, or if I’m totally wrong on that one.
I would love to use this as an excuse to sew more but have had zero luck in figuring out where fabric in our fabric stores comes from.
There are more and more ways to know it’s just a matter of research. I would love your feed back. If you know of a company or product that is doing the right thing (or one that isn’t) please let me know. I am currently in the process of revamping my blog and want to feature products and get feed-back to make it easier on all of us. What to buy and where to buy it are big things with me right now. I know this is hard but we’re talking about people here. We’re talking about our responsibility to make a difference for good. There is even more information out there! Check out www.notforsalecampaign.org for more ideas on projects and ways to get involved. I’m making a commitment to change my life style so that others can have a better life. I know I won’t be perfect I know that there is no perfect way to know about every thing I buy; but when I can I’m going to do the right thing. I hope you’ll at least consider joining me maybe we can wipe out slavery in our own life time wouldn’t that be incredible!