I don't often talk about my work on here. I reckon most people know what I do and keep up with our social media outlets for information but this week feels significant. This Friday, October 18th marks EU Anti-trafficking Day. I work in this field, around this issue every single day. There isn't a day in my life that goes by now without some sort of conversation about slavery and exploitation - so most days feel like anti-trafficking days to me. However, I know that the issue of modern day slavery can sometime seem so overwhelming to someone not so engrossed or familiar. The statistics are suffocating:
21 million people in forced labour in the world today. That's about the same as the population of the whole of Australia.
Every country in the world is effected by this crime. Source countries, destination countries, internal trafficking.
Sexual exploitation. Forced labour. Domestic servitude. Forced crime.
80% of victims are women and girls.
I could go on and on and on.
But how do we connect to it all? How do we make sense of numbers and figures in order to not be paralysed by the scale of the problem?
My job requires me to do just that. To think about how every day people can engage in this issue, find what they can offer and put it to use. Big ways and small - it all matters.
So I've been thinking about some of the ways you might not know that you can care about human trafficking that really make a difference. You don't need to be on the front line giving inspiring speeches, debating policy and campaigning.
Over the next 2 posts, I'm going to share 8 important issues that are connected to human trafficking.
If you are wondering how to connect - here are four things you can start caring about today:
“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.” – Malala Yousafzai
Malala is quite right. The right to education is something we should all be passionate about. Informed and empowered young people around the world is what we need. With education, certainly comes power. The power to understand, to make good choices, to have opportunities that can quash the vulnerabilities that oppressors and traffickers prey upon.
Whether you live in Belfast or Bangladesh - protecting and promoting education must be a priority. Do you thank the teachers at your children's school? The Times reported in September that "Currently the only official guidance teachers have to talk about sex and relationships to pupils was last updated in 2000, some 13 years ago, and does not mention internet porn, sexting or social media." - I'll get to the issue of sexualisation as a big contributing factor in this issue tomorrow - but if you think it's important that we educate young people about this stuff rather than let Channel 4 do it, you can add your voice to The Times campaign with a few clicks on the keyboard here.
- Getting to know your neighbour
I blogged about this before here and for AskWhatNow - seeing what goes on in your neighbourhood, investing and connecting to your local community can be life-changing. For you and for others. Livability UK states that '5 million people aged over 60 say they now consider the television to be their only source of company'. This statistic is just an example of how disconnected we actually are to each other, in an age where we are technologically able to be connected the most. This message is so simple, but less practiced in our society than ever before. If trafficking exists in our housing developments and estates - how will you spot it if you don't know who you live around? How can you create a culture of 'looking out for each other' where you rest your head?
- Social Inclusion
Similar to getting to know your neighbour - how intentionally inclusive are you? Human trafficking thrives in places where people are isolated and hidden. My co-workers at CIP are a shining example of social inclusion for the migrant & ethnic minority communities here in our area. I have been moved to tears seeing and hearing the stories of how lonely people far from home have been welcomed, educated and befriended by the programmes CIP runs. Are there people in your town that are hidden? That don't know how to access support, friendship and care? Find somewhere to volunteer. This matters.
- Job Security
At the end of the day, if we can't get job security and employment rights sorted here within a democratic society, what hope is there for people in countries with more corrupt governments? Exploitation is exploitation. We can dress it up but it still smells the same. Take zero hour contracts for example.
The BBC explains: 'Zero-hours contracts, or casual contracts, allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work. They mean employees only work as and when they are needed by employers, often at short notice, and are only paid for the hours they work. Some zero-hours contracts oblige workers to take the shifts they are offered, others do not. Sick pay is often not included, though holiday pay should be, in line with working time regulations.'
With the increase of zero-hours work contracts (up to 1 million people in the UK) in the job market, there is a real weakness in the system leaving people with very little security, financially fragile which can often lead to vulnerability. Some workers have disclosed the impact such uncertainty has had on their mental health - noting breakdowns and depression. Big companies like Sports Direct, Pub chain JD Wetherspoons and Cineworld have up to 80% of their staff on zero-hours contracts.
This murky underworld has also seeped into academia and exposed the levels of discrimination that go along within it. According to research carried out by UCU nationally, 'permanent contracts are most likely to be awarded to University and College teachers 'who's face fits within the existing culture of an institution' while female lecturers, black staff, lesbian and gay workers are disproportionally likely to be employed on 0 hour contracts.'
All of this is connected to how we value each other and what we contribute to society - a core theme in the issue of exploitation and trafficking. Does your employer use these contracts? Are you promoting equality and fairness in your job in all areas?
*steps gracefully off the soapbox*
Have a think over these four issues. Make the connections to your own life, views, decisions. Is there something here you can do differently/better/new?
I'll be back tomorrow with four more issues to stir the pot...