By Victoria Ekwughe, 2021 Young Women’s Council member
Trigger Warning: human trafficking, sexual abuse
Growing up in Nigeria, I remember seeing children begging for alms. I wondered why their parents would allow them to roam the streets, begging strangers for money. One day my mother asked one of the children to take her to his house to meet his parents and discuss how she could help them, but alas, the child ran away. My mother was surprised because often people in these circumstances jump at the opportunity for long-term financial support for families to start their business or send their children to school.
I was still a young girl and had no idea of the concept of human trafficking.
It wasn’t until five years ago when I started reading about it, that it dawned on me that the little boy may have been a victim.
Young people are the leaders of today and tomorrow. To ensure a sustainable future, we need to provide an environment for young people across the world to feel safe and thrive. Human trafficking trafficking of young people not only deprives them of their rights and freedoms, but also threatens young people’s potential and leadership ability.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery; it is the movement of victims from one place to another where they are exploited for financial gain. While in this piece, I focus on young women and girls, human trafficking affects all genders. The scale of human trafficking cannot be understood in its entirety due to the complex and evolving nature of trafficking, which leaves some cases undetected. Statistics by Stop The Traffik shows that 40.3 million people worldwide are victims of trafficking. 71% of these victims are women and girls, and 75% are aged 18 and above. The trafficking industry globally earns about US$150 billion per year.
That’s a staggering figure.
These victims are found when they are at their most vulnerable. Perpetrators target young people from low-income backgrounds and limited access to education. In addition, undocumented migrants and unemployed people are vulnerable and targeted to be trafficked for forced labour. Perpetrators approach the victims either physically or online with the promise of a job, education or a better life. The victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour, criminal activities, begging, forced marriage, baby-selling and removal of organs. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in child sexual exploitation materials online. People are spending more time online for learning and work, increasing the opportunities for traffickers to target their victims.
According to the Global Slavery Index (2018), as of 2016, 15,000 people were living in conditions of modern-day slavery in Australia. While a small percentage of the victims are from Australia, many are from Asian countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, and India. These victims, in most instances, are afraid to speak up for fear of retribution from the perpetrators. According to a report by Salvation Army, traffickers use drugs and alcohol to incapacitate their victims and make them susceptible to the demands of the traffickers.
How we can help
So how can you help? While governments and NGOs are doing all they can to help curb human trafficking, some NGOs are specifically focused in providing shelter and assisting rescued victims to return to a normal life. Rescued victims go through intensive therapy for up to three years to adjust back to life, while others may never fully recover from the ordeal they have been through.
We can contribute to the fight against human trafficking by:
- Reading and understanding more about human trafficking, from the links below, and share this with friends and family
- If you come across child exploitation material or see human trafficking, report it to the Australian Federal Police by calling 131AFP (131 237)
- Follow NGOs such as the International Justice Mission, A21, Zoe Foundation for information and stories of rescued victims.
For more information on human trafficking, you can check out:
- Stop the Traffik
- Global Slavery Index
- The cause and consequence of human trafficking: Human rights violations
- United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Victoria is a Doctoral Research Student in women’s development at the University of Technology Sydney. Her research focuses on how NGO’s can use digital technology to empower women. Victoria is passionate about a range of issues affecting women and hopes to influence policies with her research and passion for making positive change and impact.
Victoria is bold in the face of challenges, passionate about social policy and is determined to contribute to making the world a better place for underprivileged women and children. Outside of serving on the Young Women’s Council Victoria enjoys cooking, dancing, and reading.