When it comes to big issues and injustices in the world, it can be so easy to get overwhelmed. Modern day slavery is an issue that has been put in front of my face many times over the past several years… and I keep running away from it.
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
Why? Because the problem is huge.
- It is estimated that 9 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking.
- Victims and perpetrators are often hard to find and many of our laws are still not written in such a way that governments are able to persecute and punish those who are exploiting these men, women, and children.
- Many countries are making little to no effort at all to comply with the laws that are in place.
- There is lack of education and motivation on the part of both producer and consumer.
- There are many smaller industries within the larger one, which look different in each country.
It all seems like too much for me. What kind of difference can one person possibly make?
But the truth is, our small choices matter. And we have to start somewhere. Lots of people making lots of small decisions in their everyday lives can and will lead to huge impact. Edward Everett Hale was a minister and author who was an active voice in the anti-slavery movement during the Civil War. He said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
So let’s start small, practical, and realistic. Here are ten ways for you to make modest changes in your life and begin to make an impact on modern day slavery. The cool thing is, none of these ideas ask for a simple swipe of a credit card; instead, they encourage education, promotion, and action. And the best part? All of them are pretty simple and I’ve included lots of links to help make it even easier for you.
10 Easy Ways to Fight Modern Day Slavery
Start with coffee.
|If I were to wake up tomorrow and say to myself, “I’m only going to buy products that I know are made fairly and freely from now on,” it would be a daunting task and might seem impossible at first. Although more resources are becoming available, it is still pretty difficult to know where exactly the items you buy are really coming from and how they are made (Where do you buy fair trade toilet paper?!). So, start with just one thing. It is pretty easy to find fair trade coffee nowadays. You might have to go a little bit out of your way to a market like Whole Foods, but it is totally doable (If you don’t like coffee, choose tea or wine or some other food, like chocolate, you consume on a regular basis). Later on, you can add another fair trade product into your shopping routine and then another _(Psst…Yellow highly recommends [TOMS coffee…](http://www.toms.com/coffee?cid=ps_usbrand&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=toms%20coffee&utm_campaign=US+-+Brand+-+Coffee+-+Exact&utm_content=sBHPaiQMx_dc||pcrid||69139157335||pkw||toms%20coffee||pmt||e||)One bag of coffee provides one week clean water to a community in need). _|
Education plays a crucial role in making progress. We all have to know what we’re dealing with. Websites like the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and The Polaris Project provide tons of important information and statistics that help every one of us get in the know. There are also lots of documentaries available that expose how widespread and serious of a problem human trafficking is. Some suggestions: Playground, Call + Response, Hidden in Plain Sight, Tricked, The True Cost, Redlight Greenlight. _(*Disclaimer: due to the nature of content in these documentaries, they can be graphic and disturbing at times)…_Or watch/listen to this TED talk by Kevin Bales during your next drive or workout.
Find out what your own Slavery Footprint
Made In A Free World has created an amazing, eye-opening resource that shows you what your own contribution to slavery is, based on the products you buy. Don’t use the quiz as a guilt trip, but instead as an opportunity to get an idea of where the products you personally use are coming from so you have an idea of where you might need to make some changes.
Do it together.
Unite with your tribe and make a commitment to work at this together. Not only will it be easier and more fun to stay consistent, but we also know that one person alone cannot solve a problem this huge. Initiate conversation with your friends. Ask each other questions like: Why do we need to expose this problem? How does this impact me? How would the world look differently if slavery was obliterated? In what ways could I change my lifestyle as a consumer in order to demand my products be made fairly? Then take your baby steps together.
Know the signs and how to report them.
Depending on where you live, the chances of coming into contact with someone who has been or is being trafficked, coerced, or forced into slavery may be slim. But it is still a good idea to be aware of the signs. Put the hotline number in your phone.
At this point in time, it is generally easier to find fair trade products online rather than in stores. Look at your current shopping list and see what items you can purchase online through a fair trade website. Fair Trade USA can be super helpful when it comes to groceries and Overdressed can help you shop clothing—or check out this post about having a conscious closet.
Use your voice.
As a consumer and citizen, your voice and opinion matter and can make a huge impact on the way products are made and laws are written. Three easy ways to use your voice: one, write a letter to a congressman asking for change in legislature in order to be able to better prosecute those who are buying and selling victims. Two, send an email to one of your favorite major companies or brands asking them to start producing their products more consciously. Chain Store Reaction makes it super easy for you with pre-drafted letters. Three, write a letter to a victim of human trafficking to give them encouragement and hope.
On your lunch break, Google “human trafficking in [your city].” See what statistics you can find. Discover what organizations are in your town that are fighting for the cause. Just get educated and seek to know what human trafficking looks like in your own backyard.
Support their businesses.
There are many companies whose products are made by people in other parts of the world specifically to give women fair wage jobs and help them rise above poverty and stay out of the slave trade. Check out Sashka Co, Sari Bari, Relevee, and Sudara, and our 2015 Yellow Conference Speakers, 31 Bits, Sseko, and Raven + Lily.
Although the issue is coming into the light more and more, we still have a ton of work to do when it comes to exposing the problem. An issue so huge will only be solved when it is in front of everyone’s faces. Doing something as simple as wearing a shirt can help spread awareness about the issue into your grocery stores, your gym, and the gas station. The Parative Project (check out their Kickstarter here!), A21 Campaign, and Sevenly are some of my favorites.
Also, since most of us are on social media several times a day anyway, it is an easy way to raise awareness, show support and encourage conversation about the issue, so post, hashtag, and tweet away!
Let’s work together, taking one step at a time, to make our world one that is free and fair. It only takes one generation and I truly believe that ours is the one to do it.
Photo by Sabrina Hill