New Year, New Me?

The beginning of a new year is often a helpful moment for self-reflection, isn’t it?

Whether it brings an optimistic gym subscription or a resolution to file lecture notes straight away (in the words of Aragorn: ‘That is not this day’), we often find ourselves thinking back over the months that have passed and wondering how we might want things to change over the next ones. As we tie up the accounts from our first term of Treated Right, it’s a moment to say thank you for your support – which led to over a £1000 being raised for our chosen charities – and to look towards the future.

With that in mind, it’s also a good opportunity to reflect on developments in human trafficking and exploitation over the last few months on a global and national level. Here are a few noteworthy things:

  • The US Trafficking in Persons Report 2017 (published in April) is so worth reading if you have the time, and want a good overview of the challenges governments face in prevention efforts and the judicial sphere. A section I found particularly encouraging was the TIP Report Heroes,which offers just a few examples of people who are boldly defending the rights of others.
  • There has been positive change in legal efforts: following Britain’s lead (the first country to pass a law requiring companies to disclose their methods to ensure their supply chains are slavery free), other major nations from France to the Netherlands are doing the same. In France, a law was passed which requires companies with over 5,000 employees in the country, or 10,000 worldwide, to publish plans outlining steps to cut out human rights and environmental violations from their supply chains. The Dutch parliament proposed a law to make firms determine if child labour exists in their supply chains, and set out an action plan on how to combat it. Meanwhile, Australia is considering anti-slavery laws similar to Britain’s, and is set to table draft legislation in early 2018.
  • Some of the largest worldwide brands from Adidas to Apple, Intel and Walmart are examining their supply chains and speaking up about what they’re doing to fight slavery. Adidas and Intel were among the winners of the second Thomson Reuters Foundation Stop Slavery Award, recognising their efforts to identify, investigate and root out forced labour. Companies are finding modern slavery is increasingly spotlighted, with regulatory and consumer pressure to disclose what’s going on in the supply chains.

But alongside this there are huge difficulties. Notwithstanding the appalling truth that human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world, here are some facts pertinent to this year:

  • 20 countries in the TIP Report are still not state parties to the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
  • Earlier this year, legal experts raised serious concerns that Britain’s withdrawal from EU could dramatically curtail efforts to tackle trafficking: the loss of EU regulations, funding from Brussels and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
  • And what’s described as the ongoing ‘human tragedy’ of the migrant crisis means that more people than ever before are vulnerable to this kind of abuse: in November, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi warned: “Compelled to flee, but without legal pathways to safety, refugees are exposed to appalling harm, together with migrants, including torture, rape, sexual exploitation, slavery and other forms of forced labour,”

So at the start of 2018 there’s a lot to look back on. But surely it’s also a moment to review the way we ourselves live and consume, and ask what we can and should change. If you’ve never taken the slavery footprint calculator test at, then I really encourage you to do so. There’s something very stark about seeing how many people are enslaved to work for the things we own and so easily dispose of.

In response to that, this year you could:

  • Commit to buying Fairtrade, whenever the option is there. Items might cost a bit more but as sustainable food advocate Anna Lappe says: ‘Every time you spend moneyyoure casting a vote for the kind of world you want.’ When buying gifts, take a look at brands like Worldcrafts which develops sustainable, fair-trade businesses among impoverished people around the world.
  • Rethink clothing brands in particular. Fast fashion gathered pace from the end of the 1990’s when brands began to look for new ways to increase profits, and it’s a problem which is ever increasing, with building pressure on supply chains. Check out some ethical and sustainable fashion brands like Know the Origin, Charis Esther Hand Embroidery and People Tree And use charity shops more!
  • Keep up to date with what’s going on in legislation so you can be in touch with your MP. This week saw the launch of the website in support of Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill. The Bill will give trafficked people in England and Wales a guaranteed right to support in law, not just in the initial period but with the option of a further 12 months afterwards. The website has lots of information about the Bill, stories from survivors and a feature that lets you contact your MP with a pre-written draft email about the Bill to highlight its potential for positive change. Just enter your postcode and the site will send an email on your behalf to your MP. You can change the text or add your own thoughts if you want to.(Click here).
  • Stay engaged.  A few of us from Treated Right will be going to a dance show and talk on Saturday night – ‘Just Sex’ – to learn more about where Cambridge fits into the sex trade… why not join us?

As we look towards the future it can be hard or discouraging sometimes when the change which we long for doesn’t seem to be taking place. Let’s turn frustration into reflection and discouragement into action.

We’re looking to grow and widen our impact this year. Why don’t you too?

That’s one way to start off your new year right.

Someone in the Crowd

In 2012 Barack Obama said of human trafficking: “It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric.”[1]

I think it’s a challenge which is helpful, because it brings into sharp juxtaposition an individual responsibility, and a collective one. The global trafficking problem is on such a huge scale that if things are going to change it’ll require huge engagement..

But it takes a community of individuals, in which every person cares, counts and contributes, to make such a collective.

Let’s take a moment to look at the numbers involved.

This week I compiled some figures from the September 2017 report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation. It’s worth a caveat that numbers are difficult and differing, because this is a ‘hidden crime’ and definitions vary.

But here are a few statistics to highlight key areas:

  • An estimated 24.9 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery.
  • Of these, 16 million (64%) are exploited for labour, 4.8 million (19%) are sexually exploited, and 4.1 million (17%) are exploited in state-imposed forced labour.
  • 71% of trafficking victims around the world are women and girls.
  • 5 million victims (25%) are children.
  • The Asia-pacific region accounts for the largest number of forced labourers— 15.4 million (62% of the global total), followed by Africa with 5.7 million (23%), then Europe and Central Asia with 2.2 million (9%).
  • It really is true that sex sells. 19% of victims are trafficked for sex, but sexual exploitation earns 66% of the global profits of human trafficking. The average annual profits generated by each woman in forced sexual servitude is $100,000.
  • There were only 9,071 convictions for trafficking globally in 2016.[2]

Those numbers are nothing short of appalling.

And I wonder if sometimes statistics can numb our capacity to care – I struggle to imagine a crowd of 1000 people. So what do I do with a statistic like 5.5 million children?

Maybe here, too, we find a tension between the collective and the individual.

Because surely the moment we let individual lives be subsumed under this huge, unimaginable collective – the moment that we neatly package stories of suffering into tidy statistics – our thinking is on dangerous ground. We cease to see people as individuals, but numbers. And to take that image to its full, horrific extension is to see 24.9 million people with barcodes scrawled upon on their skin.

We’ve got to understand the figures to grasp the scale of the problems, but maybe then we need to ask how we make space to care about those affected.

And maybe an answer is that we start by caring about the one. We let ourselves hurt for the single life that was stolen and sold – the one girl whose childhood was robbed, hopes snatched, body damaged, health wrecked, future lost. We weep for the one girl, because she was made for so much more. Because how dare it be the case that her utter beauty, her worth and preciousness were stripped down to the $100,000 she will make for the sex trade annually.

4.8 million people are being sexually exploited.

But may we never, ever stop agonising over the one.

And maybe this is the moment to ask what part you and I will play in this. We’re each just a ‘one’ in this huge problem.

In future weeks we’ll look at this in greater depth, but perhaps you might review the way that you give. Maybe you work out your slavery footprint, ask who picked your tomatoes or made your clothes, or look at the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Maybe you write a letter to lobby policy makers… or maybe you do any combination of the above, but invite 10 others to join you.

You are one, but you have so much power as an influencer and you’re a part of a collective.

We’re looking at statistics in the millions.

Let’s make the ones count.



[1] According to the 2017 State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report

2] In an address at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York, September 25, 2012.