The Birth of Slavery Prevention – Part One

The launch of GHNI’s Slavery Prevention program is largely due to the work of Jessica Marchand. Jessica is the Director of AddressSlavery.org, an initiative to raise funds and promote awareness in support of GHNI’s slavery prevention efforts.

In this first installment of a three-part series, Jessica’s knowledge sheds light on the worldwide problem of modern day slavery in this Q & A with Bethany Marinelli, GHNI’s US Communications Coordinator.

 

Q & A: Slavery Today

BM: Those of us in the Western world, particularly in the US, are really starting to wake up to the realities of modern-day slavery. What is the biggest thing Americans miss about slavery?

JM: That it happens everywhere, even in OUR very own cities, towns, schools, and neighborhoods.

BM: Do economics matter?

JM: Yes. Poverty is a leading cause of slavery. But lack of awareness – for example, how someone might be lured by a trafficker - is also a huge contributor.

What I think most counter-trafficking NGOs would like to see is school systems and governments educating the common public, especially children, about the reality of the issue and how they can avoid becoming a victim. Awareness has so many components, but simply knowing the signs, the common tactics human traffickers use, is a huge step to avoid falling prey to this gruesome crime.

Just like the TSA would say, “If you see something strange, say something.” Let the professionals handle it.

BM: With all this new awareness, do you see the problem getting better or worse?

JM: Well, the problem is getting worse. It’s all about money…greed to be exact. Human trafficking is quickly becoming the highest-paid crime in the world. Knowledge and attentiveness, however, are the best tools we have to fight that crime. So, as the rate of human trafficking increases, our level of conscientiousness regarding modern slavery needs to increase as well. That’s really our only fighting chance.

BM: Do you think there is an end to slavery or is it something we’ll just have to learn to better control?

Jessica smiles really big and gives me an inquisitive glance. At this point in the interview, her passion really comes alive.

JM: I have to believe that there can be an end to slavery.

It’s the hope in humanity that gets me out of bed in the morning. Realistically, I don’t know, but if we can save even one person from becoming enslaved, it’s worth it.

BM: You mention poverty as the leading cause of slavery. Is slavery an inevitable mind-set for people living in extreme poverty?

JM: Not for everyone, but I would say from my experience domestically and internationally, impoverished individuals in communities are often looked at as second class citizens. With that often comes a mind-set of inferiority. It’s that mind-set that makes people extra vulnerable to traffickers, bonded laborers, and whoever else… Would you agree with that?

BM: Yes, absolutely. When I receive a story from the field where they’ve seen villagers have a change in their mind-set from hopelessness to one of empowerment, you can just tell how excited they are about the change.

JM: It’s like the caste system in India, it breeds the mind-set. A lower class of people are constantly being told they are not as worthy as those in a higher caste. This leads to a loss of confidence and empowerment. We start to believe we are “less than” and accept other people oppressing us. Human traffickers, pimps, and slave owners use these exact same tactics.

BM: Exactly. So, if poverty causes them to think they are incapable of providing, what is the solution for family income, if not some form of slavery?

JM: People aren’t choosing slavery as an option for income. They simply fall prey to it because of their circumstances. That’s what I really love about GHNI…self-sustainable development. TCD.  That they provide families around the world the opportunity to raise themselves out of poverty with a little help. With a little financial support and quality time invested with the villagers over the course of around five years, their lives can change. Poverty can be a thing of the past and with that, slavery also.

As Americans, we’re blessed to live in a country with a welfare system. Even if it’s broken, it still exists. Resources are attainable to help elevate somebody out of dire poverty. Our lack of awareness on the matter of trafficking and family stability is our greatest downfall.

BM: You are obviously very passionate about the issue of slavery. Why does this touch you on a personal level?

JM: It’s impossible for me to live free and not do anything when I know that others aren’t free. Knowing what I know and seeing what I’ve seen, I have to fight for these people who need someone to stand up for them. My soul doesn’t give me a choice.

BM: A lot of people think the only way they can contribute to ending slavery is by giving money or traveling overseas. These aren’t always options for some of us, so what is the best way we can help fight slavery?

JM: As I mentioned, we need greater awareness in the Western world about the patterns of slavery in our own backyard. If we know what it looks like and how someone might become a victim we can not only prevent it, but when we see signs of modern slavery we’ll recognize it and be able to help rescue those who are currently victimized by this gruesome act.

What you can do is educate yourself. Take ten minutes, even, and educate yourself and your family, friends and community about modern slavery and acknowledge that you’re empowered to be the change you wish to see. For no greater reason than that you are breathing, you are empowered. You just have to be you.

For example, I was at a gas station recently, late at night, filling up my car. I saw a man coming out of the convenience store with a cup of coffee. He may very well have just been on a road trip and stopped to get a caffeine fix. I noticed, however, that his trunk wasn’t quite shut and I saw what I thought was blond hair hanging out of it as he drove away. I froze. My instinct was to jump in my car to follow him to get a license plate number and see what street he drove down. It all happened so fast, so I ended up doing nothing.

Later I realized I could have called the Polaris Project hotline and they would have notified police in the area to scope out the situation. Instead I did nothing and it will always haunt me. It has to be as ingrained in us as calling 911 for someone choking in a restaurant. We need to become a better community; we are so privatized. Until we get back into the community mentality, and not so individualized, the signs won’t be clear to us and things like trafficking will continue to happen right under our noses.

Be a part of preventing slavery in rural villages of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East today!

(Go to Part 2: Finding the Solution to Slavery)