National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is recognized annually on January 11th. Last year, President Obama proclaimed January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In his address, he called upon "businesses, national and community organizations, families, and all Americans to recognize the vital role we must play in ending all forms of slavery and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities."

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that currently, there are approximately 21 million people who are victims of forced labor globally. Women make up the majority of trafficked persons, and approximately half are children. In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which involves a coordinated response for governments around the world to partner together and defeat this scourge of modern-day slavery. The Plan also calls for integrating the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programs, especially for women and children.

Among the organizations working to eradicate trafficking in persons are Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize winners Covenant House and ECPAT, who have developed and expanded upon programs to combat trafficking, with a focus on youth. Both organizations frequently collaborate with their networks and local communities to raise awareness about the issues and advocate for human rights worldwide.

Below are a few examples of their efforts.

Casa Alianza / Covenant House

Casa Alianza (Spanish for “Covenant House”) won the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2000. With this support, the organization opened Hilton Home in the center of Managua, Nicaragua, which each night can care for up to 110 boys and girls 12 – 17 years of age. Hilton Home residents include boys and girls who have been abandoned and may live on the streets, have problems with substance abuse, and/or are victims of extreme poverty, human trafficking, violence, sexual abuse and exploitation. Staff in Nicaragua provide psychological and social work support, legal services, and health and medical care to assist youth with reintegration into society.

In 2009, Casa Alianza Guatemala partnered with the U.S. Department of State to open Asociación La Alianza, which now serves as a safe house for girls between the ages of 12-18 who are victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. The organization’s Public Education Team has also trained over 6,000 community members around anti-trafficking awareness and education, as well as 1,000 members of Guatemalan police on how to enforce anti-trafficking laws. Through these trainings with community members and collaborative media and education campaigns, Casa Alianza is truly an exemplary leader in the fight against trafficking in persons.

ECPAT International

ECPAT International is an organization devoted to the prevention of trafficking of children, having received the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2013. The organization was first established in Bangkok in 1990, and continues to grow as a network of 90 civil society organizations in 82 countries.

ECPAT considered 2016 to be The Year of Action,” as 2016 marked the 20th anniversary of the first World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. ECPAT has partnered with the Regional Secretariat of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence against Children and UNICEF to organize a meeting in Sri Lanka regarding several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to trafficking in children.

The international car-service company Uber joined ECPAT USA’s network of organizations participating in the ECPAT Code, which is a voluntary industry-driven set of guidelines focused on helping travel and tourism companies prevent child sex tourism and trafficking of children. The Code is a joint venture between the tourism private sector and ECPAT. ECPAT has recognized 19 U.S. companies for their participation in The Code, highlighting their “exceptional work to integrate child protection practices into their businesses.”

For Human Trafficking Prevention Month, on January 17, 2017, ECPAT-USA  is holding a special screening of "SOLD The Movie" in Los Angeles, where "celebrities, government officials, the private sector, and the public will unite for the cause, raising funds and support for ECPAT-USA's mission to create a world where no child is bought, sold, or used for sex."

Both Casa Alianza and ECPAT are leaders in leveraging collaborations in their efforts to eradicate modern slavery worldwide. Ahead of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, we commend them and all other organizations and individuals working to raise awareness about these abuses around the world.

*Image from SOLD The Movie, in partnership with ECPAT-USA

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