January is human trafficking awareness month but the fight doesn’t end on the 31st. Every 30 seconds someone becomes a victim of human trafficking making it the fastest growing industry in the world. There are more slaves today than ever before in history and it presents itself in many forms such as sex trafficking, child soldiers, domestic servitude, forced labor and bonded labor.

I am very passionate about this issue and grateful for organizations such as Free the Slaves, Not For Sale, End it Movement and A21 Campaign who are raising awareness, challenging lawmakers and providing aftercare for human trafficking victims.

The illegal buying and selling of people is a complexed matter which can feel overwhelming. When faced with a problem like this one the best thing to do is often support those who are already doing work on the ground instead of starting a new organization. Our ultimate goal should always be impact not propriety.  Human trafficking is inhumane and needs to stop. The victims must be rescued and their traffickers brought to justice.

If you are ready to join us, here are 5 tangible ways you can get involved in the fight against human trafficking beyond human trafficking awareness month.

1. Volunteer

Giving of your time is one of the greatest acts of kindness you can make. Spending time raising awareness, lending your aptitudes to an organization or helping in the rehabilitation of victims can do more good than you might think. Time is a limited resource, that is why it is so powerful. There are many volunteering opportunities to choose from depending on where you live. The best way to find out which ones are available in your area is to use your good old friend, Google.

2. Raise awareness

We live in an unique time where spreading the word about any given issue is easier than ever. I don’t care how seemingly influential you think you are or not. We all have a sphere of influence online and in real life aka IRL.

Leverage the time you spend with friends and family to have meaningful conversations around this topic. In addition, no matter the size of your platform, use it to let others know what human trafficking is and how they can help end it. As Helen Keller once said: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do somethings; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

Beware of the slacktivism trap, however. Be sure to truly engage the issue and fight for what is right. Resist the temptation to alleviate your guilt by way of 140 characters or a red ‘X’ on your hand.  Trending hashtags don’t change lives, committed people do. Therefore, fully commit, no matter how overwhelming it might feel because sticking your head in the sand won’t make the problem go away, you will only get sand in your eyes.

3. Vote with your dollar

Be intentional and aware of where you spend your money because you might be unknowingly feeding this corrupted system. You would be surprised to discover that many of the products we use every day are produced overseas in factories with dangerous working conditions. You might still remember the 2013 tragedy in Bangladesh where 1,134  garment workers lost their lives and approximately 2,500 were injured when the Rana Plaza building collapsed.

In other instances workers are coerced to work for little to no pay. They are locked up, beaten, abused and forced to produce cheap goods not unlike IVAN who I walked for during the A21 Walk For Freedom.

Instead of supporting the exploitation, you can use your purchasing power to tip the scales.  Invest in products that are ethically made by artisans, independent designers and fair trade companies. If you don’t know where to start my Where to Shop blogs are a great place. If you don’t see what you are looking for feel free to contact me via email or on social media. It will be my pleasure to help you along this journey.

4. Open your eyes

Often when we think of slavery we think about third world countries but we are fooling ourselves. Human trafficking is a worldwide problem and could be happening down the street from where you live. So keep your eyes open. If you see any suspicious activity report it to the authorities.

I should also mention that Super Bowl weekend is one of the busiest times for traffickers because the demand for illicit sex increases during the high profile sporting event. In addition to the increased demand, traffickers also capitalize on the heavy foot and flight traffic to move their victims undetected.

Here are a few signs you can look out for. They may indicate that someone is a victim of human trafficking:

  • Looking malnourished,
  • Signs of physical injuries and abuse,
  • Avoiding eye contact,
  • Being anti-social,
  • Dodging law enforcement,
  • Living at place of employment,
  • Poor physical or dental health,
  • Tattoo or branding on the neck and / or lower back,
  • Untreated sexually transmitted diseases,
  • Checking into hotels/motels with older men, and referring to them as boyfriend or “daddy,” which is often street slang for pimp.

5. Donate / Fundraise

The organizations on the ground are already doing great work but the truth of the matter is they need money to run. The more funding they receive, the more they can undertake and affect change. It’s that simple. If you don’t have the personal funds to donate you can fundraise and ask your family and friends for support like my friend Nicole did for the A21 Walk for Freedom. She raised $550 so that A21 could continue rescuing and rehabilitating trafficking victims all over the world. Every dollar matters and no amount is too little because as they say: “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”

January is trafficking awareness month but human trafficking is an issue I hope you will take on every month of the year until we, together, finally end it.

Stay Conscious & Chic!