It takes a network to take down a network.
This common maxim in the anti-human trafficking field proves accurate as we gain increasing understanding of human trafficking, particularly following the social, health, and economic devastation of COVID-19.
According to recent analyzes, the 2020 instability has exposed more people to the human trafficking risk factors and worsened conditions for current trafficking victims. Yet, experiences from 2020 also underscore communities’ power in preventing exploitation and bringing lasting freedom to survivors.
The need: conversations, prevention, and services
Reports from 2020, including the just released Department of State 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), underscore that anti-human trafficking conversations and aid have declined from decreased support during the pandemic, including less private giving and donated services. For instance:
- Community conversations were postponed or cancelled in 2020 and 2021, reducing awareness of risk factors and interventions.
- Employment access for survivors decreased 85%, as did medical (-73%), social (-70%), and legal services (-66%), food/water resources (-66%) and psychological care (-63%), according to an OSCE/U.N. Women survey cited in the TIP report.
- Notably, safe accommodations for survivors decreased by 63%, placing them at greater risk of re-victimization.
Underlying this reduction in preventive and supportive services is decreased financial and human resources. According to the International Aid Transparency Initiative, there was a 17% decrease in donor commitments between 2019-2020, while a joint survey by OSCE and UN Women found that only 24% of the 385 anti-trafficking organizations responding to the survey could remain fully operational during the pandemic.
The solution: volunteering, giving, and collaborating
Among the TIP report’s four long-term, foundational solutions is the value of collaboration between anti-trafficking actors. More specifically:
“Addressing human trafficking during a global pandemic requires the full range of actors in the anti-trafficking community to bridge the gap and establish a comprehensive coordinated response.”
Government and nonprofit interventions spearhead eradicating modern-day slavery through direct, collaborative anti-trafficking work and services such as poverty eradication and global workplace protections. We explore the power of collaboration in our previous post Types of Anti-Human Trafficking Organizations.
Yet anti-human trafficking groups and government cannot succeed without the direct involvement of communities.
Family, friends, and concerned neighbors are the first line of defense against trafficking by recognizing risk factors and reporting trafficking. Yet they also have a crucial role to play in addressing the current need by lending time and donating resources.
According to the Independent Sector, the 2020 hourly value of volunteers to the nonprofit sector is over $28 hourly–aid allowing small organizations to serve and grow. Volunteer engagement sparks conversations, ensures awareness and fundraising events can occur, and ultimately builds the social capital and community strength that counteracts vulnerabilities.
For example, Greenlight Operation’s events use volunteer aid, vendor collaboration, and private sponsorships to raise the funds for the first long-term restoration home in the Harrisburg region.
Despite the struggles recognized globally, organizations such as Greenlight Operation have continued receiving support and are excited to grow a network of volunteers, interns, and donors to help end exploitation in our neighborhoods. It is only together that we succeed.
“2021 Trafficking in Persons Report,” U.S. Department of State, https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/.
“Independent Sector Releases New Volunteer Time of $28.54 Per Hour,” Independent Sector (April 20, 2021), https://independentsector.org/news-post/independent-sector-releases-new-value-of-volunteer-time-of-28-54-per-hour/.