As a budding activist, I immediately started learning as much as I could about human trafficking and modern day slavery. I got the history and some background information from good old Google and Wikipedia, but I wanted to know what people were doing about it. So I turned my search to NGO’s and non-profits working on preventing human trafficking and helping victims.
One of the many great organizations that I found is the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST). Their mission is “to assist persons trafficked for the purpose of forced labor and slavery-like practices and to work toward ending all instances of such human rights violations”. Their creation was inspired by a case in 1998 regarding a Los Angeles sweatshop. The El Monte Sweatshop case drew attention to human trafficking much closer to home. It is much easier to ignore modern slavery when it occurs in places like Bangladesh. When trafficking occurs in a modernized and well-developed area (and in my case, fairly close to home), it’s a lot harder to dismiss it as something that only happens in scarier places. Today, CAST is still based in LA, and work on long-term solutions for both prevention and victim rehabilitation.
In addition to a grass-roots approach to fighting human trafficking, CAST helps victims through a multitude of services. They combine social, shelter, and legal services, all of which are necessities for safety and rehabilitation. They focus on turning victims into survivors through counseling and normalization as well as social services and immediate medical aid. CAST also runs a hotline for victims or anyone who has information about human trafficking cases. They also run education campaigns for both the public and government forces. They educate government workers about how to best help victims, all the way from identifying them to integrating them back into society.
Out of millions of victims around the world, an overwhelming number are young women. A shocking number are teenage girls, taken from their families and coerced into sexual exploitation or forced labor. The reason that human trafficking terrifies me is probably because it’s one of the easiest issues for me to empathize with. As a teenage girl, if I had been born in a less fortunate part of the world, or if my family wasn’t as well-off as it is, it isn’t much of a jump to put myself in the place of one of these victims. I think that what CAST is doing both close to home and on a global level is truly inspiring, and there is a lot to be learned from their unique approach.
Please take a look at their website to learn more about what they do and how to get involved. For more information about human trafficking in general, this description by the UNODC is a great resource.
Article by Maya Roy