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What You Need to Know on Human Trafficking Awareness Day

When I learned that human trafficking occurs in Austin during SXSW I was stunned. How could this happen in our Texas city? Yes, our population has increased dramatically, yet I associated this problem with sprawling, urban metropolitan areas. I could not be more wrong.

So today we are delighted to feature a guest contributor, Ashley Blake, a travel consultant and the founder of Traverse Journeys, an impact-based travel company with a focus on social and environmental responsibility. Ashley has traveled to over 40 countries on 6 continents and has a wealth of insight and wisdom to share.

In 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to which “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” However, it might be surprising to know that the last country to abolish slavery was Mauritania. Slavery wasn’t abolished until 1981! Enslavement continues to haunt the globe into the 21st century.

The 2017 International Labour Organization publishes a Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report which estimated that in 2016, 40 million people were victims of modern slavery, with women accounting for 71% of victims and children 25%. Debt bondage, forced labor, sexual exploitation and forced marriage all fall within the definition of modern slavery.

In 2010, former President Barack Obama declared the first National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month to be January. It has been honored since with January 11th designated as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Key components include mass awareness campaigns providing education of the impact and consequences trafficking has on citizens, foreign residents, and the global community.

The US Department of State lists 15 ways that everyday citizens can identify and combat human trafficking, including awareness training for businesses, supply chain transparency across industries, and contributing to anti-trafficking organizations. Students, health care providers, journalists, attorneys and businesses all have a role in ending this practice in the US and abroad.

If you want to take action this month, here are 4 ways that you can prevent human trafficking through everyday actions and choices in your own life.

    1. Be an observer: Learn the signs of human trafficking listed on the Polaris Project and post the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1 (888) 373-7888 in your office. Key indicators to look for include a lack of control over one’s working or living conditions, consistent abnormal behavior such as anxiety or malnourishment, and inconsistencies in one’s stories about their life.
    2. Purchase mindfully: Child and slave labor is an especially prevalent issue in numerous industries including fast fashion, chocolate and coffee. Look for trusted certifications that specifically address these issues, including Direct Trade and various Fair Trade organizations, as well as brands such as Prana, Alternative Apparel and Eileen Fisher. If your organization has an international supply chain, initiate a discussion with the operations team and management to make steps toward transparency and a commitment to slave-free labor.
    3. Travel responsibly: Commit to staying at hotels that publish and adhere to a code of conduct prohibiting human trafficking. If you work in the travel and tourism industry, integrate awareness training and action protocol into your Company Handbook and review it frequently. The Department of Homeland Security also offers a toolkit for the hospitality industry. As a tourist, adhere to ChildSafe practices particularly in regions where child trafficking is an acute issue, such as SE Asia and India. This includes not giving money to children and not visiting orphanages; rather, donate to organizations that support families and mitigate poverty.
    4. Get involved: The U.S. is both a source and destination for human trafficking, and everyday citizens. Consider volunteering with newly arriving immigrants or refugees who may be particularly vulnerable to human trafficking due to language and cultural barriers. Or, donate to a trusted campaign such as the Polaris Project that serves victims and survivors through a 24/7 hotline, maintains the biggest data set in the U.S. on trafficking, and disrupts trafficking through law enforcement and multi-stakeholder strategies. If you are a business owner, consider joining an organization such as Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) to learn best practices and create awareness among your staff.



Human trafficking is a delicate subject but one that we as global citizens can overcome with awareness, cooperation and a diligent spirit.


Ashley Blake is the founder of Traverse Journeys, an impact-based adventure travel provider with a focus on social and environmental responsibility. Ashley holds an MA in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, focusing her research on music for social change in Brazil. Ashley also holds a BA and BS in International Studies and Print Media from Oregon State University with minors in Spanish and Music. Ashley’s academic and professional background merge in her work in project management, consulting, and international tourism. Ashley is a fluent Spanish speaker with basic skills in Portuguese, German and Arabic with experience in more than 40 countries across the globe. Ashley is passionate about connection, communication and coordination in order to link others with the opportunities and experiences that promote personal, professional and community growth.