Looking Up River

February 7, 2011


Nathan George from Trade as One gave a great illustration at the Freedom Summit. I wanted to share it with you because it helps to understand the link between Fair Trade and Human Trafficking.

Imagine that you’re looking at a river. You see all these bodies floating in the river.  There is a group of people who are dragging the bodies out of the river.  Think of this as IJM, local law enforcement and aftercare facilities (people who take care of trafficking victims after they are rescued).   At some point, to truly be of help, you have to look up river and see what’s going on. It turns out that people are just too close to the river. Poverty brings you too close to the river. It’s life on the margins. What I came to understand at the Freedom Summit is that it’s complicated. There are a variety of reasons why people are trafficked. There are many factors that contribute to the problem.  Greed. Generational prostitution. Marketing that objectifies young girls. Pornography. But, it’s also clear that poverty is a significant contributor to human trafficking. Fair Trade is a way to bring people away from the edge of the river.  If the adults in the family are making a fair wage, it makes everyone in the family less vulnerable.  I’ve read story after story about people who have been trafficked.  Sex trade.  Bonded labor.  Across the board, if the grown-ups can make a fair wage, it makes the family less vulnerable.

When you begin to look at the issue of human trafficking, it’s bleak. The under belly of humanity. I spent most of the conference with a head ache from trying not to cry. I hate crying in public- which, frankly, is a huge hindrance when you’re wading through this reality (granted, my “wading” was sterilized- I was perfectly safe and sitting in a climate controlled church). But, I’m coming to see that there are a lot of reasons to be hopeful. There is a lot that the average Joe can do. As we delve further into the problem, we’ll see areas where we are contributing to the problem. We’ll also see areas where we can be a part of the solution.  In the coming year, I want to be less a part of the problem and more a part of the solution.  Thanks for journeying with me.

Image by Miguel Castaneda via flickr used under a Creative Commons


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