Creatively Counteracting Human Trafficking Through Job Creation
About 12 years ago, I was introduced to the issue of global sex trafficking. We started working stateside to support women who have escaped sex trafficking and were working to rebuild their lives and create a better future for their children. We sold the beautiful paper bead jewelry they were creating and sent the funds back to help ensure that this happened. It made total sense to me all those years ago that survivors had to have a way to survive, and job creation had to be a part of the solution to counteract human trafficking.
In 2021, Freedom Business Alliance released a startling statistic: 80% of those rescued from human trafficking are re-trafficked without dignified opportunities! WHOAH! We knew all along that job creation was powerful, but once the research showed us just how powerful it was, it reenergized us to keep going!
Over the years, I have realized that, at best, job creation is also a significant way we can prevent human trafficking from entering someone's story! To date, we have partnered with over 156 organizations to ensure those rescued from or vulnerable to human trafficking have dignified opportunities. It has been such a glorious work to link arms with so many.
Human Trafficking is a multi-billion dollar business that operates to flip a profit by trading and exploiting people. In reality, traffickers are scanning others for a vulnerability to exploit. New Creation has used the approach of monitoring the vulnerabilities that we can remove. When we don’t address the root cause of issues, we are allowing the doors to remain open and people to continue to be harmed. The work we do in our shop and through our subscription box, Do Good Mail, is anti-trafficking work in a beautiful and creative way. We are taking two powerful tools, fair wage opportunities and poverty alleviation, to push back on the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world.
The Poverty Cycle
Did you know that most often, poverty is intergenerational? “Roughly one-third of children who grow up poor in the United States will also experience poverty as adults.” (Source: Brookings) The issues that often are linked to poverty include limited access to education, difficulty navigating and connecting to resources, housing limitations, addiction, and other criminal activity, as well as child abuse and neglect.
Our work, which started globally, quickly shifted to adding a local focus when I came face to face with human trafficking in my zip code. My hometown, with less than 4,000 people and three stop lights, seemed like an improbable place for it to exist. But the truth is human trafficking exists in towns and cities, big and small. This local case opened my eyes to what poverty, desperation, and addiction can lead to. The survivor’s trafficker wasn’t a stranger or a boyfriend; it was her very own mother. I didn’t know it then, but statistically, 50% of children trafficked in our country are trafficked by a family member. And in most of the familial cases I have seen, poverty and addiction were both glaring factors that led to trafficking entering their stories.
Whether you are looking at domestic or global trafficking, poverty is often the common factor that sets it into motion. In 2017, we began working in Moldova, the tiniest and poorest nation in Europe. I had heard stats like one in every ten people fell victim to trafficking, and the biggest export out of the country was girls. I was shocked but also desperate to find a way to serve there.
We were beyond fortunate to find a Moldovan-led organization that was doing critical work to remove vulnerabilities within their country. In one of our first meetings, they discussed the reality that the lack of opportunities for women was one of the common reasons trafficking was an epidemic there!
Limited options and desperation can many times push people into accepting risky job offers that lead to human trafficking. They told us of girls being offered jobs as nannies, working in restaurants, and more. Each opportunity, in reality, resulted in them being sold for sex in countries around the world. Sadly, when limited choices are available, these job proposals often feel like their only option.
By providing fair wage jobs to the women of Moldova we are helping alleviate the root vulnerability: the lack of opportunity, and ensuring they also have access to job training opportunities, life skills, and health care. Not only is that a life-changing opportunity for the survivor but also her children and the greater community.
What we have seen is that communities are lifted when there are fair-paying, dignified opportunities available. When economic opportunities are present, it creates a more resilient environment where members become less likely to fall victim to human trafficking. When we invest in social enterprises that are integrated with skill-building initiatives, we are helping to support economic stability, which in turn reduces the risk of trafficking.
Job Creation is Empowerment
In my years of experience, I have been saddened to see how those in the anti-trafficking movement can be seen in a hero role. The truth is survivors of human trafficking are the actual heroes of their own story. When we can create space and opportunity for them to thrive with dignified opportunities, we ensure they are empowered and have agency. They use their creativity, skills, and more to create their future. The survivors and artisans we have served alongside are some of the most creative, resilient, and powerful people on the planet. Living wage job creation is a necessary piece to seeing survivors lead self-sustaining lives that they can be proud to have created.
These job opportunities provide financial stability and security, allowing them to support themselves and, many times, their children. There is fundamental dignity and self-worth established when artisans are paid fairly for the skills they have and the contributions they make. They are more likely to feel seen, valued, and respected for the work they do, which can boost their overall self-confidence and motivation for the future. Our hope is it will also engage upward mobility with increased job skills that can create career advancements, future education, and personal development.
Every Product Tells a Story
In conclusion, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the way that consumerism can either be the solution to or the fuel of the issue of human trafficking.
When we began over a decade ago, I had minimal knowledge about fair trade and ethical manufacturing. Like most people, I purchased items with very little thought of who was behind the creation of the product and how that, in turn, affected the person involved.
I now know that many of the items we consume are a significant contributor to human trafficking. Fair Trade promotes ethical practices, fair compensation, and safe working conditions. In contrast, the creation of many products involves exploitation, coercion, and forced labor, which is, by law, human trafficking.
Fair trade and living wage job creation are such vital tools to educate others on how to consume consciously. We have always viewed our shop as a way to start conversations and bring others close to an issue that can feel paralyzing. By using ethical practices in creating items and marketing them, we are creating opportunities for everyday citizens to use their purchasing power for GOOD + ultimately join our mission to creatively counteract human trafficking!
Co-Founder + Executive Director
Sabrina's passion for combating human trafficking quickly developed after volunteering stateside with an Ugandan-based nonprofit, + since then it has been her mission to learn about this issue on a local + global scale.
In 2013, she + her husband founded New Creation VA, a nonprofit that creatively counteracts human trafficking with a local heart + global approach. To date, that organization has generated almost $5 million to combat trafficking. They have worked with over 10,000 students to raise awareness, as well as, training hundreds of community members on what trafficking is + how to recognize the signs.
In 2022, Sabrina was named “Freedom Ambassador of the Year,” for her commitment to the mission of preventing human trafficking and championing the Prevention Project curriculum throughout Virginia.
Armed with the belief that prevention education + job creation are powerful solutions to the problem, she has dedicated her life to developing concepts that will make an impact.