Every year, millions of men, women and children are trafficked worldwide, including in the United States. It's a problem that is frequently underrecognized in the world and a violation of human rights – as well as a form of labor exploitation where people are forced into to labor. The International Labour Organization released a report in September 2022 estimating that 49.6 million people are in “modern-day slavery” and of that, 27.6 million refer to human trafficking.
The University of Cincinnati’s (UC) chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. hosted a human trafficking awareness and education event Jan. 30, titled “Break The Silence. Break The Chains.” This event emphasized the significance of students learning and wanting to make a difference in the world to help prevent human trafficking in their communities.
“Human trafficking is a heavy topic for so many people and may be difficult for them to hear, so being able to offer courses and speak with different student groups is a step to providing the information and encouraging them to want to learn,” said Dr. Jon Weller, director of international enrollment and strategic partnerships.
Sigma Gamma Rho was founded in 1922 and has since stood by their mission of empowering women and their families, which enhances their way of life. The women of Sigma Gamma Rho Inc. aim to lead positive change to help uplift the community through sisterhood, leadership and service. Bringing attention to unrecognized topics through providing qualified speakers and accurate information aids in protecting the students of UC’s campus.
“There are many young individuals overall, who come to our school and may be impressionable, so it is important for us to educate and bring these topics not just to our members, but to the university community,” said Dominique Dunlap, president of Sigma Gamma Rho.
The event highlighted the different forms of human trafficking and how they can operate. Two main forms are forced labor and sex trafficking, in which traffickers exploit adults and children by compelling them to perform labor or services and engage in commercial sex. A trafficker can be anyone, whether it is a stranger, acquaintance, neighbor or even a loved one. In many cases, the victims are aware of who their trafficker is and were brought into trafficking through false promises of a decent job and better life. Traffickers target individuals who they believe are vulnerable in any way and will be susceptible to force or coercion. This industry is a growing international trade, making billions of dollars at the expense of millions of victims who are robbed of their dignity and freedom.
More universities in the state are teaching awareness classes to educate students on the signs of human trafficking and inform students of a variety of methods for them to make a difference, to decrease the rate of this industry. Human trafficking organizations advocate for stronger anti-trafficking laws, provide service and support for victims of trafficking crimes, and develop long-term strategies to end trafficking. Actions such as supporting student or local organizations that focus on the recognition and prevention of trafficking are critical to progress in combating this global issue.
“Volunteering for organizations like The Freedom Center, Josephine’s Clinic, Aruna, or UC’s chapter of Free The Slaves gives students an overview of these different issues and introduces them to groups that are working every day to put an end to human trafficking,” Weller said.
The theme, “Break The Silence. Break The Chains” symbolizes that not only as a country but as a campus it is crucial to be informed and vigilant to prohibit the rise of human trafficking. By instilling this knowledge in students, they are exposed to ways they can rise as leaders for themselves and other people around them.
“Knowledge is power,” Dunlap said. “Focusing on things such as human trafficking, we as students are learning more about how to be an asset in the community and the simple things, we can do to help combat it in order to break the stigma.”