By Megan Ferringer, Rotary staff
It is estimated that human trafficking generates $40 billion annually. That’s more than McDonald’s, Google’s, and Wal-mart’s profits combined.
Human trafficking, especially the commercial sexual exploitation of children, is a major problem.
According to a 2012 International Labour Organization report, a staggering three out of every 1,000 people worldwide are engaged in forced labor. Globally, an estimated 27 million people are enslaved, of whom 4.5 million are victims of sex slavery.
At the Rotary International Convention in São Paulo, Cokkie Eaker, a member of the Rotary Club of Roswell, Georgia, USA, explained how Rotary can play a major role in ending human trafficking in the United States and worldwide. Eaker is the executive director of the End Human Trafficking Now campaign, which was created to fight human trafficking by promoting awareness of the issue.
“The problem is that people don’t realize this can happen in their own community,” Eaker said. “But the fact is that human trafficking is a very local problem and it’s probably happening right before your eyes without you even realizing it.”
Eaker explained that one of the campaign’s primary goals is to train Rotary members, city officials, and community members in how to spot signs that a child is stuck in the human trafficking system. “When you get people talking about something like human trafficking, all of a sudden you realize these signs are all around you. You begin to know what to look for, and that in itself can save a life,” she said.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children can take many forms. Not all affected children are kidnapping victims or runaways. Victims may come home to their families every day. Often, children are lured into trafficking without ever realizing what’s happening.
The campaign has already gained momentum. Eaker explained that they have partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Shared Hope International, and Polaris. They’re also working with law enforcement and lobbying politicians for harsher penalties for those who participate in human trafficking.
“In the same way that Rotary has fought to end polio, I think we can mobilize members to help end human trafficking,” Eaker said. “We need to start a movement.”