Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Season of Consumption

As many people around the world celebrate religious and secular holidays with their family by exchanging gifts, food, and love, we at BASI need to remind ourselves that the items exchanged may be products from human trafficking and slavery. Some major corporations audit and train individuals to identify global and local abuses. Yet there are concerns about lack of intervention.

At the Trust Women 2013 Conference, the first keynote speaker Anne Gallagher spoke of the past, present, and future in regards to human trafficking outreach.

Dr. Gallagher emphasizes briefly that activism requires action. That words alone are not enough for change. This Holiday season, when buying or receiving gifts, consider merchandises' origins. We are looking more into our products and learning more about the person behind the stitches of a shirt or the clasp of a coat.

Bruno Pieters discusses the embodiment of such action at TEDxGhent. Price and supply chain transparencies are important to for customers read up on, and we should recognizes companies for being ecologically sustainable. On the flip-side, we should exercise our own abilities to shop smart and penalize industries and companies by not giving business.

A pervasive product of note, palm oil ranges from being in foods to soaps to cosmetics, and also as animal feed and biofuel. Palm oil is rarely listed as an ingredient on product labels, with the term "vegetable oil" often being used instead. but original infograph from

A young farm-worker in Berau, Indonesia, loading oil palm bunches.
The production and trade of palm oil is rapidly expanding. Large corporate producers in Malaysia and Indonesia are continuing to expand their land holdings and their workforce to meet the demand. The palm oil industry is now one of the most significant employers in Malaysia and Indonesia, employing as many as 3.5 million workers. In the global supply chains, these workers can face significant vulnerability, patterns of abuse and malpractice, and coercion at various stages of the recruitment, migration, and employment process. This includes policies and regulations in home and host countries that can exacerbate their vulnerability. For businesses linked to such circumstances through business relationships, this amounts to forced and trafficked labor in their supply chains. Many of these workers are victims of serious labor exploitation including workers are trafficked into bonded labor, forced to work and live under extreme conditions, with limited legal recourse, suffer from abuse or the threat of abuse, and/or are victims of child labor. Traffickers who prey on victims face few, if any, sanctions from business or government officials.

In recent years, media and civil society reports have focused the world’s attention on the unsustainable environmental practices that often characterize palm oil production in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia because of the vast deforestation and subsequent animal depopulation of the areas. Growers can make improvements in several environmental areas, including taking steps for responsible land acquisition, area management, and providing ecosystem services.

But, palm oil is such a pervasive product? What can I do?

If you need oil and can afford alternatives, buy products that do not use palm oil or buy from certified green companies. Research must be done on the consumers' part, but you must also exercise our right to vote so that businesses and companies feel the pressure and utilize human and environmentally safe practices. 

Check out the recent BASI posts regarding other products: Cotton, Diamonds, and Fashion

Relevant Resources

Breaking the silence on slavery: why companies need to do more:

Advent Conspiracy:

Pope Francis speaks out on human trafficking:

Green Palm Sustainability:

Sustainable Palm Oil:

Verité's PDF:

Humanity United's PDF:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Global Awards For Sustainable Fashion: SOURCE Awards 2013

Live from the House of Lords in London, the Ethical Fashion Forum hosted their #SourceAwards 2013. The London-based ethical fashion platform for retailers, manufacturers, and consumers, Ethical Fashion Forum once again hosted their annual SOURCE Awards, celebrating the success of sustainable and ethical fashion pioneers and industry leaders.  The forum supports thousands of ethical and sustainable fashion businesses in +130 countries.  These I'm so excited to share the winners with you, if you haven't seen them yet!  Let me know which designers are your favorites and if you have shopped from any of them before. :)


Ethical Fashion Forum
December 2013
Announcing the winners of the Global Awards For Sustainable Fashion: SOURCE Awards 2013

The Ethical Fashion Forum is pleased to announce the winners of the SOURCE Awards
2013. The SOURCE Awards put the spotlight on the most innovative and inspirational
businesses, individuals and initiatives in the fashion industry, from field to final product.

Winners were selected by an illustrious judging panel, including: Dolly Jones, editor of; Brigitte Steppitus, Head of Couture at Vivienne Westwood; Summer Rayne
Oakes, social activist, eco-model and co-founder of Source4Style; Amber Valletta,
American supermodel and sustainable fashion spokesperson.

On Tuesday 3rd December, pioneering fashion businesses, press and key industry figures
met at the House of Lords in London, for the 2013 SOURCE Awards Winner
announcements, hosted by Baroness Lola Young, OBE and Founder of the All Party
Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability.

Announcements were also updated live on twitter to the global fashion community, with the
official hastag: #sourceawards.

“In the 7 years of running the awards, this is our most inspiring line up yet.” Tamsin
Lejeune, Managing Director and Founder of the Ethical Fashion Forum & SOURCE.

View a full list of the 2013 winners below. Visit SOURCE to read the full round up of the

1. Design Leader 
Design Leader: VOZ

2. SOURCE Sustainable Brand Leader Awards
2.1 One to Watch: SENHOA

2.2 Womenswear: INDIGENOUS

2.3 Menswear: UMASAN

2.4 Childrenswear: ETERNAL CREATION

2.5 Accessories: THE SWAY

2.6 Jewellery: RAVEN + LILY

2.7 Footwear: COCLICO

2.8 Sport and Leisure: CHOCLO PROJECT

2.9 Lingerie and Swimwear: NICO UNDERWEAR

3. Retail Award
3.1 Independent Boutique / Sustainable Brand Platform: LYDALI

3.2 Large International or High St Retailer: NEW LOOK

4. SOURCE Sustainable Supplier / Manufacturer
4.1 Fabric & Component Production and Supply: LEBENSKLEIDUNG

4.2 Production Services on Behalf of Brands and Retailers: PIECE & CO.

Summary compiled from Ethical Fashion Forum press release and award presentation 2013.  Follow EFF on Twitter and Facebook for the latest on #EthicalFashion #EcoFashion and #SustainableFashion.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Unconscious Injustice

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not themselves" - Abraham Lincoln   

There are cotton fields all over the world, and the workers are forced to glean under harsh treatment. Picking cotton on hot summer days with very few (if any) breaks. Many workers have no other option, but to spend their days there simply trying to earn money to feed their families. They work hard and long days, for a small amount of money. 

They have no hope of ever getting free. 

After their long day, they come home, only to suffer headaches and stomachaches from breathing in the pesticides all day ... only to have to return to the fields the next day. Many families face sickness and other health issues, but most of them can't afford to receive medical care.  

We have all allowed this to happen without even knowing about it. The clothes we wear, and the things we buy make way for more injustice. 

We have the power to help change this, simply by taking our income and spending it wisely. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blood Diamonds or Ethical Diamonds? What Are You Wearing?

The what, where, and why on conflict "blood diamonds"!  
Soldiers of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF),
waging a campaign of amputation and rape. (BBC 2013)

It began in the 1980s with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a group of rebel soldiers formed in Sierra Leone, in western Africa which claimed to, "fight for democracy."  The RUF sought to overthrow the government and take control of diamond producing regions (Princeton 2013).  The funds to purchase their weapons and fuel the group came through selling diamonds from diamond mine takeovers.  Through these takeovers, the RUF murdered non combatant citizens, raped, kept young girls as sex slaves, took child soldiers, forced children to kill their families and other civilians, took possession of rivers used for fishing, and dismembered limbs from civilians as their signature.
"By cutting off your hands, you loose the capacity to actively participate in government."
-RUF soldier to civilian as his family was burnt alive in his house

This father had both of his hands cut off by an RUF soldier.
In January 2003, the Kimberely Process Certification (KPC) Scheme was endorsed by the United Nations and created as an international certification process to  assure "conflict-free" diamonds.  However, the responsibility to follow through with the KPC is placed in the hands of individual governments.  The corruption within the regions of conflict diamonds, make the KPC unreliable.  On the KPC's homepage, you can even see a list of stolen certification numbers, which shows how certificates and signatures can slip into the wrong hands over and over again. The KPC's lack of enforcement, political will, and regulation has not stopped conflict diamonds from being produced and sold (learn more in the documentary at the bottom of this post) (Global Witness).  Also, corruption within governments prevents proper regulation of the KPC from taking place.  At this point in time many consumers like you and me were unaware that conflict diamonds even existed! 
Can you tell if this is a blood diamond or an ethical diamond?
You can ask.
"Everyone hopes that diamonds and other minerals will help rebuild the country; but in reality much of the diamond wealth does not come back to the people, or the country. The wealth remains in the hands of relatively few powerful individuals who control the business." 
- National Geographics 2003

Then in 2006 the release of the movie Blood Diamonds, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and co-produced and directed by Edward Zwick, brought the problem of conflict diamonds to the public eye.  This movie introduced conflict diamonds as "blood diamonds." The movie Blood Diamonds exposed the existence of conflict diamonds while raising questions such as why blood diamonds exist, why these diamonds continue to make it to retail markets across the globe, and how consumers can be sure if their diamonds fuel the RUF. This movie also sparked activism to reach out to the devastated communities.  In 2007, Russell Simmons founded Diamond Empowerment Fund, which is a non-profit organization that "supports education initiatives in diamond producing countries."
But, consumers like you and me can make a difference too!  With the recent discovery of diamonds in northern Canada, customers have been turning to Canadian sourced diamonds, ethically labeled with the CanadaMark.  However, it is important to also acknowledge that the diamond industry is crucial to many countries in Africa where conflict diamonds emerge.  Completely avoiding certain countries, like the 5 year EU embargo on diamonds from Zimbabwe, can cause brutal effects on a country's economy.  It is important that consumers like you and me recognize that there are ethical diamonds from Africa.  There are even companies that sell ethical African diamonds.  Some companies ethically source their diamonds from Africa then donate portions of their profit to help rebuild conflict diamond zone communities.  A few companies which go beyond simply avoiding conflict diamonds (which is still a step in the right direction, but leaves communities in poverty) by reinvesting in conflict diamond zone communities include retailers such as Brilliant Earth, who donates 5% of profits to mining communities. This extra step helps combat the repercussions created in these regions,  instead of avoiding their diamonds and leaving the communities to suffer.

What are governments doing today?
Over the next 3 days, members from 81 countries will participate in a 4 day plenary discussion in Johannesburg, South Africa, to strengthen the Kimberely Process Certification (KPC) and reduce the flow of blood diamonds.

"Going forward, I think it's fairly clear to everyone that it's not just rebels that are capable of 
handling conflict gems... across Africa, governments have been [cooperating with] people 
in a massive violation of human rights in areas where diamonds have been produced.  
In the case of Angola, it refuses to acknowledge that there is a dire violation of human rights there.  
In Angloda the KP is used as a cover for the abuses to continue.  So I don't want the KP to go there. 
 I also don't want the KP to continue to be  a legitimate shield for the government." 
Dr. Oladiran Bello, South African Institute of International Affairs 
(The Dark Side of Diamonds 2013)

Now what for consumers?
Are you getting married or plan on purchasing any diamond jewelry soon? Instead of any 'ole diamond, choose one that is ethically sourced and NOT a conflict diamond.  How do you do this? You ask! A joyful new piece to your wardrobe can either support terrorism, or can tell the diamond industry that you will not stand for diamonds that end in deaths.  Be aware that you can ask questions which make a difference.  Retailers sell because consumers buy.  Make retailers sell diamonds that are conflict-zone free! I would suggest to go beyond simply "conflict free."  If you ask the right questions, you can help change the sourcing of diamonds. If consumers demand, supply will change.  :) 

Documentary by History Channel: Blood Diamonds Sierra Leone Diamond War

Infographic on diamond sourcing:
Blood Diamond Infographic
Reasons to Care Where Your Diamond Comes From provided by Brilliant Earth.

Art Director: Alexandra Jensen
Copywriter: Denise Duffy
2011 Gold, Graphis New Talent Annual winner

All links within this article provide sources for this article.  Please click the links to further educate yourself on conflict diamonds and please remember how your ethical diamond purchase can help show governments that you will not stand for your diamonds to be a result of bloodshed!

Special Thanks to Dr. Trina Hamilton and Seth Cavello for guiding me and allowing me to assist them in research on the ethical diamond trade through the Ronald E. McNair PostBaccalaureate Summer Program 2012 which helped me understanding in writing this post!  -Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

T-Shirt Sourcing in America

"You? Me? Who?".
"No, it's You and Who".


Best thing about my university is that there is always something going on. There is always an event or an activity taking place varying from guest speaker series, visitations from awareness clubs, and company advertisement socials. Now a lot of those events provide swag, so what does any normal tuition paying student do? He or she plays along and approaches the table that provides an opportunity to obtain said "free-bees".
(Side note: Are they really free-bees when I'm paying thousands in loans to the institution housing the events? I am obligated to those free things.)
But anyway the point I was getting to is that I was lured to this table that promised a free t-shirt if you helped advertise for them. Now I wasn't about to advertise for a company without knowing what they were advocating so I stuck around and did some digging. And...I LOVED IT. 

Here is this company advocating ethical fashion something BASI has been striving to do in order to prevent the cruel and coerced labor of those overseas. RIGHT. HERE. IN. BUFFALO. And in other cities such as these:

I found out this company builds upon the very foundation that Blake Mycoskie, Founder and Chief Giver of TOMS Shoes uses: business by charity!

So here I am telling you of You and Who, a company with a One for One initiative. They provide a shirt -or meal, if you so choose -for every shirt that you buy. Sound familiar?  Now what is it about this company that is so different from TOMS

For each pair of shoes TOMS sells it gives one to a person in need. The same goes for selling a pair of glasses with an exception that they give someone else the gift of sight through surgery or a pair of glasses. TOMS has its shoes made in China, Ethiopia, & Argentina while enforcing appropriate business practices and ensuring that corporate responsibility standards are upheld. Their Giving Report states,

"On an annual basis, we require our direct suppliers to certify that the materials incorporated into our products are procured in accordance with all applicable laws in the countries they do business in, including laws regarding slavery and human trafficking."

And while trying to abstain from sick production practices consistent with forced or bonded labor, such as physical abuse, isolation, malnourishment, etc. TOMS has been trying to integrate environmentally friendly policies. Awesome, right?

Now, You and Who on the other hand uses artists from local communities to create t-shirts made out of sustainable materials, providing the artists with jobs and encouraging the arts. For every t-shirt bought a matching one or meal is given to organizations such as homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, organizations that help at risk or runaway youth. The company started up in 2010, but after the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh this year You and Who decided it was time to remove their clothing from being produced globally to being produced only within America. Therefore, providing American residents with jobs too. The transition is still taking place and they need your help. So if you are a person who is also into helping your country as well as others I encourage you to check them out by clicking the link or watch the video below:

"Let's show the world you give a shirt".
-You and Who

But let's give a hand to both TOMS & You and Who for their accomplishments and hope that they can continue to expand. Thus, providing other ways to provide for people whether American, or non-American.

Your co-editor, 

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Truckers Against Trafficking & Lot Lizards

KMOT.COM - Minot, ND - News, Weather, Sports

"Business has boomed in North Dakota, and so has the number of truck drivers moving goods and oil across the state. Now, the North Dakota Motor Carriers Association (NDMCA) wants those drivers to be on the lookout for some serious criminals. The group is partnering with the national non-profit Truckers Against Trafficking to make North Dakota truckers aware of the issue of human trafficking.

Spencer says truck drivers are the ideal group to help combat trafficking because there are more than 3.1 million truck drivers in the U.S. who cover more than 400 billion miles a year. In addition, many traffickers bring their victims to truck stops because of the environment.

"Truckers come and go, it's transient, no one can really build relationships," says executive director Kendis Paris, Truckers Against Trafficking. "So this is an industry that literally has a unique advantage in that they are going to be able to recognize and identify and assist victims.""

To Read the Full Article CLICK HERE.


Lot Lizards, Human Trafficking & Slut Shaming

Before I inform you on human trafficking/prostitution at truck stops along highways,  I think it is important to understand a bit of the context of human trafficking and prostitution at truck stops.

Lot Lizard - a person that sells their body at a truck stop

The term "lot lizard" was and is used in the trucker world.  Although, it use to be used to refer to all persons selling sex/sexual acts at truck stops, with the increase in awareness of human trafficking, campaigns are now raising awareness that these "lot lizards" are in many cases victims of human trafficking.  Organizations such as the american organization, Truckers Against Trafficking aim to increase awareness of human trafficking to truck drivers so they can be aware of the signs of human trafficking and to decrease the demand to purchase sex at truck stops, thus decreasing the potential victims of human trafficking from being purchased for sex acts.  Below is a video I found on Youtube which was taken by a person at a truck stop.  As you watch, recognize the blame and shame, and the relationship to drugs that is placed on the women walking from car to car by the person filming this video.  Also,  realize that this is occurring in broad daylight.  

Disclaimer: Profanity and racial stereotypes are used by the persons filming.  Content of the following video is neither endorsed nor supported by Bloggers Against Social Injustice.  This video is only meant to inform you, the reader, of once case of a "lot lizard."

What did you think?  After looking into trucking associations, I came cross the post "7 Deadly Lot Lizards," published by Truckers to Truckers, categorizes "lot lizards" into 7 categories based on actions and physical characteristics.  When reading the description and watching the associated video this website depicts 7 types of "lot lizards" and informs the viewer to stay aware from these ladies(although there also men in these roles). When looking below at comments, Truckers Against Trafficking, pointed out that while it is important to educate truckers to steer clear of those selling sex, it is also important not to "slut shame."  According to Geek Feminism,

Slut Shaming - the act of criticizing a woman for her real or 
presumed sexual activity, or for behaving in ways that someone thinks 
are associated with her real or presumed sexual activity 

Below is part of the comment posted by Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) on the "7 Deadly Lot Lizards" forum, followed by TAT's training video.  The video is a bit long, but reading their comment is well worth your time.

"It is easy to blame the women…after all, our society has us conditioned to blame 
the “slut” versus those who use her and abuse her. We have been told that they want to 
be there, that they love their pimps and just really like sex. But actually talking to 
these women outside of the pressures of meeting her quota tells quite a different story. 
Most were forced into it at a younger age, most have suffered beatings, addiction,
 fear and threats. Most have STDs, forced abortions, and a broken spirit. 
Most know nothing else other than abuse."

Read full comment HERE.  Now I want to know if you were aware that this was happening a truck stops and if you had ever thought that a "prostitute" could be a victim of human trafficking.  What do you think about "lot lizards"?

Truckers Against Trafficking (28:11) from iEmpathize on Vimeo.

Please help us continue the conversation to raise awareness by following us on Facebook and Twitter!

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Modern Slavery in India

I hope all has been well for everyone. Today I would like to discuss briefly about the history of slavery in India. The topic came about when talking with a friend about modern day slavery and social repercussions on the society and the individual. I would like to elaborate on some legislation passed regarding slavery in India and what the nation has done to change the current problem.

Slavery is a historically pervasive institution seen in most cultures in some capacity from early times and, though illegal, continues today. The usual forms of acquiring people were (and still) as follow, in any culture:
- conquering of peoples
- debt bondage
- selling oneself
- selling child(ren)

Most slaves in India originally worked as house servants and after Islamic conquerors, an increase of slavery occurred. The institution of slavery was little documented, beyond being recorded in Sanskrit Laws of Manu, until the British colonials in the 19th century made it an object of study because of their desire to abolish it. Owning slaves expressed an owner's prestige and power by both the British and Indians. The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 of the British Parliament abolished slavery throughout the empire (with a few exceptions). The Act was repealed in 1998 but other anti-slavery legislation remains in force.

In India, the Indian Constitution integrated laws from the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, and United States, including laws regarding human rights. Currently, Indian laws adhere to international United Nations' guidelines of human rights laws. 

India (and not the United States) ratified the Forced Labor Convention (No.29) in 1930. The convention of defines forced labor as "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily."

Yet, how does India have the largest concentration of slaves in the world?

The mechanisms of bonded labor, brothels, and forced/fake marriages coerce people to work in poor and inhumane conditions initiating sexual and industry exploitation. Local and international slave traders encourage the exchange of the body and spirit to the unfortunate unable to navigate socioeconomic situations

References and Other Resources:

Recent NPR article, India, China Top List Of Nations With Most Slaves:

Slavery in India (in three parts):

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Price of Health: Organ Trafficking

This blog focuses on the injustices in the world, particularly in regards to the destitute of society, struggling to make ends meet or taken advantage of in the situation. Human trafficking is a complex issue that results in shattered lives and dehumanization.

Yet, there is much trafficked in the world: pharmaceuticals and people. But not only whole individuals. There is more that a person's body can provide beyond forced labor and sex. The body can also provide life. 

In legal spheres, donated organs, tissues, and surrogacy is common. A surrogate mother can provide a childless couple a new life. Donated blood, organs, tissues, can save or improve a life. These are positive and wonderful things. 

However, coercion of entering the organ black market and trafficking scene  is a lucrative business. All over the world, organs of human beings are being trafficked with or without the consent of those to whom they belong. These victims sell their own organs for a low price, often to the coercive criminal middlemen, who make thousands from the transaction. The recipients of the organs pay a much higher price than the donors receive, allowing the traffickers to pocket the rest. The middlemen do not necessarily match what you may expect: usually involved are skilled doctors, nurses, and funeral home directors, among others. 

Below is an infographic detailing the infamous Levy Rosenbaum Trial of 2011, an exemplar of the process within the United States:

The reason someone may need an organ is a complex issue with many factors, biological and socioeconomic components, going into the illness, diagnosis, and treatment. In the end, a person is acutely ill and in dire need of an organ. The number of people requiring a life-saving transplant continues to rise faster than the number of available donors. Approximately 300 new transplant candidates are added to the waiting list each month. There is a a shortage of organs and tissues donated legally, hence to avoid death, drastic measures are considered. 

Below is an infograph of how much a black market organ would cost:

Similarly, the reasons why an individual would sell an organ is as complex and influenced by the socioeconomic conditions the person finds him or herself in. The organs commonly transplanted include kidney, liver, heart, lung and pancreas, with a whole kidney the number one because we only "need" two to live. 

A great account of selling a kidney is below. The process offers quick cash and a certain limited freedom from poverty. The risks creates consequences that devastates the seller and family. However, business is still booming: 

For more information visit:

Trafficking in organs, tissues and cells and trafficking in human beings for the purpose of the removal of organs by Joint Council of Europe/ United Nations Study

Upstate New York Transplant Services' Myths & Misconceptions

Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Child Trafficking Public Service Announcement

Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking(FCAHT) just released a new PSA (public service announcement) this week, on September 30th.  For those of you who don't know, a PSA is a media piece shared on television, radio, or other media with the goal of raising public awareness and/or changing the mind of a viewer.  In order for PSAs to make an impact it is vital that people share them and from there take action.  As seen in this video, a young girl is transformed with make-up to look much older, like a young woman.  In human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, young women are "made up" to look older. Then they tell customers and strangers that they are older than they actually are, some lie to say that are 25 years old, when they are 15 in actuality.  That is nearly doubling their age!

"Later on that night, I went (out) again and... the officers stopped me... 
I just broke down in tears. I said 'I’m 15. I’m a runaway and
I’ve been telling everybody I’m 24, 25 and I’m out
here prostituting. I want help!'" 
-- 15-year-old girl victim of sex trafficking 
Bruises from abuse are covered up with make up to make the victims look more appealing, flawless, and commonplace to customers.  This gives the facade that everything is alright.  Human trafficking is also directly linked to pornography.  Although not all people in the pornography industry are victims of human trafficking, adults as well as children in the pornography industry, which is driven by demand, can be... and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.  These people are victims.  As people they have rights and freedom to not be exploited.  As seen in the PSA below, a young girl can easily be made to look older.  What follows for these young girls is neither positive nor a life a child should be living.

Demand fuels sex trafficking (prostitution, pornography).  What will you do?

Take a look at FCAHT's latest PSA below, and please share it on your facebook and twitter accounts!
Together we can help raise awareness and through this, help save lives.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Films on Human Trafficking

If you haven't read Christine's post on the recent [Free Them] walk, please do! This post was inspired by learning about Christopher Bessette's film "Trade of Innocents" while at the [Free Them] walk.
I was raised on my father's passion for justice. He worked long and hard on the streets and in the office, and on the evenings I had the opportunity to see him, he might show us a documentary or movie related to his career. Some of the movies were also shown out of a strange parental way of showing he cared about our welfare.

The following are a list of films related to human trafficking (of course, there are SO MANY others). Movies provide a look into experiences of the victims, law enforcement, and traffickers. They allow us who have much to imagine a life with little.

Streetwise Kids - Romania (1996) - Directed by Journeyman Pictures
Modern Heroes, Modern Slaves (1999) - Directed by Marie Boti 
Trading Women (2002) - Directed by David Feingold
Human Trafficking (2005) - Directed by Christian Duguay
All the Invisible Children (2005) - Directed by Joh Woo
Daryl Hannah's human trafficking documentary (2006) 
Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration (2006) - Directed by Kevin Knoblock
Taken (2008) - Directed by Pierre Morel
Redlight (2009) - Directed by Guy Jacobson, Adi Ezroni and Charles Kiselyak
The Whistleblower (2010) - Directed by Larysa Kondracki
Nefarious: Merchant of Souls (2011) - Directed by Benjamin Nolot
And Free the Slaves' video library

If you have free time and are tired of reading through the mass of text on your computer, learn more about human trafficking by watching a film or documentary. Always learn more. And remember after watching, "You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know" (William Wilberforce). 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

[Free-Them] Freedom Walk 2013: End Human Trafficking

Exactly one week ago, the Bloggers Against Social Injustice- Buffalo Team traveled nearly 100 miles from Buffalo, New York to Toronto, Canada to join our spotlight charity of 2012-2013, [Free-Them], in their 4th Annual Freedom Walk!  Over 500 people from across Canada congregated to hear and learn from from survivors, front-line rescuers, community activists, and police officials proceeded by a 4km walk for freedom.  This walk brought in a record breaking $45,000 which will benefit Walk With Me Canada Victim Services! Scroll below to read and see what it was like to go to #FreedomWalk2013 with the BASI-Buffalo Team!  I hope you feel like you were there with us!

Why Walk for Freedom? 

[Written By: Christine, founder and co-editor of BASI]

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013- Our team woke up as the sun rose and left for Canada shortly after.  Upon arrival to the Fairmont Hotel, we were able to stop for some group pictures on the [Free-Them] purple carpet and backdrop before entering the banquet room for the pre-walk seminar.  As we entered the room, we looked over a sea of over 500 people dressed in purple and a fair-trade market place set up in the back.  The room was buzzing and packed, to say the least...

Before I move on, I want to remind you how prevalent human trafficking is in our world today.  It is estimated that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking in the world at any given moment.  This includes but is not limited to victims of sex trafficking and labor trafficking of all ages, genders, nationalities, and sexual orientations.  All people can be susceptible to human trafficking, which is why it is important to raise awareness so that people can recognize a possible human trafficking situation to avoid and report it.  This lucrative trade, which pulls in an estimated $32 billion annually, is present in virtually every country around the globe. 

"If it can happen to young girls, boys, women and
men, it can happen to each of us.  We are walking
for freedom and for justice!"

This message was shared with us by Veronica Chail, who hosted this year's Freedom Walk.  Chail then thanked Member of Parliament (MP) Joy Smith, Canada's leading anti-human trafficking advocate, on behalf of [Free-Them] and all of Canada.  Since 2007, Smith has mobilized the Canadian government to take action to create networks across the country and "connect the dots" to prevent and abolish human trafficking in Canada.  As the room rose for a standing ovation she sat in her seat undeniably humbled as she smiled and shook her head.  When the applause died down, MP Chris Alexander came on stage and described the struggle to push for human trafficking eradication legislation and action.  Alexander shared,

"[Human trafficking is] such a vast problem that 
I didn't know how or where to begin or how to 
put our arms around the problem."

With the efforts of MP Alexander and MP Smith along with a combination of many agencies, MPs, and integrated law enforcement teams, Canada is one of the only countries in the world to place victims at the center of discussions to combat human trafficking.

MP Joy Smith
MP Chris Alexander

"If you do nothing, nothing will happen.  
Four years ago I decided to do something,
and all of us are here today."

This was shared with us by Shae Invidiata, the founder of [Free-Them].  Invidiata began the Freedom Walk 4 years ago with the intent to "do something" and make a difference in the fight against human trafficking.  As she stool on stage, she shared with us a story about a brick.  Even if a brick is just a brick, sitting alone and unused, it still aspires to be something.  Invidiata told us that like that just like a brick that aspires to become something magnificent, like a skyscraper, we too are coming together to do something grand and bring about change.  Following Invidiata, Katrina McLeod shared her story.  In a group for abused women, she was preyed upon by a pimp.  Katarina McLeod was 21 years old when she entered the sex industry and for the next 10 years, she was invisibly caught in the sex trade.  Now she is an overcomer and founder of Rising Angels.

"People think its a choice, but it isn't.  We need to
not allow legalized prostitution [in Canada].
It will allow pimps to bring more girls and drugs."

When Katarina McLeod said this and shared her story, I realize how important it is for first responders (doctors, people at the end of hotlines, and assault groups) to be aware of human trafficking and potential predators.  Did you know one victim in the sex trade can bring in $280,000 per year for a pimp?  It is devastatingly sad AND UNACCEPTABLE that any person should have to feel obligated to sell their bodies, feel a loss of dignity, and be subjugated to abuse (verbal/physical) under the force and/or coercion of a pimp!

Shae Invidiata, founder of [Free-Them].
Katarina McLeod, founder of Rising Angels and overcomer of sex trafficking.

Lepa Jankovic and Christopher Bessette were also present.  Lepa Jankovic is a Royal Canadian Mountain Police whose efforts brought down 36 pimps, in Canada's largest human trafficking case! Christopher Bessette is the writer and director of the film "Trade of Innocents". He described his process in bringing this movie to life; from his journey to Cambodia for research, to becoming teary-eyed while filming one scene of the movie, 

"I thought about what a little girl looking 
[out of the Pink Room for young virgins] 
would have thought, looking at the other kids and
asking herself, 'Why can't I play outside'"?

At one point while directing "Trade of Innocents,"  Bessette wished he could have done more, but was reminded that this movie is raising awareness, which is making a difference.  Like Bessette, I feel like it is our duty to use whatever talents we possess to help raise awareness to end human trafficking.  Following Bessette, we heard from founder of Walk With Me Canada Victim Services and overcomer of sex trafficking, Timea Nagy.  

"It took me 13 years to find my voice and start to regain my dignity."

Nagy offered us a challenge.  The challenge was to take 15 minutes of our day and in those 15 minutes ask permission for everything.  This included; asking to eat food, asking to cry, asking to fight back if you were hurt, asking what color shirt to wear, and everything in between.  Now imagine being told "no" to every single request.  This is what Nagy said it is like as a victim of sex trafficking, only worse and in every waking moment.  She also told us that sometimes it is hard to think that just a few years ago she was actually in the sex trade.  It was discomforting to think that people standing in the same room as myself were suppressed to such conditions, and to think that there are millions of others out there currently in that situation is blatantly unacceptable.  This is why it is up to people like you and me to take a stand and do something!

Before the 4km walk, [Free-Them] surprised Bloggers Against Social Injustice and JQ Fitness with the 2013 iStand Award, thanking us for our local and online efforts to help abolish modern-day slavery.  I began to cry as I went on stage because I was so surprised and humbled.

RCMP Lepa Jankovic
BASI-Buffalo Team with writer/director Chris Bessette
Me (Christine) accepting the iStand Award on behalf of BASI

And now for photos from the 4km Freedom Walk! We were able to help pass out flyers on human trafficking to pedestrians, and water and snacks to walkers.  A BIG thank you to everyone who went out and walked!
Christopher (left) handing out information on human trafficking to a pedestrian.

Oncoming freedom walkers chanted:
"People are not for sale! People are not for sale!"

Susan, alerting the walkers with a smile!

After the 4km were complete, the entire group of +500 gathered for a photo!

Click this box below to see news coverage from #FreedomWalk2013

Before we left back for the United States, we were able to snap a quick picture with Shae Invidiata and Randy, of [Free-Them].

I hope you felt like you were there with us, I wish you were! Whatever you do, remember, ever action makes a difference, including raising awareness through a community walk.  Do it for those who don't have a voice to be heard.

Thank you [Free-Them], Walk With Me, and every person, donor, and organization there in body and in spirit for helping bring Canada one step (times over 500) closer to abolishing human trafficking!

We appreciate your efforts and each of you!

Christine :)

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