In Sunnyvale, California in the heart of Silicon Valley we attended The Global Forum on Human Trafficking. We were elated to see the Global Forum convene all segments of society, including business, government, academia, non-profit, culture (media), and even faith based organizations. As a pastor from South Korea, stated: “the traffickers are so highly networked, we need to be just as efficient and work together.”
The event opened up with the jazzy smooth voice of award-winning soul artist Aloe Blacc. The Global Forum made a point to appeal to the next leaders of our generation, inviting musical artists such as Enation, a band featured on hit teen show “One Tree Hill.” Even the All Saints fashion company debuted a trendy t-shirt line called “Not For Sale,” the slogan for the Not For Sale campaign, a non-profit started in 2007 and the masterminds behind the forum.
The conference, of course, got down to serious business. It highlighted two media initiatives that have raised public awareness of human trafficking. Specifically, they invited Mike McCarthy from the CNN Freedom Project to speak out about the conception and direction of project, and aired the debut of a new world series documentary on modern day slavery by Al Jazeera.
We learned about the grassroots’ work by Not For Sale’s international ambassadors in South Africa, Amsterdam, Romania, and Cambodia. There was also domestic representation, from local organizations such as Oakland-based MISSSEY and politician David Abramowitz who shared his view of the advances made in Washington D.C. Probably the most serious and touching moments of all were generated by actress Mira Sorvino, who delivered a keynote speech and scanned everything from traffickers on the ground to billionaires around the world, saying: “Any billionaire who is not giving away half of their net worth is not a good person.” She surprised us with a bone-chilling facts, such as that the U.S. spends twice as much on drug trafficking in a single month than it has throughout the entire history of human trafficking.
Other noteworthy moments included an interview with Sarah Furguson, the Duchess of York, and video messages from Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Manny Pacquiao, world champion boxer. Oh, and who could forget the host’s proud announcement that Ashton Kutcher just tweeted the forum out to his 8 million followers?
The anti-trafficking, abolitionist campaign has spun off numerous initiatives: Free2work, an iphone application which scans bar codes and informs consumers on how ‘slavery-free’ – or not – a product is, an Abolitionist Academy which trains community members on investigation and aftercare of trafficking victims, and Montara Circle, a yearly convention of 50 leaders across sectors who brainstorm and propose solutions to a specific problem involving slavery. The outcome from the last circle was a new social enterprise called HeadWaters Natural Products Inc., who recently developed the product REBBL tea (5% of its gross proceeds to Not For Sale).
The last speaker, President of FairTrade USA left us with this thought: the business logic of sustainable supply chains is the next wave. In the next years, there will be a movement towards “slave free” products and increased conscious consumerism. We will most definitely be a part of it. You can too. If you don’t know where to start, take the online quiz slaveryfootprint.com, and download Free2Work. There’s so much we can do as consumers to effect the future of human trafficking in this country and throughout the world.