I was very fortunate to have been able to view the video feed of the presentation entitled, "The FBI, Free The Slaves, The Valley Against Sex Trafficking, & the Center for Public Health of Nigeria Present: Global, National, Regional, and Local Perspectives on Modern Day Slavery" that was hosted by Lehigh University earlier today. This event was moderated by the Lehigh University Women's Center, and was a parallel event of the 57th session of the United Nation Commission on the Status of Women.
The event began with a video that was created by the organization, Free the Slaves. This video did a great job of highlighting the global issue of slavery and some of the challenges that we face to eradicate slavery. During her follow up session, Kristy Gilmour outlined the severity of the issue and estimated that 27 million people around the world today are currently working in forced servitude. Obviously, this is a massive issue and it will take the collaborative efforts of local, international, and governmental agencies to begin working on solutions that will help eradicate slavery.
Although I was astounded but the sheer scale of slavery around the world today, I think the most shocking statistics shared during the presentation were found in the Lehigh Valley. Unfortunately, I believe that many North Americans would feel that slavery is a significant issue around the world, but are unaware of how common the practice is within our own neighborhoods and communities. As mentioned by Daniel Belas, 15 000 - 18 000 people are trafficked in the United States each year and slavery, especially sexual exploitation and forced prostitution, is all too common. A major impediment to improving this issue is a lack of awareness on the part of community members, as well as the trafficking victims themselves. As a concerned citizen, I feel that it is extremely important that we educate ourselves about the issues that our local communities face, and learn how we can help to solve these issues.
Fortunately, The Valley Against Sex Trafficking (www.thevast.org), has some great resources to help build awareness of this crucial issue in the Lehigh Valley. As was mentioned throughout the presentation, trafficking in North America is a "hidden" problem because it is so difficult to identify. Although this may be true, we need to understand that this problem exists, and that we all have a part to play in helping to eradicate this issue, not only in our local communities, but throughout the world.