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Human Trafficking Awareness Day: Nonprofits Call On Obama To Do More To Fight Modern-Day Slavery

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HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS DAY 2013
Rohingya minority children look out through a window of a bus after they were rescued by Thai authorities in Songkhla province, southern Thailand on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Nearly 700 boat people from Myanmar's beleaguered Rohingya minority were rescued from alleged human traffickers in two separate raids near Thailand’s southern border, Thai authorities said Friday. (AP Photo/Sumeth Panpetch) | AP

Updated Fri. Jan. 11, 10:36 a.m. EST

Many are captives who are trafficked for sex, sold by their poverty-stricken parents. Others toil in sweatshops, make rubber for our tires and harvest cocoa beans for our chocolate. Globally, there are more slaves now than ever before.

A number of nonprofits are calling on the government to do something about it on Jan. 11, Human Trafficking Awareness Day -- and in the wake of President Obama declaring January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Nonprofits are asking the Obama administration to renew the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which would provide resources for those trying to protect the 27 million people who are considered modern-day slaves engaged in forced labor and sex.

Congress allowed the TVPA to expire in 2011 after years of bipartisan support, leaving programs that fight trafficking at risk, according to a release from the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST). Nonprofits say the political inertia is stalling real progress.

"The time for political games is over. Congressional inaction on this legislation continues to weaken US global leadership in the fight against modern day slavery," Jesse Eaves, Senior Policy Advisor for Child Protection of World Vision, said in the release.

A White House release marking January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month called upon businesses, religious groups and families to learn more about the fight against trafficking and outlined what the government will do:

"We will continue to take action by empowering investigators and law enforcement with the training they need, and by engaging businesses, advocates, and students in developing cutting-edge tools people can use to stay safe," the release stated. "We will invest in helping trafficking victims rebuild their lives. And as one of the world's largest purchasers of goods and services, the Federal Government will keep leading by example, further strengthening protections to help ensure that American tax dollars never support forced labor."

Obama outlined steps to fight human trafficking in September at the Clinton Global Initiative, declaring that the White House issued new executive orders that will combat modern-day slavery in government contracting. The administration also said it was providing more training on human trafficking to those employed in legal positions, among others.

"It is barbaric and it is evil and it has no place in a civilized world," Obama had said at the event, noting that many children who are trafficked are the same age as Sasha and Malia, his own daughters.

Learn more about what you can do to fight trafficking below.

International Rescue Committee
The IRC, which works to end the world’s humanitarian crises, launched an Anti-Trafficking Action Coalition 10 years ago to address the nationwide issue. The coalition created a network of resettlement offices to support human trafficking victims. Globally, the organization provides a range of support services including counselling and care for former child soldiers as well as psychological care for young victims of violence, abuse and exploitation. Learn more here.

Polaris Project
The Polaris Project, offers a range of services nationwide to combat human trafficking. The organization provides counselling to victims, runs a 24-hour national hotline, participates in policy advocacy and public outreach to create social change around the issue. Learn more here.

Equality Now
Equality Now, an organization that advocates for women and children’s rights, has a specific focus on eliminating sex trafficking with policy change. The organization advocates for the passage and implementation of strong anti-trafficking legislation that criminalizes traffickers, decriminalizes victims and provides them with support services. Learn more here.

Free The Slaves
Free the Slaves, an organization dedicated to liberating modern-day slaves around the world, partners with local agencies on the ground to help victims escape. The organization also funds research surrounding human trafficking, produces awareness campaigns and advocates policy changes. Learn more here.

Vital Voices Global Partnership
Vital Voices Global Partnership, which empowers extraordinary women around the world, participates in several programs that fight human trafficking. In Cameroon, the organization works to to strengthen the criminal justice system, help prosecutors, advocates and victims seek justice. Learn more here.

With files by Zoe Mintz

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