By Paulina Inzerillo
The single most lucrative commercial enterprise in the world. The fastest growing crime on the planet. Those are two of the most powerful and striking facts I learned about modern-day slavery from the documentary "Call+Response." Human trafficking is an illicit industry that makes more than the aggregate Nike, Google, and Starbucks combined. It is an industry with total revenues that amount to more that the aggregate annual profit of the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. While most people believe that trafficking is an issue that only occurs in developing impoverished nations, the truth is that modern-day slavery exists everywhere. It is estimated that there are 27 million individuals are enslaved worldwide.
Bringing awareness to the issue of modern-day slavery has quickly become a passion of mine. After watching "Call+Response," one question was on my mind: how am I using my own voice to help others?
As a fourth year college student at the University of California Berkeley, I have used every opportunity possible to be able to use my voice in bringing awareness to human trafficking. From writing papers, to performing research, talking to professors, family, and friends, my motive for sharing is always the same: each of us plays an active role in perpetuating forced labor, and we have to take responsibility for our actions.
As an individual who currently works for an anti-human trafficking non-profit, Slavery Footprint, I realize it helps to understand that slavery is not something distant to each of us, but is a part of all of our stories. As consumers we have purchasing power, and engaging in the market means that we fuel slave labor that occurs within factories, agricultural fields, manufacturing sites, stone quarries, and mines, all over the world.
Clothes that I wear contain cotton, and cotton is picked by child labor in Uzbekistan. The cell phone I use contains conflict minerals, minerals that are mined out of the Democratic Republic of Congo by slave labor. Just because I am at the end of the supply chain does not mean that my responsibilities are non-existent.
What I share with others is that my lifestyle is produced by individuals who are no different than you and me, and while I reap tremendous benefits, they experience tremendous costs. Creating open discussion in the classroom, with your friends, family members, or co-workers is so important--with knowledge of the issue, action can be taken.
But that's just the beginning. I'm also planning on getting together with some friends to participate in the Slavery Footprint Campus Challenge. We might set up some PSA screenings to show the spots created by mtvU for its Against Our Will Campaign, host a dance-a-thon to raise awareness or ask our professors to highlight the issue of human trafficking in class. The Challenge, which runs through the end of the year, will reward the top 10 students at the university taking the most action with a trip to attend the mtvU Woodie Awards, so we're really hoping that we win.
All of these tools and simple actions allow each of us to connect our story with the story of millions enslaved-- near or far. Over the past month, I have been telling students, professors, and faculty members to take the Slavery Footprint survey, and see the impact of their consumer choices.
Slavery Footprint has given us the ability to recognize how our engagement within society on one side of the globe undoubtedly affects others far beyond our own borders. Your choices impact the lives of others all over the world. It is up to us to raise our voices to make a positive change within our global community, a change that fights to abolish modern-day slavery. Raise your voice, be the change, be the response.