As many as 27 million men, women and children around the world are victims of human trafficking, according the U.S. State Department. Three organizations, the Nomi Network, Not for Sale and the Bajalia International Group set up a pop-up shop in downtown Manhattan to share their work on this global problem. They are educating the public about human trafficking and how to combat it.
Fox News Contributor Ellen Ratner spoke to representatives from three groups.
“It’s a $99 billion industry in just the magnitude and volume of that problem is enormous,” said Diana Mao, president and co-founder of the Nomi Network. Mao says the business of human trafficking is larger than “the transatlantic trade, and it’s not just the numbers but it’s the people behind those numbers that matter.”
Human trafficking is not a problem plaguing just countries overseas – it’s also happening right now in the U.S.
“It’s in your backyard, it’s in every major city … it’s in every large and small community in the United States,” said Dave Batstone, president and co-founder of Not for Sale.
In 2001, Batstone discovered that his favorite San Francisco bay-area restaurant had been the center of a local human trafficking ring.
“Over 500 young teenagers from India … were trafficked into the United States for the purpose of forced labor, modern slavery,” said Batstone. The workers were put to work “first in the restaurant, then out in the fruit fields.”
Debbie Farah, CEO and founder of the Bajalia International Group said one of the main ways to prevent human trafficking is economic development.
“The people most at risk for trafficking are the people least likely to have jobs – the illiterate...the most impoverished,” said Farah. “Jobs change everything.”
“What we all are doing is re-inventing philanthropy,“ said Batstone. He believes that one of the best ways to end this crisis is to buy products from the initiative’s pop-up shop.
“[We’re] providing a way for Americans to tap in and help by buying in good conscience and empower others,” said Batstone.
By helping these organizations, they are able to assist victims and their families.
“To be able to invest in someone’s future by simply purchasing a product there’s value in the wage, there’s value in reinvesting the proceeds back into programs that will educate their children,” said Mao.
Batstone says the public should be aware of warning signs that human trafficking is happening in their neighborhood. “If there are homes where young girls seem to be locked behind windows or there are fences pointed in.”
All three organizations say Americans can start to help fight against human trafficking by being aware of where we shop and spend our money.
Watch the full interview above.
Chris Snyder is a producer for Fox News based in New York. Follow him on twitter: @ChrisSnyderFox.