Tackling Trafficking During Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month, celebrated in March, commemorates women’s vital contributions to society throughout history. The growing recognition of women’s value — while long overdue — is welcome, and opportunities for equality are growing. 

But our celebration remains tempered by the sobering fact that human trafficking disproportionately affects women and girls, and it is growing too.

Trafficking’s impact on women’s history and women’s futures

Between 2008 and 2019 the number of human trafficking victims identified worldwide more than quadrupled, from around 30,000 to nearly 120,000, according to Statista. 1

In 2016, an estimated 40 million people were victims of modern slavery, including 25 million people in forced labor and 15 million people in forced marriage, according to the International Labour Office. Women and girls accounted for 71 percent of modern slavery victims. 2

In 2022, “Women and girls account for 4.9 million of those in forced commercial sexual exploitation, and for 6 million of those in forced labour in other economic sectors,” according to the International Labour Organization. 3

Every year, human trafficking robs millions of women and girls of their opportunities to carve out a place in society, to determine their futures — and, quite possibly, to make history.

Taking action during Women’s History Month

When you consider the impact of trafficking on women, an emphasis on tackling trafficking during Women’s History Month makes sense. And any success against this heinous — and lucrative — crime requires a multifaceted approach.

Advocating for change

Legislative action has provided for more resources and recourse in the fight against human trafficking. Perhaps most significant in the United States was the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its reauthorization since. 4

In New York, LifeWay Network is proud to advocate on behalf of survivors as a member of New Yorkers for the Equality Model, a survivor-led alliance made up of more than thirty advocates, prostitution and sex trafficking survivors, and organizational partners. NYFEM seeks to implement the Equality Model, which would decriminalize only individuals in prostitution in New York State. 5 The dynamic members of NYFEM have partnered with legislators on the Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act: legislation that will end the arrest and incarceration of people in prostitution, expand access to comprehensive services, strengthen anti-trafficking laws and advance criminal justice reform. 

You can read LifeWay’s position on the equality model and stay up to date on progress with NYFEM.

Empowering survivors

Women’s History Month recognizes the resilience, strength and agency of women — one of our goals every day in LIfeWay’s two safe houses for women survivors of human trafficking.

Our program coordinators, residential aides, social workers and host community are women helping women to overcome their personal history of trauma and achieve lives of freedom and independence during their yearlong stay. Through trauma-informed care, including access to counseling, gardening, classes and other resources, the survivors at LifeWay are rewriting their futures.

You can join in the effort to empower survivors of trafficking by volunteering with LifeWay. We welcome all kinds of talent, from hands-on economic and educational training for survivors to fundraising to office help.

Educating and mobilizing

Women’s History Month offers an opportunity to educate the public about the intersectionality of gender-based violence, exploitation and human trafficking.

LifeWay Network offers classes and presentations on all aspects of human trafficking, including conscious consumerism, internet safety, identifying and eradicating the exploitation and commodification of women, child welfare, trafficking laws and trafficking myths, statistics and ways to identify and prevent human trafficking. 

We can even tailor presentations to audiences such as law enforcement, students, health care professionals and community groups.

To gain an understanding of human trafficking on a personal level, LifeWay offers an overview of what human trafficking is, risk factors, red flags and what to do if you suspect trafficking, as well as online resources that you can download and share.

Another great source of information, the Polaris Project offers a wealth of data and operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Tackling trafficking during Women’s History Month offers an opportunity to recognize  the intersectionality of human trafficking and gender inequality, as well as celebrate the contributions of women in the fight against trafficking, advocate for a more just and equitable world and provide preventive education on the topic. 

Equally important, Women’s History Month is a chance to acknowledge and support the survivors of human trafficking who are reclaiming their history and building a new future.

To support the survivors of human trafficking who call LifeWay home, donate today at LifeWayNetwork.org.

By Julianne Will
March 1, 2024

1. https://www.statista.com/topics/4238/human-trafficking/#topicOverview
2. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575479.pdf
3. https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang–en/index.htm
4. https://www.justice.gov/humantrafficking/key-legislation
5. https://www.equalitymodelny.org/who-we-are