Today I rang my Mum in a bit of a snoot. Nothing seemed to be going my way and I rang her to chat it through as so often she resets my north point, gives me the perspective I need. She was very short with me and said “Darling, just put Oprah on, they are talking about women trapped in sex slavery. After you watch it, call me back.” Following her instructions, I watched as Oprah spoke with Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn, co-authors of the book Half the Sky, an exploration of the modern slave trade.
At the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade 80,000 slaves were transported from Africa to the new world. Now there are more than 10 times as many women and girls are being forced into brothels to work as sex slaves. This statistic alone put my problems into perspective. I complain of having no money, feeling trapped geographically and not loving a few parts of my life, but compared to the brave women I saw today, I need to get over myself.
Since the show finished a few hours ago, I have been looking at how people (namely me!) can help. Nicholas reiterated time and time again through the show that small amounts of money make a massive difference. One off donations effect small changes, like $10 to provide psychological therapy for one month, $20 allowing a woman trapped in prostitution with a month of adult education learning skills like opening a bank account and forming small economic cooperatives, $30 to provide an HIV test and medical exam for rescued girls (30% of girls received in shelters from brothels are HIV positive). You can donate via the Somaly Mam foundation.
According to Oprah’s Save a Slave campaign “Shelters are under constant threat from the organized crime syndicates that run the brothels and pimps who wish to harm and re-enslave rescued girls. A donation of $30 covers a shelter’s security fees for one month per girl, allowing girls to rebuild their strength in a secure, loving environment.” That’s one round of cocktails on a Friday night.
“In centuries past, slavery was abolished thanks to the efforts of everyday people starting grassroots movements. Nicholas says it’s time to start another. “People want to help if they think they can make a difference,” Nicholas says. “They get involved, and they just find it incredibly fulfilling and enriching for themselves. The truth is trying to help other people has a mixed record, but invariably you end up helping yourself.””
In Australia, you can also get involved through a group called Project Futures, a not for profit organisation run by Generation Y. “Our vision is to raise awareness and funding for the issue of sex trafficking through events, media outlets, video campaigns and school presentations. We are a network of young professionals who are dedicated to supporting anti-trafficking organisations and are currently partnered with the Somaly Mam Foundation.”
What are you going to do? Perhaps start by reading an excerpt from Half the Sky over here. And if that doesn’t give you perspective, just call my Mum. x