January has long been a month filled with reflections, both of the year before and of the months ahead. In the US, it also serves as a time for reflection on a global crisis, human trafficking, ever since President Obama declared January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Awareness of trafficking during this time has spread far beyond the borders of the US, generating a global buzz on social media, with many asking just how we can tackle the crime.
For us, human trafficking is a matter near and dear to the heart. Not only do we produce our garments in a country that serves as a gateway to Europe for traffickers and their victims, but we also have personal experience working with victims firsthand. In 2014/2015 I had the privilege of working with the Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking and their rock star director Rachel, offering everything from legal counsel, housing, mental health care, and immigration assistance to foreign national victims of labor and sex trafficking. What I took away from that experience was a sense of obligation to share with others that while the problem seems mammoth in scale, there are things we can do -little things even- to tackle it head on.
One such thing is to consume consciously: to purchase goods like clothes and shoes, and even services like cleaning or car washing from businesses that show transparency in their supply chain. Easier said than done? Not really; in fact, all it takes is a bit of detective work. Check out a brand’s website before buying from them to see who their suppliers are, or send the founder an email to inquire about working conditions in supplier factories. Lastly, educate yourself. Here are a few fast facts:
- According to the Polaris Project, there are 20.9 million slaves living in the world today; 68% are victims of forced labor, in industries like textile and apparel manufacturing
- Albania is considered a Tier 2 country by the US State Department, serving as both a destination and source country for criminals engaging in human trafficking
- While frequently underrepresented in conversation, men and boys (45% representation in global statistics) are nearly as vulnerable as women and girls in the crime (55% representation), according to the ILO. The crime affects us all.
The fashion industry is all too entrenched in the dark worlds of labor and sex trafficking, and we’re ready to see that change. If you haven’t yet set a resolution for 2016, then consider joining the slow fashion movement. With so many incredible fair fashion designers and businesses popping up these days, tackling a human rights problem has never been easier, or more stylish. For tips on leaving fast fashion in 2015 and starting anew, keep following us here and on social media.