5 Reasons Moms Make Great Advocates

5 Reasons Moms Make Great Advocates

As the world struggles with the pandemic and increasing political division, it is more apparent than ever that government policies – local and global – greatly affect the fates of our families. Many moms have awakened to this reality and are trying to be strong advocates. Yet many don’t know what to do beyond protesting in the streets to get the attention of decision makers. They get frustrated to the point of throwing up their hands and saying, “Why even bother?”

I encourage every mother to engage in the next steps of reaching out personally to elected officials, because we have the motivation and skills to change hearts and minds! For over a decade, I’ve coached everyday folks to meet with members of U.S. Congress. I continually see the characteristics that mothers have that make us powerful advocates.

Here are five reasons that you should tell your government what’s on your mind: 

#1 Moms are powerful

Have you ever been reduced to a weeping heap after watching a news story or a movie about children in distress? In those moments, many of us think, “I wish I weren’t so fragile.” Yet those maternal moments of vulnerability are precisely what give you special strength to speak out for those who needlessly suffer. As mothers, we often find ourselves momentarily consumed by crushing empathy when we encounter stories of parents who can’t give their children what they need. But this emotional response isn’t a sign of weakness. Instead, this ability to internalize another person’s story gives you great power because caring and empathy are contagious.

Your passion can incite a riot of emotion and resolve in your hearers even if—especially if—your voice cracks when you retell it. If your audience is a senator, a congressional aide, or anyone in the path of power, you are in a position to create change. Your emotional retelling is more likely to inspire action than a dry recitation of facts and figures.

Your vulnerability can be your strength. And the ability to turn your emotion into positive, constructive action can be your superpower. When you learn to combine your emotions with information and clear requests, you become dangerous to the status quo. You threaten systems that keep families stuck in cycles of suffering. And that is a very, very good thing.

#2 Moms explain things

If you can sit on the floor and explain a concept to second graders, then you’re speaking plainly enough to be understood by a member of Congress. That may sound like a joke, but I’m quite serious. Explaining concepts to kids means boiling your message down to its most basic parts and delivering it in an engaging way. Even though U.S. representatives might sit in high-level briefings all day, that doesn’t mean they relish listening to someone reel off a bunch of statistics out of context. Children love to hear clear explanations accompanied by stories, and so do adults! Never forget that they’re as human as anyone else. 

#3 Moms are persistent advocates

It would be nice if governments were so efficient that a single conversation could convince a policymaker to support your request. In reality, it usually takes time, patience, and more reminders than you give your children to get their laundry off the floor.

Unfortunately, no matter how urgent you feel your issue is, there will always be hundreds of other matters clamoring for a congressperson’s attention. Plus, if the office staffers are not already aware of your issue, they’re going to have to research and consider your request even if they don’t oppose it. A mother’s touch to provide helpful information and consistent reminders is an incredible advantage. 

#4 Moms are responsible

Once you’ve been the sole person standing between a happy family and total family chaos, you start to view your place in the world a little differently. Some moms are fortunate to have responsible spouses to shoulder a lot of familial tasks. But women in every part of the world bear the heavier responsibility for household chores and child-rearing. Moms are generally the ones making lunches, outfitting diaper bags, scheduling play dates, and making sure you don’t run out of toilet paper or cheese sticks. Moms are chess players looking two, three, and four moves into the future.

So, how does a responsible nature translate to successful advocacy? It allows you to stay organized and prepared to react to the needs of your volunteer groups. It gets you to meetings on time with all the materials you need. It helps you respond to emails from congressional aides in a timely manner. Moms are welcomed at advocacy conferences because we are low-maintenance, responsible, capable people who get things done.

#5 Moms are experts in the most important skills

I won’t tell you that everything I needed to know about advocacy I learned in kindergarten. But I insist that the most critical lessons were learned around age five, especially since the most successful advocates believe in strong teamwork. Advocates should always be prepared to:

  • Treat others with respect;
  • Share;
  • Give everyone in the group a turn to play;
  • Avoid calling anyone a hurtful name;
  • Apologize when you hurt someone; and
  • Say “please” and “thank you” (this is the number one lesson and the step that is most often forgotten when talking with members of Congress as well as other volunteers).

Moms keep all of these skills top of mind because we coach our kids to use them. We should be able to follow them even when our children aren’t in the same room. We can model these important skills for young college activists and aging senators alike.

Our mom voices need to be heard more than ever before in our political climate of nastiness that permeates cable news and social media. Mom advocates can be at the forefront of carrying a positive tone of reason, kindness, and respect into politics. Whatever the cause is that drives you to protect your children, put yourself forward. You are more powerful than you think.

Have you, or would you, approach your government with issues in your community? Has being a parent helped you in this quest?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Cynthia Levin. Photo credit to the author.

Cindy Levin

Cynthia Changyit Levin is a mother, advocate, speaker, and author of the upcoming book “From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started.” A rare breed of non-partisan activist who works across a variety of issues, she coaches volunteers of all ages to build productive relationships with members of Congress. She advocated side-by-side with her two children from their toddler to teen years and crafted a new approach to advocacy based upon her strengths as a mother. Cynthia’s writing and work have appeared in The New York Times, The Financial Times, the Washington Post, and many other national and regional publications. She received the 2021 Cameron Duncan Media Award from RESULTS Educational Fund for her citizen journalism on poverty issues. When she’s not changing the world, Cynthia is usually curled up reading sci-fi/fantasy novels or comic books in which someone else is saving the world.

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World Moms for Sustainable Development Goals

World Moms for Sustainable Development Goals

What Are SustainableDevelopment Goals?

In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda includes 17 goal, known as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), which are an urgent call to action by all people from all nations for the betterment of humanity and the planet.

The United Nations General Assembly (#UNGA) meeting is happening in New York City this week (September 21-27, 2021). In recognition of UNGA, some of our World Moms chimed in about which SDG resonates most with them and why.

What SDG Means the Most to You and Why?

Tes in The US says: I believe that all the SDGs are important but for me, SDG#5-Gender Equality, is what I am passionate about. Being Filipino but raised here in the United States, I have witnessed a country with its share of inequality. While inequality does exist for girls and women in jobs and education, I am grateful and lucky to be able to fight against it and advocate for girls and women through the opportunities presented to me on a daily basis.

Nitsana in Israel says: I remember how impressed and excited I was about seeing the list of SDGs. You can’t fix something if you don’t have a goal. A goal is the first step for having a plan, and with a plan, everything is possible. I love them all but I think the ones that touch me most deeply are ending poverty and hunger. There are several reasons I see these as the most basic and important. First, it should be our primary goal to make sure every human is cared for in the most basic sense, that he/she can live a life of dignity. I want to live in a world where everyone is cared for. Also, once the population of the world is out of “survival mode,” anything is possible. It says something about us as humans that we make sure to care for others; that we set up systems where everyone can thrive. I have a lot to say about each of the goals but these, to me, are the first step.

Piya in India says: While all the SDGs are very important, my heart beats for SDG#5, Gender equality! As Director of VESLARC, I am privileged to be working in the domain of gender sensitization. We put an emphasis on mutual respect for several thousand students of the various schools and colleges of Vivekanand Education Society, in Mumbai, India. It’s a sad yet undeniable truth that there are major disparities, when it comes to opportunities for education, job openings, career progression, and pay scales, between men and women. SDG 5 is not only for empowering our girls and women. The “hidden” fact is that a culture that is strongly patriarchal is also “bad news” for its men. Peer pressure and the need to conform to stereotypes can diminish the sense of identity of our boys. We need to join hands to empower every young child—irrespective of gender or gender orientation—about their tremendous potential and help them shake free of limiting labels!

Kyla in Portugal says: For me, the two most important SDGs are Gender Equality and Quality Education, which, to me, go hand-in-hand. The saying goes: “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach the man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” I think the saying should say: “Give a woman a fish, you’ll feed her family for a day. Teach a woman to fish, you’ll feed a whole community.” I have long been an advocate for Girl Power and Women Empowerment. The path to achieving these is through education.

Simona in Spain says: The most important goal for me is Good Health and Wellbeing. My grandfather was a doctor. He used to say, “health is the 1 that gives value to all the 0s of life.” By that he meant that if (for example) you are rich but don’t have your health, you have 0, but if you are healthy and wealthy, you have 10. Nothing is worth anything if you are not healthy enough to use it or enjoy it. It also upsets me terribly that very often life-saving procedures or medicines are simply unaffordable to the vast majority of people. As someone who lives with medical issues which require me to take chronic medicines, I am painfully aware of this cost. I am one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to choose between necessary medicine and food but for many, that is the monthly struggle. People shouldn’t have to remortgage their homes in order to be able to pay for the necessary procedures and / or medicines and / or mobility aids they need.

Jen in The US says: It is difficult to pick just one, so I’m picking two of my favorite SDGs! #4 the right to a universal education and #5 women and girl empowerment. My ancestors who were immigrants wanted an education, but they couldn’t afford it. As for me, I wanted to study abroad, but couldn’t afford it during college. I think education shouldn’t just be for those who can afford it. Otherwise, the world misses out on so many incredible minds and ideas to move us forward! Also, education serves as a step out of poverty for so many around the globe, which makes it so important. And until women and girls are treated equally, I’ll be fighting!!

Purnima in India says: I think all of the SDGs are important. I cannot say that I love SDG #5 more because I am passionate about Gender Equality and want to see the well-being of my sisters across the world, rather than SDG #1 which is ‘No Poverty’. How can we achieve SDG #3, which is Good Health and Well Being, if we do not also achieve #1 and #2? So I think ALL of these SDGs are very important and feel for all of them equally. If we do not have peace in our hearts, and if we do not come together and make friendships and relationships and partnerships (SDG #16 and SDG #17), how can we solve SDG#1 through #5, or for that matter, any of the SDGs?! My personal SDG journey began at World Moms Network. When I started out, my contribution to WMN was just a hobby. Over the years, this sisterhood has given me serious life-goals. This is why I cannot pick just one.

Tell us what United Nations Sustainable Development Goal is most important to YOU. World Moms want to know.

This is a collaborative post for World Moms Network from our global network of contributors. The images used in this post come directly from the #UNSDG website and are used digitally based on their guidelines.

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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Twenty Years On: Reflecting On 9/11

Twenty Years On: Reflecting On 9/11

On September 11, 2001 – the day known to the world as 9/11 – I was a year into my new life in Canada. My office in the west end of Toronto had a perfect view of the Toronto skyline, including the distinctive CN Tower, then the tallest free-standing structure in the world.

About an hour after I got to work that day, I got myself a cup of coffee and was walking back to my desk. A colleague stopped me and handed me a printout from the CNN website.  It showed a picture of the World Trade Center’s North Tower with smoke billowing from the top half.  My immediate reaction was that this must be a Photoshop hoax. When I realized that it was a legitimate photograph, I thought the same thing as everyone else: that a freakish and tragic accident had occurred.

As I scrutinized the picture, I heard a shout coming from the direction of the conference room. Someone had been able to get the temperamental TV to work, and we all spilled into the room just in time to see live footage of the plane hitting the South Tower.  An hour later, we were still sitting in the conference room.  We were incapable of speech; someone muted the sound on the TV because the frantic commentary of chaos was violating the silence that we all needed. 

I don’t think anyone moved for about ten minutes.  Eventually, someone at the back of the room whispered, “Oh my God.”  That utterance was a catalyst for everyone to rush to their phones to call family members, pausing on the way past the window to see if the CN Tower was still there.

There was no question of any work getting done that day.  We all spent the day on the phone, contacting loved ones south of the border to find out who was alive and who wasn’t.  My parents called from South Africa, unashamedly relieved to hear my voice.  Toronto is not that far from New York, especially to people watching the chaos unfold from the other side of the world. 

After talking to my parents, I frantically tried to get in touch with my friends in New York City.  By late afternoon, there were two people I had not been able to reach – Luisa and Jason.  I went to bed that night not knowing whether they were alive or dead.  I didn’t sleep.  I suspect that most people didn’t that night.

Luisa’s husband emailed me early the following morning.  As soon as the South Tower had been hit, she and her coworkers had been evacuated from their office a block away to some hall somewhere.  Phone signals were jammed: for several hours, Luisa’s husband did not know whether she had been buried in the rubble of collapsing towers. It was almost midnight by the time she got home, traumatized but alive.

But what had become of Jason? At lunchtime on September 12th, I spoke to a mutual friend, Mark, who had commuted to work with him the previous morning. Jason had dropped his dog off at the vet on his way to work, so he was late.  The two friends had gotten off the subway at the same stop, and then they had gone into a Starbucks for their morning coffee.  With coffee in hand, Jason had gone into the North Tower, waving goodbye to Mark, who had to go a few blocks further.  The time was about 8:35 a.m. 

Eleven minutes later, the North Tower was hit.  I tried to convince Mark that Jason could have left the building in those ten minutes. Mark said it was unlikely. Jason had said something about a 9:00 meeting for which he had not prepared.  He would have been sipping his coffee and working on reports at his desk, which was right in the flight path of a hijacked plane. 

I said to Mark, “I hope Jason got to finish his coffee.” People say the oddest things in times of stress.

9/11 memorial museum
The 9/11 memorial

Now, twenty years later, I reflect on that day along with the rest of the world.  I think of Jason and hope he died instantly, with no pain or stress.  I look at my two children, neither of whom was alive on 9/11, one of whom is on the cusp of becoming an adult, and I wonder what kind of world their children will live in.  I look at the world around me – at the discrimination and violence that almost seem to have become normalized – and I wonder if we have really learned anything.

Poignantly, I wonder what became of Jason’s dog, the one he dropped off at the vet on that terrible morning. The dog is certainly not alive anymore, but I hope it found a new home, and perhaps helped some family get through the unspeakable collective grief from 9/11.

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle.

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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Haiti Earthquake: The Power of Sisterhood

Haiti Earthquake: The Power of Sisterhood

Guest post by Nathalie Tancrede

The Morning of the Haiti Earthquake

On Saturday, August 14, 2021, while drinking coffee and scrolling through Facebook, I noticed a few alarming posts about an earthquake in Haiti.

I immediately posted on my page, asking for confirmation.

Within minutes, my DMs & WhatsApp messages were blowing up. Friends and family members were reaching out, recounting the horrible moment.

I sat there in shock, reading the messages, watching the videos, checking the photos coming in at a rapid pace.

My oldest daughter, Kayla, heard snippets of my phone conversations and asked what was going on. So, we watched the online news together, heartbroken by the harsh reality of the situation. Haiti has gone through so much already. Why this!?

Feeling Helpless

We wondered about the extent of the damage, the resources available to provide immediate help. We thought about those still stuck under the rubble and prayed someone would find them, alive. Our emotions were all over the place: shock, sadness, disbelief, worry…

I began to share updates on my social media pages, listing trusted organizations and reposting info from various sources to keep everyone in the loop.

Sleep eluded me as I stayed up late checking for updates, feeling compelled to keep abreast of it all.

As the days went by, the requests for help kept pouring in. Each story, more devastating than the previous one. People needed help; they needed tarps, tents, food, clean water, basic supplies. Many were left homeless, the clothes on their back, their sole possession.

A few friends and I began brainstorming about the best way to offer support. 

Making the Tragedy Human

Then on August 17, I received a video from a contact in Jeremie. The footage came from an artisan in the area who noticed the victim’s wound while walking around.

Though not her personal friend, she wanted to assist her in finding help.

The video recounted the ordeal of an older victim of the earthquake. She was seeking assistance as her family had lost it all. She wounded her head and her leg while running to escape the sudden shaking.  

The leg was swollen, poorly bandaged and she had no pain medication.

Roselene. Jeremie,Haiti

Roselene’s Story

Roselene Dorsa is a mom of 8. She lives in the Abricots area—a commune of Jeremie—with her husband, three of her children, and three grandchildren. Prior to the earthquake, Roselene did housekeeping work in the city to provide for her family. 

With over 50% of the area either damaged or destroyed, her chances of returning to work or finding a new job are slim. Yet, there are mouths to feed, including her grandbabies.

I watched her video several times, listening to her recounting the ordeal, noticing her surroundings, and my heart broke for her and her family. 

The Power of Sisterhood

As a mom, the well-being of my family is my priority. It gives me joy to see my children happy, to provide for their needs and to know they have all they need.

Roselene and hundreds of moms in Southern Haiti right now are not even able to provide for themselves, let alone their children. The earthquake devastated their neighborhoods, destroyed their homes, took away their jobs, and left them wounded physically and mentally.

As caretakers, we provide comfort and relief when others are in pain. We nurture our loved ones. 

Quite often, we forgo our own needs to make sure everyone else is taken care of.

Though there is pain in this story, I choose to focus on what struck me the most: the power of sisterhood. The woman who shared the footage is dealing with her own challenges. Her home was damaged during the earthquake, and her own children have pressing needs. Yet, her spirit rose above it, and she reached to advocate for a sister in need. She saw an urgent need and took action. 

My hope is that sisters around the world will rally and help lighten the load of Roselene and the victims of this terrible disaster. Though we may come from various backgrounds & countries, we are all women. We are sisters. We know the pain of our fellow sisters. Together, we can ease that pain and bring back their smiles. 

How You Can Help

If you’d like to assist in any way, please let me know. With the help of a small team, I am providing direct help to selected families. Many belong to an artisan community with whom I’ve collaborated for the last ten years. Please send me a DM if you’d like to help in any way.

If you would like to assist trusted local organizations that are currently providing immediate relief, please consider a donation to PSA (Project Ste Anne), ACT (Ayiti Community Trust), or Fleur de Vie.

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Nathalie Tancrede, Founder, Artisans Network, small business coach, and cultural ambassador to Haiti.

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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UN Climate Report: Code Red for Humanity

UN Climate Report: Code Red for Humanity

Code Red for Humanity. Wildfires in Bodrum, Turkey in July 2021

Guest post written by Harriet Shugarman of ClimateMama

“We will be coming to terms with the urgent realities of our climate crisis for the rest of our lives. We all need to get comfortable with this fact, in a very uncomfortable way.”

Harriet Shugarman, How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change: Turning Angst into Action

On August 9th, 2021, The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its 6th Assessment Working Group 1 Report, The Physical Science Basis. The IPCC was established in 1988 to report to governments on the climate change emergency. To those of us that read it, this report felt and sounded like one of the final nails being hammered into the coffin of humanity. And yet, we have known what it would say for a long time. Sadly, we know that for many of our friends, family, and neighbors, this report is not even on their “radar” and many governments of the world do not even seem up in arms nor ready to take immediate action.

This must change.

Slide from the IPCC Working Group I Contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report

More than 200 scientists, who reviewed more than 14,000 papers to arrive at their agreed-upon conclusions, prepared this IPCC report. The information is scientifically solid, proven, and accepted by the world community. This is part one of the IPCC’s 6th report to governments.  The complete report will be released in September 2022 and will be comprised of 3 working group reports (of which this is one), three special reports, and a synthesized document.

What we already knew and what scientists have been telling us for decades is:

  1. The climate crisis is real
  2. It’s really bad
  3. We are causing it to happen
  4. It’s getting worse
  5. BUT there are things we can do to slow it down.
Slide from the IPCC Working Group I Contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report

The August 9th report confirms the 5 points above and makes strong and direct statements about the state of the climate emergency. We can summarize the three main takeaways as follows:  

  • It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land. 
    Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred because of human influence.
  • Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region globally and will continue to do so, regardless of what we do, through mid-century. Many of the changes we have put in place are irreversible. 
  • Limiting global warming to a place where it would level off and begin to get better is possible. However, this will require strong, rapid, sustained, and immediate reductions of CO2, with net-zero C02 emissions the required goal.  We need to reduce Methane emissions immediately, as well as all other human-created greenhouse gases. 

The report also, for the first time, offers five scenarios for future global warming. Depending on how decisively the world addresses the climate crisis, the outlook for humanity will likely be extreme and harsh. However, if we take the most aggressive action in reducing emissions, the report outlines a scenario where emissions level off by mid-century and then begin to bereduced, giving us a small but real window of hope. The report also looks at impacts on specific areas and specific countries. 

Where does this leave us? If increasing climate chaos is “baked” in to the system, what can we do and why should we even try?  

First, we must do everything we can so that the future will be less grim, less chaotic, and more hopeful for our children and their children. This won’t happen by itself. It will take all of us.  The world community is meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. This United Nations COP26 (Conference of the Parties) will discuss the current report and review government reports on what countries are already doing to address the climate crisis, based on what was agreed to at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in 2015. This recent report tells us directly that incremental change will not work.  Everyone has a role to play.  

Slide from the IPCC Working Group I Contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report

As moms, we can help our children understand the gravity of the situation at hand but remind them of the following: 

We are alive at a critical juncture in human history. Those of us alive today have a unique opportunity to shape the lives of future generations and help create a world that is livable and sustainable.

Everything we do must be done through the lens of the climate emergency. We must use our passions, our voices, and our actions to do what we can and to demand that those who can “go big” do so.  Elected officials at every level of government, government departments, big corporations, organizations of all kinds must focus on creating climate solutions and resiliency. The time for talking is well past. The time for action must be now.

Harriet Shugarman is an economist, professor, writer and activist. Her recent book, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change, Turning Angst into Action” was released in 2020. 

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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The Plague of Human Trafficking Around Us

The Plague of Human Trafficking Around Us

A couple of years ago, 3 South Asian women entered Singapore, with promises of a lucrative dancing career at a nightclub.

To be employed, they were required to sign a contract in English, surrender their passports, and stay in shared accomodation – all for a pay of S$900 (USD 660) per month, a veritable fortune in their eyes. As newbies to a foreign country, they thought this was normal. Their poverty-ridden background made them view the opportunity to earn Singapore dollars and send money back home, as a dream come true.

The nature of their work soon made it apparent that they were trapped.

They had to provide sexual favours to nightclub patrons and work even when sick. They were barred from leaving their apartment. Unless their employers gave them access to a phone, they had no way to contact their families back home. Being unable to speak English proved a deterrent to contact the authorities. Plus, they were constantly threatened with social stigmatisation if they ever spoke out. Faced with seemingly insurmountable difficulties, they felt truly alone in a country where they knew no one, except their employers.

Just before Covid-19 made global headlines last year, authorities cracked down on the operations and rescued these women. And Singapore got its first ever conviction on labour trafficking charges. The ’employers’ were fined and jailed, and the women were returned to their home countries, and assisted with re-settlement.

This human trafficking story ended on a positive note. Not all do.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as: 

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

In simple words, human trafficking is “the process of trapping people through the use of violence, deception or coercion and exploiting them for financial or personal gain” (courtesy: antislavery.org).

So, to qualify as human ‘trafficking’, victims needn’t be transported overseas; they simply have to be forced into a situation of exploitation. Here are some mind-boggling statistics on this crime:

  • There are between 20 and 40 million people in modern slavery today.
  • About 71% of enslaved people are women and girls, while men and boys account for 29%.
  • Human trafficking earns global profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers; $99 billion comes from commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Advocates report a growing trend of traffickers using online social media platforms to recruit and advertise targets of human trafficking.

There are no countries or industries completely immune to the vice of human trafficking. Some high-risk industries are agriculture, fishing, textile manufacturing, hospitality and entertainment. Europe, North America, Middle East, and some countries in East Asia and the Pacific are popular destinations for trafficking victims.

Human trafficking takes many forms; people coerced into working as money/drug mules, sex trade, organ harvesting, cheap factory labour, domestic help, and children forced to serve as soldiers or commit crimes. Human trafficking is considered a hidden crime – nearly impossible to detect through traditional means. This is because victims almost never come forward – be it due to fear of retaliation from abusers, language barriers, or psychological/financial burdens borne by them.

The victims are all around us. They don’t carry placards or have their victimhood stamped on their faces. But look closer, and worrying signs may emerge; persons who appear timid, submissive and fearful in public, reluctant to speak, deferring to another in control, having few possessions or no personal identification. These are potential red flags that indicate trafficking.

Or not. There could always be perfectly valid reasons why someone behaves in a particular way in public. Unfortunately, this ambiguity in behavioural red flags and victims’ reluctance to point out their abusers, makes this crime extremely difficult to identify and convict legally.

Advances in technology has enabled more to join the fight against human trafficking. Financial institutions offer assistance through transaction monitoring and analysis that helps identify patterns in money movement, indicating the presence of human trafficking. Some fintechs have also developed machine learning models that can be trained to detect suspicious transaction patterns, and alert authorities. Yet another tool used to identify human trafficking red flags is social media analysis.

How can you help? First, be aware of the signs of human trafficking – that’s one of the best ways you can contribute. Volunteer your time at a shelter dedicated to victims of human trafficking. Be an informed consumer; find out where/how the products you consume are produced, and boycott companies connected to human trafficking. Together, we can help combat this evil and reduce the number of victims claimed every year.

The United Nations observes July 30th as "World Day Against Trafficking in Persons" and has included it as one of its Sustainable Development Goals.

Veena Davis (Singapore)

Veena has experienced living in different climes of Asia - born and brought up in the hot Middle East, and a native of India from the state known as God’s Own Country, she is currently based in the tropical city-state of Singapore. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ Several years ago, she came across World Moms Network (then World Moms Blog) soon after its launch, and was thrilled to become a contributor. She has a 11-year old son and a quadragenarian husband (although their ages might be inversed to see how they are with each other sometimes). ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ On a professional front, she works in the financial sector - just till she earns enough to commit to her dream job of full-time bibliophile. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ You can also find Veena at her personal blog, Merry Musing. ⠀

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