World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

Today is the World Day against Trafficking in Persons (WDATP). But what does this mean to you? It definitely sounds like a mouthful to me! The WDATP (30th July) was established in 2013 by the United Nations (UN) as an official day for raising awareness around one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time.

With 40.3 million people in the world being exploited for labour, sex and/or domestic servitude, this annual UN event aims to educate people about human trafficking – today’s equivalent of the slave trade that was abolished more than a century ago. Since the WDATP was established, all persons and states from across the globe can join the UN in raising awareness by actively engaging in the Blue Heart Campaign on social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter). The intention is that the Blue Heart becomes the symbol for human trafficking, similar in significance to that of the red ribbon, which is the symbol for HIV/AIDS.

Blue Heart Campaign 2018

This year, Shiva Foundation and Shiva Hotels sought to join forces to raise awareness among the workers and guests within our own buildings. At our Holborn office, we visited each of the floors of the building, handing out information flyers and taking photos of individuals forming a heart with their hands in solidarity with victims. These photos were then displayed on a TV screen in the reception lobby on 30th July. Our teams also set up an information desk to share facts, answer questions and increase social media coverage throughout the day.

This was honestly a great day of campaigning as it gave us the opportunity to encourage others to think about the terrible injustices that victim’s face and raise awareness of the issue in our own spheres of influence. For a few minutes, for a few days, we can simply take the time out of our busy lives to think of those so much worse off than ourselves and reflect on whether there are any changes that we can make in our daily lives to help address this issue on some level. But then what?

The Facts

The most recent UNODC Global Report On Trafficking In Persons found that more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected globally between 2012 and 2014, with victims of 137 different citizenships detected in countries in Western and Southern Europe. Children and men now also make up larger shares of the total number of victims than they did a decade ago, although women still make up the majority. In parallel with the significant increases in the share of men among detected trafficking victims, the share of victims who are trafficked for forced labour has also increased. About 4 in 10 victims detected between 2012 and 2014 were trafficked for forced labour, and out of these victims, 63% were men.

The Issue

Clearly, raising awareness of human trafficking is only the tip of the iceberg. So, I thought today was a good day to start writing about how my journey started in this messy sector, fighting the second largest – and thriving – criminal industry in the world. I thought I would use this day to share a little about what I have learned and where I wish to go. I’m sure that, realistically, I will not even make a dent in the issue, but I have the hope and faith in humanity that we can create some change – with the help of the best Foundation team, of course. The other reason I write about this is because I am literally asked several times a week – by different people from all walks of life – why is it that I do what I do? And I have always found that the ‘why’ is always harder to talk about than the ‘how’. Yet, the ‘why’ is the most important element to understand the motivation behind everything we do, and if we can answer that correctly, the ‘how’ and the success should hopefully just follow.

The majority of people now know what human trafficking and modern slavery is, but when I was growing up, there was very little knowledge about this. Back then, the idea of humans being bought and sold was regarded as no longer being a modern issue. So, it continues to amaze me that in this day and age of material innovation and progress, poverty in this world can still be so entrenched that people would sell their own children into prostitution and child labour. These victims are not just numbers, but individual people that have lost their freedom and are living in fear. Some of them probably got trapped and some of them have likely had no choice in order to avoid a life that could have been much worse. Some are probably regretting that choice, whilst others become so desperate that taking their own lives is their best and only option. And at the same time, who are these people taking advantage of the global system and finding the loopholes to make money out of enslaving others? And what are their motivations to do so? Food for thought for a later date…

Engagement with the Social Impact Sector

I have always worked in the social impact sector (a more modern and fancier name for the charity sector!). Giving to others is one of the values which has been embedded very deeply within me. I’m not sure where it came from, although I think that I must give the credit to my family and school, as that was all that I knew during my formative years. When I was 12, I would go and visit the elderly in a nursing home a few doors down from me and even at that age, their stories would make me cry.

During my first trip to India with my Dad, at the age of 9, I came out of Mumbai airport and saw a leper on the street begging for money. This image pierced my heart. At age 18, I spent some time volunteering in the rural villages of Gujarat in India. And later on in life, I stumbled upon Indicorps – a fellowship programme that provides Indians all over the world with ‘a channel to reconnect with India and with the means to contribute to its development, while fostering a new generation of socially-conscious global leaders’.