International (MNN) — Millions participated in the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women yesterday — a day to think about steps to end abuse.
The United Nations (U.N.) reports that one of the many ways women endure violence is modern-day slavery. The U.N. estimates that today there are 1.9 million women and girls in forced labor, and roughly half of them were trafficked specifically for sexual exploitation. They are part of the largest slave trade industry in human history.
According to the Food for the Hungry Web site, Jennifer was one of them. At the age of 14, she was one of 30,000 children abducted by Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) during a brutal 20-year civil war. The boys became ruthless soldiers, sometimes forced to kill their own parents. The girls were given to older soldiers as wives. If they refused, they were beaten into submission. They had a one in 100 chance of rescue, and even less of a chance of escape. Abused. Enslaved. Hopeless.
Jennifer and her daughter were among the lucky ones who came home, but only to find that she and her daughter would be shunned. Fortunately, they received help from Food for the Hungry (FH) at the New Life Center in Northern Uganda. Jennifer grew from hopeless to expectant, from unemployable to skilled, and from lost to alive in Christ.
But there are still 1.9 million women and girls who are victims of a $31.6 billion industry that exploits 2.5 million desperate and vulnerable people who are now modern-day slaves: girls, boys, women, and men. They are laboring against their will in every corner of the earth–maybe even in your own town. They are children working in fields and sweat shops to supply the products we enjoy (such as chocolate and cotton), boys and girls walking the streets as prostitutes, and worse.
The toll to society is great. A breakdown of family and communities are left behind. There's lost economic development. Health risks are higher. Trafficked children are more likely to develop mental health issues, and where human trafficking exists, there's typically more organized crime making rule of law difficult.
What can you do? Research the issue. Speak out on behalf of the voiceless. Write letters to the editor. Seek justice by becoming more actively involved, and give to organizations like Food for the Hungry who are helping victims of human trafficking regain their lives, their self-worth, their livelihoods, and come to know Christ.