Approximately 150 students, professors and community members gathered in the Memorial Union on Wednesday evening to learn about human trafficking.
Changemaker Central hosted the Challenge Slavery presentation in conjunction with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Changemaker Central Student Leadership Team Director Kaitlyn Fitzgerald spoke about the organization’s plans, including movie screenings, to provide information to students on the subject.
“I know that many of us walk through the community unaware that human trafficking is an issue in our very own backyards,” she said.
Changemaker Central and USAID partnered with Unchained, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the fight against human trafficking.
USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Sarah Mendelson said student involvement is essential to the success of its mission, which focuses on technology.
“There is no movement on social issues in our time that has worked if students haven’t been a core part of it,” she said.
The modern slave trade is a multi-billion dollar industry and is present in every country on earth, according to a video shown at the presentation.
Approximately 20.9 million people are enslaved around the world, according to the International Labour Organization. They are often children and are used as laborers, soldiers and prostitutes.
Mendelson challenged college students to use technology to combat human trafficking.
She encouraged students to join the online community at the Challenge Slavery website. Students can submit solution proposals until Jan. 31. The website’s members will vote on the submissions Feb. 1 through Feb. 15, and a panel of judges will review the proposals with the most votes. The winners will be announced March 15.
Engineering professor Mark Henderson encouraged students to participate in ASU outreach programs, such as Global Resolve and a class called Make Your Ideas Happen.
“This is not just sitting and watching and listening and understanding, this is actually a call to action,” he said.
Global Resolve is an effort by ASU to end global poverty. Students develop technologies, such as water filters, and assist in distributing them to impoverished people all over the world.
Students in Make Your Ideas Happen work with mentors and teams to envision and realize solutions.
Business communication freshman Alexis La Benz developed a website to stop the modern slave trade. Her site, teensonhumantrafficking.com, promotes the sale of jewelry to spread information about the prevalence of human trafficking.
Kakeisha Brown, a human trafficking survivor and spokeswoman of Unchained, shared her story.
“I was sure that I was born to be with (my pimp), and it was my purpose in life to sell my body for money for the slave trade,” she said.
Dignity, an organization dedicated to helping women escape from prostitution, aided Brown, and she went on to work for Unchained.
Fitzgerald encouraged students to join the cause in her closing speech. She said Changemaker Central will be holding events throughout the month to combat the modern slave trade.
“We did not invite all of you here tonight to be innocent, helpless bystanders as human trafficking persists,” she said. “We invited you here tonight to be change makers We invited you here tonight to have an impact.”
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