“I know that human trafficking is awful, but I’m not an activist. I’m not going to work for an anti-trafficking organization so it doesn’t really have anything to do with me.”
Sound familiar? As graduate students, the associates at the Human Trafficking Center hear this (or some variation of it) regularly. Because of students’ focus on a specified career path—combined with a tendency to partition academic disciplines into artificially isolated “silos”—it can be difficult to convince a reading-weary learner that we have any common interest at all, much less a complex, difficult interest like human trafficking.
Now, for the first time, the University of Denver is rallying together around this issue. With the support of the DU Athletics Department, Korbel PhD alumnus Dr. Richard Lapchick and his daughter Emily Pasnak-Lapchik (End Trafficking Program Officer at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF), the university is slated to host a conference focused on the complexities of human trafficking on Thursday, January 8th, 2015. The keyword for the conference is inclusion. To achieve inclusion, the planning committee includes representatives from the athletics department, business school, law school, school of international studies (including the HTC), school of social work and others.
The conference will help students see the relationship between human trafficking and their specific area of study by engaging speakers that appeal to their own interests. Business students may not know supply chain management is a growing part of corporate social responsibility and of maintaining product lines free of forced labor. Similarly, students of human rights may not realize that indigenous populations have particular challenges when it comes to preventing human trafficking and accessing services. Even student athletes may be surprised to learn of the connections between sports and both labor and sex trafficking.
The conference will include programming from the aforementioned DU academic schools as well as from across Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region. The primary goal is to highlight that we are all stakeholders in the movement against human trafficking, but that awareness raising alone is insufficient. The next step must be to increase inter-disciplinary cooperation by connecting students — the future leaders in their fields – to anti-trafficking organizations and resources in the present.
To this end, the conference’s rallying call to action will be embodied in a mission fair. This mission fair* is a forum for organizations that work with human trafficking victims and survivors or other populations vulnerable to exploitation to showcase their efforts and programs. With exposure, students might find a place to contribute their specific skills and expertise while building collaborative relationships with those directly involved in the counter-trafficking movement.
Imagine if future corporate leaders, social workers, lawyers, psychologists, educators, athletes, researchers, writers, PR representatives and everyone else whose interest is sparked by this conference not only knew the basics of human trafficking, but also the nature of the resources available and where to find them.
Now that would be a real breakthrough for the cause.
*If your organization or group is already doing this work and wishes to be represented at the mission fair during the Perspectives on Human Trafficking Conference, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
(Image via Creative Commons)
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