Each year on July 30 the United Nations recognises the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The theme for 2022 is “Use and Abuse of Technology”, focusing on the role of technology as a tool that can both enable and prevent human trafficking.
We are all aware of the greater role technology, especially in a communications sense, has played in our lives over the last two and half years of the global pandemic. In the poorest and wealthiest parts of the world Zoom, FaceTime, Tik Tok and more have come to dominate our lives, connecting us virtually when physical connection has not been possible. The shadow side of this important and often life-giving technology has been the fact that the crime of human trafficking has infiltrated cyberspace in even more pervasive and harmful ways than ever before. As the UN Office on Drugs and Crime states, “the internet and digital platforms offer traffickers numerous tools to recruit, exploit, and control victims; organise their transport and accommodation; advertise victims and reach out to potential clients; communicate among perpetrators, and hide criminal proceeds – and all that with greater speed, cost-effectiveness and anonymity.” Abuse of technology enables this very human of crimes to continue in clear sight.
The alternate way of focusing on the theme is to consider the ways in which technology, particularly again in communications, can help us as global citizens to work to prevent Human Trafficking and to educate and advocate in this space. Social media provides a powerful tool we can use to both animate the voices of survivors and connect individuals and groups who are working to combat Human Trafficking in all corners of the world. Instagram, Facebook TikTok & more by the day, provide a platform for stories to be heard and action to be initiated at a speed and reach that other forms of communication cannot match.
The Mary Ward Schools’ Compass includes the NE compass point called “Guiding and Guarding in the use of Media”. The 2022 theme of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons provides us with a real-world case study of how this compass point can be followed, in our schools but also beyond them when we recognise the impact of the media as part of our daily use of technology. Mary Ward people and projects in all parts of the globe are taking action against Human Trafficking in big and small ways, reflecting the corporate stance of the Loreto Sisters since 2014. The IBVM/CJ Global Human Trafficking network meets throughout each year to hear the stories of those who are engaged in this work and to provide support, promotion and education across our network. In the spirit of this article, these meetings take place on Zoom with pre and post-discussions on WhatsApp. There is a power in this use of technology for good, which together with the strength and perseverance of the people involved can only help us continue this Mary Ward priority of working towards a world without Human Trafficking.
And on July 30, use the hashtag #EndHumanTrafficking on all your media posts!