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What “1 million views and counting” tells us about ourselves and about human trafficking

forced labour slavery, human trafficking, sex trafficking, slavery, trafficking

Written by IJM
Posted on 14 April 2015 under Forced labour slavery, Recent posts, Sex trafficking, What others are doing.

It was Monday last week when we started to take notice.

'Viral', a friend of mine who owns a media company told me recently, is a word marketers no longer use. Fair enough. These last two weeks have seen the unprecedented viewing and sharing of a video we posted on our Facebook feed. Produced by MTV Exit and pop artist Birkii, the video tells 3 stories of how trafficking in persons happens through pop-up book animation.


Since we shared this video on March 27, the response has left us astounded. At the time of writing, 1,084,642 people have viewed the video, 28,266 have shared it and Facebook’s algorithm has ensured the video has "reached" 3,970,048 people.

3,686 people liked the video. Comments continue to pour in. Bewilderment, rage at the perpetrators, rage at the victims' gullibility, disgust at humanity, gratitude at the clarity of the message, heartbroken despair…

How do we explain the strength of the response? In the 7 months prior to us posting the video on Facebook, the video had registered 12,340 views on YouTube. So why now? What does 1 million views and counting tell us? The video production is brilliant, but it is more than that. Clearly a chord has been struck. The reality of trafficking in our day horrifies and compels us to respond. This is significant. The anger, the indignation, the "I'll shout this from the rooftops" response are energy for action.

But action to what end?

The short film leaves the viewer with a question: Now that you know, what are you are doing about it?

That question, of course, precipitates another. One viewer put it this way: “This doesn’t provide me with any information about how to solve it”.

Is there actually anything we can do? 

The day we posted the video, IJM Australia’s Chief Executive, Amber Hawkes, was in Bangkok attending the Bali Process Regional Symposium on Trafficking for the Purposes of Labour Exploitation. She joined a network of 48 global leaders - including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) - seeking to address the practicalities of combating human trafficking and labour exploitation, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.

The Bali Process is a definitive statement that this problem is bigger than any one agency, non-profit or government. It requires multiple actors, engaged in a multiplicity of initiatives in enduring cooperation.

Amber's message to the Symposium was clear: “The critical issue we now face is not the existence of appropriate laws, but the meaningful enforcement of those laws on behalf of victims.”

At IJM, we have the privilege of participating in the change that meaningful law enforcement brings. We saw it in the rescue of 10 boys last week from slavery on Lake Volta, Ghana. We see it in the restoration of the widow Bendetta to her land in Uganda. We see it in the lives of the vulnerable children of Cebu, the Philippines. There, after four years of IJM partnership with local law enforcement, independent auditors confirmed that the availability of minors for commercial sexual exploitation had dropped by a remarkable 79%.

Trafficking in persons is a horrific, lucrative crime. It rightly repulses us. But law enforcement changes the cost benefit analysis for traffickers. It turns the tide against them. We have reason to hope. Change is more than possible - in fact, it’s already happening.

So back to our video's question: Now that you know, what are you going to do about it?

Speak up. Share. Retweet. Post. Prompt. Petition. Absolutely.

Get informed. To find out about human trafficking happening right here in Australia, visit Anti Slavery Australia. For piercing insights into the global epidemic of violence against the poor (and uplifting examples of working solutions), check out IJM President & CEO Gary Haugen's book, The Locust Effect.

Pray. Register for the upcoming Australian Prayer Gathering.

Engage for the long haul. Victims of injustice don't need spasms of passion. They require relentless advocates. Be one.

As unpopular as this may sound coming from a non-profit, put your money where your heart is. Support IJM’s anti trafficking work in the Philippines, or find another non-profit working on anti trafficking initiatives that you are passionate about.

Now that you know, ACT.

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Who is IJM?

International Justice Mission is a global organisation that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.

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