The BYU administration is committed to helping students make a difference in the world. However, a successful fight against human trafficking starts at a personal level.
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins explained how the BYU administration can play a role in stopping human trafficking.
“As a university, BYU is always looking at how we can empower our students and our community with the knowledge they need to make a difference,” Jenkins said. “This is the role a university can certainly play in this fight.”
Jenkins commended the efforts of BYU students.
“There are many BYU students involved in clubs and organizations working hard to end the suffering of people locally and worldwide. As an administration, we care deeply that our students have the opportunity to serve even while they are here as students,” Jenkins said. “In fact, the final Aims of a BYU Education states, ‘BYU seeks to develop students … who have the skills and the desire to continue learning and to serve others throughout their lives.'”
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes spoke at a BYU student alumni event about human trafficking on March 15, 2016. He closed his remarks by reminding those in attendance of BYU’s motto: “Go forth to serve.”
“Any success you have in business will not be as gratifying or fulfilling if you don’t do … service around that,” Reyes said.
BYU assistant sociology professor Scott Sanders is using his skills to help uncover human trafficking numbers within the Thai fishing industry.
Sanders is involved with an organization called Issara Institute. Issara Institute is conducting a study that will produce population numbers and health information regarding trafficking in this area of Thailand. Results from the study will be produced in June 2016.
“The people are forced into work, and if they don’t work they will be killed. That is the reality of this,” Sanders said. “The people’s lives aren’t valued. Either they work on a fishing boat, or they will be thrown overboard.”
Sanders believes a large part of abolishing slave labor globally needs to begin at a consumer level. According to Sanders, companies like Nestlé, Tesco, Costco and more have each come out to say it is likely slave labor is being used to produce the food that they sell. He encourages students to ask for a free trade option when purchasing foods from companies like these.
“These stores are trying to stop the trafficking that produced their food to the degree that it is demanded by consumers,” Sanders said. “If consumers say they don’t want to buy it, the stores have to respond.”
BYU’s Anti-Human Trafficking club president, Kate Zeller, also believes college students can help universities move closer to becoming slave-trade-free campuses through consumer power.
“We are hoping that we can get fair trade here on campus rather than banning slave trade,” Zeller said. “Our ultimate goal is to make BYU a slave-food-free school, but we know it will take time. Getting more free-trade foods here would be a good start.”
Students can turn to websites like behindthebrand.org in order to discover information behind the items they purchase. For example, Behind the Brands allows consumers to see that Coca Cola scores higher than many other brands on policies related to worker’s rights, but low on support for farmers. Knowing this information allows consumers to make informed decisions at the store.
Jennifer George, prevention specialist at Operation Underground Railroad, says students can donate money, promote information, avoid pornography and be aware of the signs in order to stop human trafficking.
“A cheap way to donate is to become an abolitionist,” George said. “You sign up to donate as little as five dollars a month. This is what ends up funding our missions.”
According to George, anyone can support the cause by going to yourrescue.org and creating a campaign. This site allows people to set a fundraising goal and get people to donate to the cause.
For those who would like to help promote information surrounding human trafficking, George encourages viewing and sharing “The Abolitionist,” a movie Operation Underground Railroad has produced. According to George, the video is essentially undercover footage from the operations.
“If you want to buy out a theater as a ward or a stake you can see it that way,” George said. “Share it and encourage others to see it.”
According to George, staying away from pornography is important for shunning human trafficking since the two are intrinsically connected.
“We used to think they were separate, but we have come to learn that they really are the same industry,” George said. “So many people who are trafficked are forced to participate in porn. I have never heard of or encountered someone who was ‘buying’ that wasn’t addicted to porn.”
Finally, George encourages college students to be aware and look for signs of trafficking around them.
“Be aware of what to look for,” George said. “Trafficking is happening everywhere, so I’m sure it could be happening at BYU, as well. Everyone can do something. That should be empowering.”