USA: educators play key role in combatting human trafficking

published 13 January 2016 updated 15 January 2016

American education unions are taking the fight against human trafficking to the classroom, with a toolkit designed to help teachers recognise and act in case a student is suspected of being a victim.

Human trafficking, a contemporary form of slavery, is the illegal trade in children and adults for the purposes of commercial gain – through sexual exploitation and forced labour. The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million people from 127 countries are trafficked.

To counter trafficking, the National Education Association, one of Education International’s (EI) affiliates in the United States, is working to better equip educators, as first responders, to play a critical role in curbing this gross violation of human rights. To that end, the union has created an on-line toolkit with useful resources on human trafficking and links to organisations involved in the fight against this global phenomenon.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), also an EI affiliate, issued a resolution against human trafficking and sex trafficking of children in which it states that human trafficking generates about $36 billion each year, highlighting that “about one of every four of those dollars circulates in the United States”.

The resolution condemns especially the ongoing exploitation and profit from sex trafficking with children and states that the AFT is helping prevent child trafficking by providing training and appropriate resources to ensure members have the skills to identify indicators of children at risk and to identify signs of child trafficking.  “This should include, but not be limited to, educational materials describing indicators of child exploitation and/or trafficking, workshops at conferences the AFT sponsors, educational materials, and other resources.

International backup

Education International supports the fight of its affiliates to end human trafficking, seen in its adoption of a resolution during its last World Congress in 2015 in Ottawa, Canada, on the elimination of all forms of discrimination in education that specifically refers to trafficking of children and child labour. It states that “as trade unionists the fight against human trafficking is also our fight; we need to train our members to be able to address this issue in the workplace; unions can negotiate to see that our members are qualified to have the skills to do intervention and mitigation”.