I’d like to describe two groups of individuals.
The first group is made up of people from various different nationalities, some working within their own country and others working on foreign soil. They have a goal toward which they are striving, and are using all their skills and resources to provide for that vision.
The second group is made up of people from various different nationalities, some working within their own country and others working on foreign soil. They have a goal toward which they are striving, and are using all their skills and resources to provide for that vision.
Sound similar? Here’s where they diverge.
The first group is willing to work together as long as the job gets done. They are masters of networking, they are organized, they are connected. Each member knows their unique role and sticks to it.
The second group is sometimes willing to work together, though there is often a power struggle for credit and funding. Many members are confused about their role, and burn out because they try to do everything instead of mastering something.
Who are they?
The first group consists of human traffickers. The second group consists of abolitionists.
Obviously I am generalizing. Traffickers are not always organized and don’t always get along. Those trying to abolish human trafficking are often willing to work together. But traffickers have something going for them that abolitionists do not have. It is something that smooths over personality clashes and dissolves cultural differences. It motivates people to stay united and work together. It yields power unlike anything else.
The love of money.
Those trying to end human trafficking, however, do not have this powerful weapon on their side. This often leads to organizations fighting amongst themselves for the same funding. Many abolitionists are working day jobs or side jobs, hoping that donor funding comes in so they can provide just one more survivor with food and a place to sleep. Donors themselves are feeling fatigued by requests for cash, and organizations are having to convince everyone why they deserve funding more than anyone else. As a result, the abolitionist community has in many ways become fragmented and disorganized.
Meanwhile, high demand for commercial sex is filling the pockets of organized crime.
So how do we mitigate this?
I am from Finland, a small northern country that is sandwiched between Sweden and Russia. About a century ago, Russia attacked Finland in what became known as the Russo-Finnish Winter War. Despite Russia having significantly more troops, tanks, and guns, Finland had something Russians did not expect: skis. The Finns were excellent sportsmen that fought on skis, giving them a unique advantage. They successfully resised the attack.
It’s time the abolitionist community got some skis. Figuratively speaking, of course. Organized crime is driven to unity by money. The abolitionist community should be driven to unity by love. Here is how we can work toward this:
Build relationships. If you are curious about the work of another organization, even if it doing the same thing as you, make a personal connection. It is hard to ignore or dislike someone who becomes a friend. When my husband and I were in Europe, we met with the head of the Swedish Anti-trafficking Taskforce as well as the head of Amsterdam Vice Prostitution and Human Trafficking Unit. Despite having drastically different approaches and worldviews, these two men were willing to work together and learn from each other.
Give each other space. If you attend an event for another organization, don’t use it as a platform to promote yours, unless this has been discussed ahead of time. This demonstrates respect and builds trust.
Practice humility. Don’t assume that you know everything. Make it your goal to ask questions from others in the field.
Avoid slander. This kills unity more than anything else. Resist the urge to put other organizations down to make yours look better. Let your hard work speak for itself instead of playing the comparison game. If something in another organization concerns you, address it with them directly before advertising it to the world.
Know your niche. Develop a razor sharp focus on what your particular piece of the abolitionist movement is, and stick to it. This allows an opportunity for different organizations to lend each other a hand so that everyone does not have to learn everything, and can lead to a more efficient anti-trafficking movement. It took us about 4 years to figure out ours focus. The process was not passive, but a conscious ongoing discussion. Here’s where we’ve landed:
Far-upstream, systemic, end-demand prevention of sexual exploitation via writing (articles, books, speaking, and film).
Let’s put on our skis, work together, and build a competitive advantage!