Soroptimist International of Barbados and Soroptimist International of Jamestown are members of Soroptimist International (SI), a global volunteer movement, working together to transform the lives of women and girls. Soroptimist International has General Consultative Status as a non-governmental organization at the United Nations (UN). Our advocacy work is aligned with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including advocating for the eradication of Human Trafficking.
Human trafficking is the practice of exploiting adults and children for use as commodities or objects in conditions of sexual and labour servitude. It is also known as “modern slavery”. It is an illegal trade in human beings through recruitment, abduction by means of force, fraud or coercion for the purposed of forced labour, debt bondage or sexual exploitation. Human Trafficking is a violation of human rights.
Where forced labour revolves around domestic servitude, women and girls predominate. Female victims trafficked in this regard suffer extreme harm such as physical, sexual and psychological abuse. The nature of the work often segregates them from the wider society and they often live and work with the perpetrators of exploitation, creating an environment of vulnerability. ‘Invisibility’ of some sectors helps to hide trafficking for forced labour. It is a global phenomenon. In 2018, for every 10 victims detected globally, about five were adult women and two were girls (UNODC, 2020).
A recent UN Women’s report on ‘GUIDANCE Addressing Emerging Human Trafficking Trends and Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic’, makes mention that the pandemic has ‘created new risks and challenges to victims of trafficking’ and ‘exacerbated the vulnerabilities of at-risk groups to trafficking’.
A UN’s Policy Brief published July 2020, states that our women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. They are largely employed in the informal and hardest-hit sectors and their ability to absorb economic shocks is less. They have also taken on greater care demands at home as well as being more exposed to increased violence in a region with high rates of gender-based violence already.
Awareness, Advocacy, and Action continue to be the cornerstone of Soroptimists’ mission. Human Trafficking is here within our borders. In March 2013, Soroptimists in Barbados launched a Human Trafficking awareness campaign under the banner ‘Purple Teardrop”. Over the years, we have continued pushing for public awareness of Human Trafficking with our work involving sessions with girls in schools, distribution of flyers and organized marches. This year, we have partnered with BPW to place a retractable banner at the arrival area of the Grantley Adams International Airport. This is an initiative that is being undertaken by Soroptimists in all Caribbean Islands. The banner will have contact information for victims and for persons who suspect anyone is a victim. We have partnered with the Anti-Human Trafficking Campaign – Dr. Olivia Smith to conduct virtual sessions with girls at secondary schools on human trafficking.
We will continue with our public awareness campaign as the risk to our women and girls have heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to promote the education, empowerment and enabling of women and girls. We will continue to lend our voices to the eradication of human trafficking.