Editor’s Note: President Barack Obama declared January 2013 as the month of National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention.
In the middle of a red-light district, where legal and regulated prostitution occurs, hundreds of revealing women are standing among dimly-lit windows. Although this particular type of prostitution remains legal in many countries, the red light district in both Netherlands and in Amsterdam is where abolitionists for the Not For Sale Campaign (a non-profit created to fight against human trafficking) first identified women who were in the windows on street work were actually for sale, selling their bodies behind the shop windows. “There were a lot of health and nutritional needs–a lot of legal problems,” President of NFS David Batstone said. “And some of the women were being trafficked.”
But back in the United States, Batstone first discovered the issue of human trafficking was much closer to home than he’d realized. In 2007, a front-page news story regarding a gas leak at Batstone’s favorite restaurant began to uncover more truths about the popular dining. Following the death of one child and injuries on many others, the story unraveled when the police came. “The kids said they were being forced to work against their will,” Batstone recalled. “I would go to the restaurant for a couple years and there was nothing in my grid to alert me to tell me something was wrong.” From this incident, Batstone grew passionate to create more awareness of this global issue, and the Not for Sale Campaign was born.
“There are more than 30 million slaves in the world today, more than at any other point in human history,” –NFS
Not for Sale Campaign’s mission is to “end slavery, not to simply put a bandage on the wound,” and the non-profit organization strives to prevent the growth of human trafficking, preventing further crimes against humanity. “We have two sides of the coin of our work,” Batstone said. “We work in the field on the front lines helping trafficking survivors.” In this work, NFS gathers data and examines trends. “We use the best business tools we can find, so we create enterprises that will generate a social economy to create jobs and education,” Batstone said. “We marry the best of compassion with justice work.”
When fighting against forced labor and sexual exploitation, Batstone emphasized the importance of being on the ground in a daily way as well as being capable of identifying the issue.
A Serving of Rescue
In order to understand the victims better, Not for Sale began a soup company. “We wanted to already create the idea that there are other enterprises and opportunities out there for them,” Batstone said.
The organization then sold their soup to the largest grocery retailer in the Netherlands, creating a high scale of demand and opportunity for training caterers and creating shops. “And to make the soup we need supplies, so we went back to Eastern Europe and targeted communities to building farm structures for more opportunities.”
And with the Not for Sale Campaign, further opportunity has been the key to the rescues.
Batstone stated three-fourths of the women working in brothels came from Eastern Europe–Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria. “There was one alley-way named after a small village in Hungary,” Batstone said. “The village had a lot of poverty and were economically poor, and with a lot of corruption, injustice and poverty together, it becomes the recipe for exploitation.” And where there is poverty, there also becomes a lot of unstable economies. “People get taken advantage of, and so we create local economies,” Batstone said. “We find out how to reduce the elements that lead to the likelihood of trafficking.”
More than a Bandwagon
During the release of Batstone’s book (Not for Sale), people were still shocked at the issue. “Now there’s more time in the field and exposing people to the problem,” Batstone said. For a deeper understanding, Batstone took the band Tenth Avenue North through the red-light district. “I like taking people that want to know the depths of the problem to another level of engagement.”
But oftentimes, issues seem to fade way into the background of everyday living. The Not for Sale Campaign encourages people to maintain their passion. “I think it’s really super critical, because too many causes and nonprofits rely on gimmicks,” Batstone said. “We’d rather have a handful of really committed students rather than 200 that are just in a fad. We are really looking for those three or four at any university that want to solve the problem.”
So, What Can Students Do?
NFS continues to offer programs where dedicated young people can travel overseas, research and grade companies and also help the organization build networks through local government.
“I think there’s a real hunger among students to find solutions to problems and not just have awareness or throw money at a problem,” Batstone said. “We need to reinvent how we change the world.” And because some traditional non-profits can sometimes seem as non-ending perpetual problems that don’t get solved, Batstone examines how best to continually approach the issue of human trafficking. “How do we change other ways we approach it, so it’s more awareness than ever, but it’s coupled with ‘I want to be involved in the solution, but how could I make it my life vocation?”
But Batstone didn’t foresee himself looking to fight slavery, as he was once living a previous “tripolar life” including working as university professor, owning his own investment firm and working for years in human rights and justice. “I really believe that God gives us a vocation, and I believe there is a purpose for our lives on this earth,” Batstone said. “It’s important to ask for a vocation, and not just a job or an education, but your talents and services with the needs in the world–to have a sense of significance and purpose instead of a high salary and achievements that may be reached." And when Batstone discovered slavery, he had been more than prepared. “I found my vocation; a sense of why I’m here.”