If you know me, even just on a social media level, chances are you’ve seen me share about a charity very close to my heart – Be Hers. A movement that started here in Tassie putting into action the concept of ‘act locally, impact globally,’ with Be Hers now launching in several cities around Australia and partnering with a number of sister organisations that all deliver freedom and hope to those who have had it stolen from them. A cause I feel very strongly about.
So, why? Why human trafficking? Why Be Hers? Not just because of their beautiful events, not just because it’s amazing to see women come together as a movement for a greater purpose, but also because shedding light on the horrific injustice that is human trafficking and the heartbreaking truth that slavery still exists in this world, is something I will never be silent about.
Our world is using people as commodities, children are exploited, women are sold against their will and men are forced into slave labour. As we become aware of these horrific actions, surely it’s impossible to turn a blind eye. And yet it still exists, thrives even. There are more victims today than ever before in history. Read that again, let that sink in. Slavery is far from a thing of the past. The demand for it in all of its hideous forms means that business for traffickers is booming. So what even is human trafficking? When a person is owned or controlled by someone who is exploiting him or her. Whether it’s men forced to work, youth in sweat shops, children being sold or traded, women in prostitution or girls forced to marry older men. They no longer have a choice. They no longer have freedom.
I still remember clear as day the first time I heard about human trafficking, my perspective on the world changed entirely. Sitting at conference with my girlfriends – fresh faced 18 year olds without a care in the world, waiting to have older and courageous women spill inspiration into our lives. I certainly wasn’t expecting to hear about modern day slavery for the first time. Smiles were wiped from our faces as statistics flashed on the screen. Our jaws dropped. Our lungs were near breathless. Tears rolled down our cheeks as testimonies were shared.
Real stories. Real girls. Real nightmares.
An arena filled with more than 16,000 women, and yet the figures were sobering enough to make me feel as if I was sitting there all alone. As hard as the stories were to hear, I couldn’t imagine how hard they would be to tell – how excruciating to have actually endured it all for so many years. And these were just the saved girls. Just the 1% who were lucky enough to be rescued. These testimonies of girls as young as me and even much younger, being forced to service up to 40 men a day, stories of unspeakable horror stayed with me. Women and children, stolen and enslaved. Through no fault of their own, sold into slavery for someone else’s profit and pleasure. My stomach was in knots.
‘you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know’William Wilberforce
The William Wilberforce quote rang in my ears on repeat all night long ‘you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know’ and compelled me to take action. I had to do something. I may have felt young and completely inexperienced, but the knowledge I now had was too much to ignore. I felt clueless and under equipped, the networks, fundraising experience and savings of an 18 year old were hardly the thing of history making legends. But the freedom I had to make my own decisions was already far more than these girls had for themselves now. And that in itself was such a strong weapon.
As I endeavoured to make a difference, standing by was the Be Hers team already working so hard to support these victims and bring freedom to many around the world. A team of everyday women, courageous in their fight for freedom. A group of girls devoted to ending slavery in the modern world, already championing women around the globe for freedom, and encouraging local girls to draw in closer, become involved and make an impact. Proving that no matter where you are or what you have, you can make a difference.
For me, it is the idea that if you have your own freedom, you are already so powerful in this world and therefore have a responsibility to share that with others. The fact that this injustice is happening everywhere to everyday girls, it hits home that it so easily could be my sister, my friend, myself. And therefore it is absolutely my concern to fight for those girls with everything I have. Perhaps even my mandate for this lifetime.
Regardless of your age, race, gender, home address, annual income or anything else, if you’re reading this then we all share a power – our freedom. How you choose to use that power is your call, but I challenge anyone to hear a testimony from any of these victims and not be moved. To not connect with them, cry with them and want to fight for them. As I think back to that day in that conference, awaiting the courageous women for inspiration, I soon realised that if we are willing to open our eyes to the world and the injustices taking place around us, there is more than enough motivation to become our own inspiration. What we decide to do with that, determines just how courageous we can be ourselves.
Learning the horrific reality and scope of human trafficking was heartbreaking, but to continue living my life and enjoying my own freedom since hearing their voices felt impossible. I may not be able to stop it in a day, I may not be able to make the biggest financial contribution, but I can and will do something about it. Because going on as if everything is fine would be to act as though their stories weren’t of value and didn’t deserve to be heard, respected and fought for. Which is entirely why this injustice exists. The cruel reality thrives because of the high demand and success in the shadows. Because one person believes that their own gain is of more value than another person’s life and freedom. The idea that these innocent lives have been stolen and hidden away from the rest of the world to then feel forgotten about, voiceless and powerless to change things motivates me to continue fighting for them.
Because they may be trapped and unable to fight, but I am not. And I will use every aspect of my freedom to fight for theirs as it could have so easily been the other way around. Imagine if it was your neighbour, your sister, your best friend – would you want someone who knew about it to shrug their shoulders, turn away and throw it in the too hard basket? Or would you hope and pray that they would search for as many accessible resources and practical actions to take in order to do everything they could to end the injustice? Not because it was quick, easy and convenient to do so, but because it was right.
Freedom should never be taken from another. And yet, to have this injustice occur so progressively on a global scale, and be hidden so incredibly well that the world keeps spinning with barely a whisper, is terrifying. And to have the path to restoring it clouded so heavily by corruption and protest is agonising. But regardless of however hard and long the battle may seem, nothing makes it less imperative.
Freedom is STILL worth the fight. Always, always, always.