least 12.3 million people are trafficked worldwide.
than 1 million children are victims of trafficking.
are trafficked in 161 countries, including the United States.
trafficking is a $32 billion industry worldwide.
average, only 1 person is convicted for every 800 trafficking cases worldwide.
Protecting Young Women From Human
By Laura Sheahen
You might think that after fleeing ethnic cleansing in the
Balkans when she was a child, Armana had left the most dangerous time in her
life behind her. Now 19, she remembers how her family was uprooted by war in
the 1990s, when Yugoslavia fell apart
But what awaited her and many other Balkan refugees was potentially as
devastating. Human traffickers, who prey on poor or vulnerable people,
sometimes target refugee camps or neighborhoods where displaced people live.
Like many others who fled, Armana's family had little money and little connection
to their new community near the Bosnian town of Mostar. After finishing high
school, Armana wasn't sure what was next in her life.
In Eastern Europe, a hub for human trafficking,
young women like Armana can be persuaded by an acquaintance or relative to take
a "good job" abroad. Traffickers then take their passports and money
away and force them to work as prostitutes. Their "owners" may even
lock them up in brothels. The sellers make $3,000 per girl; "the pretty
ones cost more," says Maja Brenjo, who coordinates anti-trafficking
programs for Catholic
Relief Services Bosnia.
Buying and Selling People
Traffickers see an inexhaustible commodity in other human beings, one that
they can exploit over and over again. Trafficking does not just involve women
being forced into prostitution. It can also involve children being forced to
beg and adults being forced to work long hours under appalling conditions
In Eastern Europe, CRS works to stop trafficking before it starts. We alert
vulnerable groups to the trafficking dangers and provide opportunities for
women who have few career options. CRS and our local partners hold sessions at
schools to teach students to watch out for suspicious people and job offers. We
put up posters at bus stops and well-traveled areas to raise awareness. In
asylum centers and refugee areas, kids play a Parcheesi-style board game that
teaches them not to give up their identification papers. In CRS' peer-to-peer
programs, older teens make comic books and other materials to educate their
classmates and friends.
Larissa Klepac of CRS Bosnia-Herzegovina looks through a
"catalog" of girls offered for sale. Sex traffickers create photo
albums like this to show to potential buyers. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS
Traffickers sometimes place phony employment ads in newspapers; a typical one
might read, "Girls between 18-25 years old needed for work abroad. We
guarantee high income and fair relationship. Accommodation and food provided.
Visa also secured." A CRS program placed warning ads in the same papers
traffickers use, and ran public service announcements on radio stations.
Help for Women at Risk
Some young women in impoverished Balkan countries are aware of the danger,
but feel pressured to find work no matter what. "They look at an
employment ad and think, maybe this really is a glamorous dancing job
in Italy, maybe it will all work out," says Larissa Klepac, senior program
manager for counter-trafficking programs at CRS' office in Sarajevo, Bosnia.
Girls in Bosnia's housing projects for war refugees, where many families lack breadwinners,
are especially at risk.
To give them options, CRS' partners offer job skills training to 14-to-25
year old girls and to single mothers in fields like hairdressing, sewing,
crocheting, knitting, cheesemaking,
technology and literacy. CRS-funded programs include workshops in creating
resumes, going on job interviews, and improving computer skills. They also
A Safer Future
The training program set Armana on a safe career path. With funding from
CRS, a local partner taught Armana hairdressing. Now she earns her own living
at a hair salon. "I like inventing new hairstyles," she says. She's
looking forward to running her own salon someday.
With help from CRS, thousands of young women like Armana may never have to
suffer the horror of being sold for other people's use. "We're happy we're
providing job skills and knowledge to these young women," says Klepac.
"We hope that because they have other opportunities, they will not be
trapped by traffickers."
Laura Sheahen is CRS' regional information officer for Europe and
the Middle East. She is based in Cairo.