MORE than 27,000,000 people around the world are essentially slaves trapped and manipulated through human trafficking.
A group of local young people is hoping to make a difference to this statistic through their support of the A21 Campaign a body which aims to abolish human trafficking and injustice in the 21st century.
Chloe Rogers, Naomi Trad and friends are hosting a fundraising and awareness afternoon this Saturday, February 22 at the Church of Christ Hall in Victoria Street, Taree, from 2pm.
Guests can learn more about the work of A21 but also participate in fun fundraisers, including a clothing sale, jewellery stalls, competitions and a delicious afternoon tea, including scones and goodies donated by Bakers Choice in Manning Mall.
All the proceeds will go to support A21.
Chloe and Naomi said they were inspired to help A21 after hearing from one of the founders of A21, Christine Caine, at a conference in Sydney last year.
Only one to two per cent of victims of human trafficking are rescued, and only one in 100,000 traffickers are convicted. A21 started targeting human trafficking in Greece and has set up an assistance network through Eastern Europe. The group works by establishing a safehouse, then rehabilitating the 'rescued' victims and training them for jobs so they can gain independence.
Chloe said she decided she would like to help the group after hearing that many of the young women trafficked into the sex trade and into sweat shop labour were aged only 12 or 13 as young as her own sister.
"Their innocence is being stolen I couldn't sit by and do nothing," she said.
Human traffickers take advantage of people living in poverty promising them work and incomes in other countries, but the reality is much harsher. Instead of earning an income to send back to their families, the victims can find themselves trapped into prostitution and introduced to drug addiction.
As well as fundraising, there are other practical ways in which Australians can help make a difference in reducing people trafficking, Naomi said.
These include shopping from outlets and businesses which do not use 'sweatshop' labour, and writing letters to survivors of people trafficking. (The latter will be a feature of Saturday's A21 event - people will be invited to write supportive letters to the rescued girls.)
A list of 21 'things you can do right now' will be available at the event.
These include lobbying local politicians, hosting events, using social media to publicise the cause, and spread the word about what you learn about the injustice of people trafficking.
Everyone is invited to the A21 afternoon. For more information, phone 044 880 8585.
See http://www.thea21campaign.org/ or the Fashioned 4 Freedom facebook page.