At the BankUnited Center on Friday, students will learn how to campaign against human trafficking during a daylong conference hosted by the International Human Trafficking Institute (IHTI) and The Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade County.
“Organizing for Change: Students Taking Action Against Human Trafficking” will be held on Sept. 9 and will feature talks by human trafficking experts and survivors. However, the main focus will be hands-on work for students to learn how to organize and run an anti-trafficking campaign on campus. Three groups from college campuses around Miami-Dade will present their platforms to students, who will then be able to join campaigns.
Marilyn March, executive director of The Women’s Fund, said it was important for the conference to be held in Miami because Florida is third-highest in the country for human trafficking.
Two hundred and sixty-five human trafficking cases have been reported in Florida so far this year, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). The total number of cases in Florida since 2007 is 2,039.
Associate Program Coordinator for IHTI in Atlanta Stephanie Sorquira said what differentiates this conference from others is the action. Instead of sitting and listening to speakers, students will have the resources on site to initiate or participate in a movement.
“Seventy-five percent of it will be working with campaigns and joining campaigns,” Sorquira said.
The desire to support Miami-Dade college students in their fight against human trafficking was what tethered IHTI, a program of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and The Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade. Both wanted to work with student organizations at the University of Miami, Florida International University and Miami-Dade College.
“This isn’t just an international crime,” March said.
Of the 265 cases reported in Florida this year, 77 involved U.S. citizens.
The conference comes before the launch of Project Unchained, a new student movement at UM dedicated to boosting awareness of human trafficking. The group hopes to be a COSO-registered student organization within the next few weeks.
One of the project’s creators, junior Kyla Leonard, said she hopes to mentor victims and educate students about the issue’s widespread presence in their own communities.
“A lot of people think it’s a problem overseas but in fact, it’s really local,” said Leonard, a psychology major. “It’s pretty widespread. It’s not just sexual human trafficking; it’s forced labor, stealing people’s organs. It’s a lot of crazy stuff.”
According to NHTRC, human trafficking is “a form of modern day slavery that includes the trafficker or pimp using force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his or her will.”
Although Project Unchained and the conference are not related, members of the soon-to-be organization will be attending the event and said they look forward to implementing what they learn into their platform.
“We’re going to get a really clear-cut plan on how to attack [human trafficking],” Leonard said. “Right now, we have a couple of ideas and places to start but the conference will lay out something concrete.”
If you or someone you know has been a victim of human trafficking, you can report it to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
To sign up for “Organizing for Change: Students Taking Action Against Human Trafficking” or for more information, go to theihti.org.
To join or for more information about Project Unchained, email email@example.com.