“My name is Gayan. I am 15-years-old. I dropped out of school and was offered a good job in the Jharsuguda district. Along with other boys, I was forced to work in a factory, given little food, severely beaten, branded, burned, with cigarettes, and allowed only a few hours of sleep each night. My name is Gayan and I am NOT for sale,” a testimonial sign read.
Walking through the quad during common hour on Tuesday students may have noticed volunteers holding signs that individually tell the personal account of a victim of human trafficking. These were only a few testimonies of the thousands of individuals that are trafficked throughout the world.
“Students need to realize that it happens everywhere, not just Cambodia, but even in Butler County,” Jessica Tager, 19, a sophomore, non-profit leadership and social work double major and also the secretary of the Student Nonprofit Alliance said.
Human trafficking is the purchase and trade of human beings for reasons such as sex, labor, and the workforce and forcing people to do something without their consent, explained Emily Reed, 20, a junior CPAD, non-profit leadership, and interdisciplinary program major and is the on-campus relations chair of the Student Nonprofit Alliance. Reed also explained that there are 300 confirmed cases alone in Butler County of human trafficking due to the easy accessibility to the turnpike.
To bring this issue to the forefront of the student body, the Nonprofit Alliance partnered with other organizations on-and-off campus to put on a week full of events for this semester’s IZE on Human Trafficking, explained Ann Tager, 21, a senior dance and non-profit leadership double major and the president of the Student Nonprofit Alliance.
Some on campus organizations and offices that are involved are the SLAM Poetry Club, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, FMLA, the Women’s Center, and the sororities Delta Zeta and Gamma Sigma Sigma.
“I reached out to off-campus organizations such as VOICE in Butler and the Pittsburgh Project to End Human Trafficking,” Jessica Tager stated.
Each organization played a role in sponsoring events and worked as volunteers to make all the events possible, according to Reed.
“The Women’s Center is hosting the speakers for Wednesday night, FMLA compiled the panel of speakers for Thursday’s event during common hour, Delta Zeta and Gamma Sigma Sigma held a bake sale to raise funds for the cause, and all clubs are participating in Friday’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event,” Reed further said.
Every semester the Student Non-profit Alliance holds an IZE event that focuses on a different topic where the point is to have students: RealIZE, EmpathIZE, and MobilIZE.
In the past they have had IZE on poverty and IZE on bullying, but this is the first one that has been on such a large scope, Ann Tager explained.
“Each event that took place this past week was meant to raise awareness, and the goal was to have every student at some point learn something about trafficking,” Ann Tager said.
The event held on Tuesday during common hour was called the NOT for Sale Yard Sale, to create a visual for students about human trafficking.
“We wanted to have a ‘yard sale’ with people scattered all around campus as if they were for sale wearing signs with testimonials and facts written on them,” Reed said. “But humans should never be for sale.”
Friday’s event is an international walk that is mostly geared towards men, but recently women have started playing a role too, Ann Tager said.
“The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event first started out as a large event where men would dress us in high heels and walk a mile to empathize with women and raise awareness about sexual violence, domestic violence, and trafficking,” Ann Tager explained.
This is the first year for this event, but according to Ann Tager, they are hoping to continue the event next year as well.
“The walk is something that is very visual: to see a group of men walking in high heels for awareness of the issues,” Reed said. “It has the shock factor.”
At the end of the walk, there will be a speaker from the organization, Living and Liberty, someone who was trafficked herself to share more information about the topic.
“Its an uplifting walk to raise awareness,” Jessica Tager said.
Human trafficking is a topic that piques students’ interest and due to the nature of the topic, there is no way a student can have a positive outlook on human trafficking, Ann Tager explained.
“There has been a lot of positivity from students and organizations that want to be involved for future events,” Reed explained.
The plan for the next IZE event is going to focus on human inequality, according to Ann Tager.
“It’s easy for people to get caught up in there own world, and it’s interesting to see people actually stop and read or see and have a reaction to the events,” Jessica Tager explained.