Hong Kong (CNN) – College students in Hong Kong stood on campus for 27 hours to raise awareness of modern-day slavery, in a campaign that ended on Thursday.
The “Stand for Freedom” event, which was organized by students from the University of Hong Kong's International Christian Fellowship group, raised HK$10,000 (U.S.$1,300) for human rights agency International Justice Mission. FULL POST
New York City taxi drivers will soon not just be taking passengers around the city, they're being asked to help spot potential sex trafficking victims.
Under a new city law, drivers should be on the lookout for clues that a passenger is a victim of sex trafficking activity.
In a little under three months the law will kick into effect, and drivers will be required to alert authorities if they see suspicious situations in their cabs which may cause them to believe there is a trafficking victim in the backseat.
By Deborah Feyerick & Sheila Steffen, CNN
Tamara Vandermoon is barely recognizable in the photo she holds up; her face is swollen and bruised, her eyes nearly battered shut. She was 19 at the time. "My pimp had beaten me and stomped my face," she says. "I was black and blue."
The Minnesota woman has seen a lot in her relatively short life. Abandoned by her father and angry at her mother, she ran away when she was 12, the same age she turned her first trick trading sex for money and gifts.
"I just wanted to be accepted and loved. I was told how beautiful I was and if you do this I'll get you this ... and I'll make you my girlfriend." Before she knew it she was prostituting herself up to 50 times a night, the money going to her pimp or to feed the drug habit she developed, she says, to "numb the pain" of her life.
Her eyes fill with tears as she remembers: "I was just a baby. I was 12 and they preyed on me. What would a grown man want with a twelve-year-old child?!" Now 31, she is finally getting out after nearly two decades in the sex-trade.
When it comes to child and adolescent sex-trafficking in the United States, the FBI ranks Minneapolis-St. Paul among the top 13 places in the nation. With its tangle of highways known as Spaghetti Junction, its year-round sporting events and frequent conventions, millions pass through on any given day. "There's the thought no one's going to catch you in the Midwest," says Dan Pfarr who works with teens in crisis.
One of the world's leading workers' rights groups has revised upward its global estimate of the number of people working in forced labor.
Almost 21 million people are now in forced labor, according to the new study from the International Labour Organization.
That is up from a "minimum estimate" of 12.3 million in ILO's similar report in 2005 - but the group says the increase is down to better research methods rather than indicative of a trend.
By Justine Lang and Robyn Curnow, CNN
KwaCele, South Africa (CNN) - The landscape of the rural Eastern Cape in South Africa has a haunting beauty. A myriad of round turquoise huts scatter across the land in a series of endless villages.
Yet these villages are also home to a terrible and devastating traditional practice that destroys children's lives and tears families apart.
In these villages, girls as young as 12 are kidnapped by older men and forced to 'marry.' It is accepted as part of the Xhosa people's culture. It has continued unabated for decades.
Ukuthwala, which translates as 'to pick up' or 'to take,' is used to justify the abduction of girls. In many cases the parents have given their consent in exchange for a bride price.
But a concerted campaign to educate these isolated communities of the illegality of under-aged sex and abduction appears to be paying off.
By Ryan Cooper, CNN
(Jupiter, Florida and Scottsdale, Arizona) - A growing number of Major League Baseball players are coming together to make every pitch, home run and strikeout count in the fight against child trafficking.
The players are pledging to donate money for each of their on-field achievements this season to the Free 2 Play campaign, a platform for the California-based Not For Sale non-profit group.
"A lot of Americans are shocked to hear that there are 30 million people living in slavery today, and [many] of those are children," Dave Batstone, Not For Sale's co-founder, said. "So we decided to create a program that not just releases a child from slavery, but provides them a new future."
Jeremy Affeldt, a relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, has been one of the most vocal athletes raising money and awareness for Not For Sale. Last season, he pledged $250 for every strikeout he pitched.
By Mimi Chakarova, Special to CNN
For the past decade, photographer-filmmaker Mimi Chakarova has examined conflict, corruption and the sex trade. Her film "The Price of Sex," a feature-length documentary made over seven years on trafficking and corruption, premiered in 2011. She was awarded the Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York. It will air in the U.S. on The Documentary Channel on April 11 at 4.30p0.m. ET
She was wearing a polka dot skirt and her favorite pink flip-flops the day she left her village in Albania. Her mom called out her name before she got into her boyfriend's red Mitsubishi. She didn't turn to wave goodbye. She was 12 and angry. FULL POST
By Hyun Soo Suh, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and heads of various U.S. government departments made clear Thursday that preventing human trafficking is a priority of the Obama administration.
The 27 million men, women and children victims of human trafficking are an "affront to our most fundamental values," Clinton said at the annual meeting at the White House of the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
Clinton chaired the meeting of the task force, which is a Cabinet-level unit that coordinates federal efforts.
Those in attendance - including Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper - highlighted recent successes and the new collaborative efforts to combat human trafficking around the world and on the domestic front.
"For us at the national security staff, this is a national security issue," said Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough. "... Human trafficking is at the nexus of organized crime, is a source for funding for international terrorist groups, (and) is a source for funding for transnational terrorist groups. It fundamentally endangers international security."
Actress and human rights activist Ashley Judd spoke Thursday at the United Nations
She has spent years traveling the globe - from Congo to Cambodia - fighting against human trafficking.
After appearing at the UN, she chatted with CNN's Richard Roth to explain how gender equality was one of the root causes contributing to the world's unrest. She also pointed to some successes in the fight against trafficking.
By Athena Jones, CNN
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sheila White was beginning to feel numb. She had been beaten numerous times by a man who forced her to work as a prostitute on the streets of New York City.
"I done got beaten up in front of the Port Authority in Times Square," she said, a reference to a bus terminal on the city's West Side. "When stuff like that happens out in the open, you really feel like you're not even a person."
White was eventually able to escape her pimp and now works with victims of sex trafficking throughout New York state. But her story is proof that slavery is alive and well in America, 150 years after it was supposedly abolished.
While modern slavery may look different from the old images of plantations, slave cabins and auction blocks, abuse, coercion and manipulation remain the order of the day.
The most valuable weapon in the fight against human trafficking may be you.
CNN is celebrating the work of ordinary people inspired to do something, to take action; to stand up against slavery.
People from West Africa, South America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, have all joined the fight.
Watch the "Taking a Stand, Making a Difference" show here in three parts. In the first segment, viewers horrified by our expose of working conditions for people cocoa farming in West Africa campaign for more Fair Trade products.
By Lisa Cohen, CNN
Editor's Note: How can individuals help combat modern day slavery? Watch "Taking a Stand, Making a Difference".
Denver, Colorado - Staring down a mountain of bras in her basement, Kimba Langas knew things had gotten out of hand.
The stay-at-home-mom started collecting unwanted bras as a way to help women on the other side of the world. It started small through word of mouth, and then a Facebook page.
But the bras quickly overran her home in suburban Denver, Colorado. They were in her basement, in her garage, in her car. They were in bags, in boxes, in envelopes. Her husband, Jeff, tried to navigate his way around them, but it wasn't easy.
"He was constantly moving boxes out of his way to access his tools," Langas said. "Down in the basement is where he keeps his table saw and other large tools, so besides having to move boxes, he would suffer a scolding from me from getting sawdust all over the bras!"
And the neighbors were beginning to talk, too. "If the weather's nice I usually count and box up bras in my garage," Langas said. "The neighborhood boys who are always around playing in the cul-de-sac try to pretend they're not watching!"
Langas collects unwanted bras for a charity called "Free the Girls" which gives them to young women coming out of sex trafficking in Mozambique - not to wear, but to sell in used clothing markets where bras are a luxury item and command top dollar.
The girls can make three times the average wage, more than enough to support themselves and not be trafficked again.
Sitting in her living room packing boxes of bras with her four-year-old son, Wyatt, she reflects on how quickly the little project took off.
It was the pastor of her church who came up with the idea for "Free the Girls." He was planning on moving to Mozambique for missionary work, and called Langas to see if she would run the project with him. She thought it sounded like fun.
"One of the things that was so appealing to me for "Free the Girls," besides the catchy name, was donating bras," she said. "I had probably five or six bras in the back of my drawer. As women, you know, we buy a bra, don't try it on, get it home, wear it once, it doesn't fit. And it's one of those items where you'd like to donate it when you donate clothes to a charity, but you're not sure. Do we donate bras? What do we do with bras?"
Apparently, that sentiment resonated with women across the U.S.. Shortly after launching the Facebook page, the bras started coming. The response was much bigger than she expected.
"I remember in the beginning how excited I would get to pick up envelopes and small boxes, and wow, if a box had 50 or even 100 bras that was crazy," Langas said. "And all of us of sudden, you know, 800 bras, 1,000 bras, 1,250 bras.
"There was a drive in Arizona and the women collected 8,000 bras. There's a church in Tennessee that collected 3,000 bras. There's a group here in Denver that collected 1,250 bras. It's just one of those things that caught on and spread."
It spread so much that Langas had to rent a storage unit to hold them all. But now she has a big problem: How is she going to move 25,000 bras 10,000 miles (15,000 kilometers)?
A shipping container would cost $6,500; money she says she just doesn't have. When she hears about people traveling to Mozambique, she asks them to take an extra suitcase with them, filled with bras. But her goal is to raise enough money to ship all of them.
In the meantime, she is encouraged by the volunteers helping her and motivated by the young victims she is fighting for, happy to do her small part in the fight to end modern-day slavery.
"Eventually it is going to change," she says. "I know it is. And if it's not in my generation, I hope that my son gets to see major change and I hope, by the time he's out of college or maybe even my age, hopefully sooner, he will be like, "Slavery? What? Oh, I read about it in my textbook."