January 10, 2014
AFT Media Affairs
AFT Executive Vice President Francine Lawrence
On Human Trafficking Awareness Day
WASHINGTON— Statement of American Federation of Teachers Executive Vice President Francine Lawrence on Human Trafficking Awareness Day:
"Human Trafficking Awareness Day, observed on Jan. 11 each year, is an opportunity to shine a light on an often hidden crime that coerces people—the majority of them young and female—into a life of forced labor, prostitution or pornography. But human trafficking is not just a crime. It is also a fundamental violation of human rights.
"Today and throughout the year, we pledge to work to raise awareness about this terrible exploitation of women, men and children at our borders, in our cities and in our rural communities. Joining with groups such as the Polaris Project, we are educating our members through social media and other means about the magnitude of the problem, its effect on our communities, and what each of us can do to fight and eliminate this worldwide scourge."
Teachers, paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel have a significant role to play in spotting child trafficking. Last summer, AFT leaders met to discuss ways the union could help mitigate child trafficking in the United States. Out of that meeting came plans to help end human trafficking through a national information campaign, local partnerships, and federal and state efforts to help derail trafficking. Last fall, the AFT and its affiliates identified pilot sites in several states, including New York, Ohio and Texas, where teams will be trained to test anti-trafficking materials in advance of a national project launch this summer.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.