Students can help to fight modern slavery


The United States Agency for International Developments sponsoring a technological contest for college students to combat human trafficking.

The contest will open in late November and end in early January.  To enter, students have to send a short note describing their thoughts and/or a short video or other online media to illustrate their ideas to the USAID website.

 “College students are important,” said Gisele Rodriguez, state outreach coordinator of Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking. “They are the future law enforcers, so we need to educate them.”

According to USAID, trafficking in persons (TIP) is an international crime that is considered a modern form of slavery. It represents a violation of human rights in which victims are deprived of their humanity and basic freedom.

Recent studies by USAID said that human traffickers earn an estimated $32 billion annually. According to the International Labour Organization, approximately 20.9 million people are enslaved in sex or labor exploitation.

Rodriguez said that the most prosecuted case in Florida for TIP is sex trafficking, but the most complex is forced labor.

“Most people don’t recognize that being forced to work is not only based on wage payments but also in physical and mental abuse,” Rodriguez said.

Statistics show that Florida ranks third in the nation for human trafficking; half of the victims are children.

“We partner with some agencies to implement law enforcements to accelerate prosecutions,” said Erin Gillespie, press secretary of the Department of Children and Families.

In June, Gov. Rick Scott signed the Safe Harbor Act, which grants services to help victims who have been sexually exploited. Scott also signed House Bill 7049, which provides prosecutors the capacity to better fight this crime by ensuring tougher penalties.

According to Business360,a company that provides businessresearch and intelligence support to large companies, the current price for a human slave is $90 or about $40,000 nearly 200 years ago.

Officials said the challenges to fight TIP have been the difficulty of collecting accurate data on this clandestine trade and the complexity of building a global movement.

“Mass media don’t inform you properly,” said Pamela Barrera, a fourth-year Spanish education student from Lima, Peru. “I thought that slavery was over. This issue has to be discussed immediately because it’s actual and real.”

According to USAID, its contest is a call to college students to solve challenges that were once thought to be difficult. Winners will receive a prize and a trip to Washington to participate in a conference to show and discuss their winning ideas with a range of USAID implementing and donor partners.