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Rho Kappa Speaker Series: Human Trafficking

Courtesy of Youth Ending Slavery Instagram

Courtesy of Youth Ending Slavery Instagram

Caris Han, Staff Writer

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Your trusty IB History teacher sets the stage of Thomas Jefferson’s ethics in Monticello; your peers begin counting the amount of American presidents that were also slave owners- despite the Declaration of Independence’s claim of that all men are created equal. The class is engrossed in this fascinating angle of history, and you can’t help but ponder- how? Why? Yet, all of that seems unrelated to you and in the past.

But what if I told you it’s not?

Modern day slavery is very much existent but takes on a different name of human trafficking. Rho Kappa, also known as the National Social Studies Honor Society is a newly founded club here at Sunset High School. Their goal is to elevate interest in social issues, strengthen the Social Studies department, and ultimately further participation in advocacy.

The most recent Speaker Series facilitated by Rho Kappa took place in the community room on Monday, March 13th. Angela Sivers and Kara D’Ascenzo, juniors from St. Mary’s Academy in downtown Portland are on the board of Youth Ending Slavery (YES) –a non-profit against human trafficking.

As the speakers started to present the powerpoint, engrossing over thirty Sunset students and faculty with mind grabbling statistics and informative videos, Sivers and D’Ascenzo spoke about how they personally got involved with YES. The intimate group opened the door for a detailed question and answer session, ultimately sparking discussion. The main question came down to: what can we do?

While many people have heard of sex trafficking, the speakers pointed out, it is not widely known that the other most common form of human trafficking is labor trafficking. In fact, Youth Ending Slavery informs us that while roughly 53% of all human trafficking is related to the sex trade, a whopping 40% is related to the labor trade! There are three main components of trafficking: the victim, the trafficker, and the purchaser.

That leads us back to what we, as students of a regular suburban high school can do. We never see any of this stuff in real life: while it is terrible, at times, it feels like a far, distant world. How can we make a difference exactly?

One word: prevention.

Angela Sivers explained that people don’t tend to realize this social issue is a business; at the same time, people underestimate the power of the consumer. A lot of major companies such as Hershey’s and Forever 21 were active participants of cheap labor in third world countries. However, companies like H&M and Nike have recently taken significant measures to start ethically making changes in the production phase of their products. Companies in America, now more than ever, are incredibly conscious of the voice of the consumer and the sound of our wallets, too.

“I was initially really surprised to hear about Nike because so many people I know work at the Nike Headquarters, but I’m so glad they’ve been trying to change that,” Junior Sarthak Shah remarks.

While everyday consumers can make a tangible impact, the most significant way to inch closer to solving this issue is awareness. Too often, we only realize the gravity of an issue when it is too late. So spread the word, be a conscious shopper, and keep your eyes and hearts open with compassion.

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