This blog post is a republication of work by The Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking (GBCAT), a business- led initiative supported by global businesses committed to preventing and reducing the incidence of human trafficking and other forms of slavery in their operations and global supply chains, and supporting survivors of exploitation.
And the National Survivor Network of Resilient Voices, a values-based, survivor-led professional membership network for survivors of human trafficking who are engaged in or preparing for leadership in the anti-trafficking movement.
Human Trafficking is a complex system which includes labor exploitation, slavery, child labor, forced labor, child soldiering, organ trafficking, and sex trafficking. While “victim” and ”survivor” are commonly accepted titles and can be markers in a person’s healing journey, it is important to remember that they do not describe who the person is, or identify something they did wrong. These labels only reflect something that has happened to them. These labels, if confused with a person’s identity, can diminish someone’s capacity to fulfill their potential. To set an individual up for success, we must see them through a holistic lens and engage them through approaches that capture all their humanity.
Trauma-informed programs acknowledge that many people have experienced a form of trauma. A trauma response or activated trauma is a survival response of fight, flight, or freeze to a situation that correlates to a lived trauma. To engage someone with activated trauma, we must pull them out of their survival mind that is reactionary and into their conscious mind through corrective experiences, where they can reason and form new relationships with the situations around them. Understanding that this activated trauma creates an unconscious response is a critical component of de escalating the trauma response. This context allows us to navigate situations with insight and compassion, not only in the workplace, but as a way of being with others.
Research demonstrates that social capital— our relationships, networks, workplaces, and neighborhoods—is the most critical driver of a person’s resilience. Social capital is measured by trust and cooperation and how we extend hospitality and affection to one another. Social capital promotes a sense of interdependency, belonging, and community.
Businesses are in a unique position to address the needs of survivors of human trafficking and help them to access and build the social capital that supports their resilience. Through their own operations and in partnership with other organizations, businesses can provide paid internships or apprenticeships that allow survivors to build critical resume skills as well as to form new relationships that will serve them in the present and beyond. Businesses that seek to create a trauma-informed workplace must support the growth and success of their employees through a strength- based approach to work, reinforcing employees’ assets, resources, and talents. Empowering individuals to think of themselves as gifted motivates survivors that might have otherwise thought of themselves as disadvantaged, inspiring the true agency required to effect change in one’s own life and in one’s community. These opportunities enable survivors to be economically independent and empower them to dream and take manageable steps to become the vision they hope for themselves. Stable, long- term employment, a focus on employee strengths, and a dedication to addressing the root causes of human trafficking allow businesses to invest in their own future and their communities, and build a better way forward with sustainable development in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
To date, much of the discussion in the business and anti-trafficking community has been on identifying, preventing, and mitigating the risk of forced labor, debt bondage, and human trafficking in business’ operations and supply chains. With this Guide, GBCAT aims to spark awareness about how the private sector can go further to address the needs of survivors of these forms of exploitation, proactively supporting them to access vocational training and secure good jobs both within a business’ own operations and through the operations of its business partners. By connecting survivors with vocational training opportunities and access to good and safe jobs, survivors
GBCAT Business Guide on Survivor Empowerment and Employment can better build the skills and resources they need to achieve financial security and long term safety. Increased security reduces the likelihood that survivors or their families will be re-exploited in the future. Cultivating work environments and cultures that are inclusive and accommodating to the needs of survivors may also benefit other workers who have experienced other forms of exploitation, violence, and trauma.
This Guide is intended for individuals working in global business departments such as Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion, and Community Engagement. Personnel in departments that oversee the business’ approach to human trafficking issues (e.g. Human Rights, Public Policy, Legal, or Sustainability) or those who regularly engage with suppliers and contractors (e.g. Supply Chain or Procurement) may also benefit.
This Guide does not explore how a business can better prevent, identify, or address human trafficking in its own operations and those of its business partners. These are actions that all businesses should be conducting at a minimum before exploring strategies to support survivors. For a primer on these steps, see Addressing Forced Labor and Other Human Trafficking Risks: A Toolkit for Small and Medium-Sized Suppliers.
This Guide was written by Shubha Chandra, Sara Enright, and Alice Pease, with support and input from the participants of GBCAT. The authors conducted interviews and consultations with over 20 organizations that support survivors of human trafficking, reviewed literature on the topic, and solicited input from experts, including survivor leaders from the Survivor Alliance and the National Survivor Network’s Resilient Voices leadership program. Any errors are those of the authors.
Please direct comments or questions to GBCAT at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read or download the Guide here.
Click to learn more about The Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking or National Survivor Network of Resilient Voices.