During my visits to India, I have seen young children working in restaurants cleaning tables, selling stuff in the streets, begging on street corners or at traffic lights, doing agricultural labor or working in factories. Before I began my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I thought that child trafficking happened only in India. When I researched this subject, I was in disbelief to learn that child trafficking happens in the Bay Area, too.
According to UNICEF, child trafficking is the act of harboring, recruiting, transporting, transferring or receiving a person by means of fraud, force or coercion for the purpose of exploitation. Trafficked victims can be boys and girls.
I believe that the first step to eradicating child trafficking is to educate our future decision-makers. Knowing this empowered me to bring this to the attention of junior and high school students. These students will then help spread the word, helping protect many children from being trafficked.
So far, I have given presentations in four high schools in two southern cities in India. At Los Altos High School, I gave presentations to all the students who took Mr. Willse’s first semester Contemporary World Issues class. At Blach Intermediate School, I gave presentations to all the eighth-graders, to which I am grateful to Mr. Kane, Ms. Narula and Mr. Ramirez.
During my presentations, I explain what child trafficking is and what fuels it; I tell stories of trafficked children from around the world, compare a victim’s life to our life, talk about how the U.S regulates child labor and finally close it with a discussion on what we can all do together to help eradicate this unimaginable evil from this world.
When giving my presentations in India, I got to experience a different culture. I noticed that the students sat separated by gender, and in one of the schools, I had to take off my shoes before entering the presentation hall. I also had to be mindful that I talk slowly because of my accent. The students were respectful and asked many questions. Some even came up to talk to me after the presentation. This made me feel that my talk was worthwhile.
Before I started, I would first ask the students what they knew about child trafficking. I got many answers, but other than a couple, none of them hit the right definition. Some students had heard stories of child trafficking, while others thought child trafficking was a group of people moving on a road or highway creating quite literally a traffic jam. This scared me because poor community awareness presents a low-risk for traffickers, and they thrive on it. One student commented that trafficking will not happen in a wealthy city. They could not be more wrong. It is clear to me that children do not know enough about this topic, and I knew I was doing my part in spreading awareness.
We can help fight trafficking with education, buying the right products, electing leaders who care about combating this issue, through social media, being aware of our surroundings and reporting to officials any suspicious activities.
Anooshkha Shetty is a sophomore at Los Altos High School.