Linking the Millennium Development Goals and Human Trafficking: A Youthful Perspective

March 20, 2014| by Tiffany Taylor, U.S. Youth Observer

Despite more than a dozen international conventions banning slavery in the past 150 years, there are more slaves today than at any point in human history. Slaves are those forced to perform services for no pay beyond subsistence and for the profit of others who hold them through fraud and violence. While most are held in debt bondage in the poorest regions of South Asia, some are trafficked in the midst of thriving development.[1]

– Time Magazine

The first session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) began in 1947 and declared as its mission the responsibility to “to raise the status of women, irrespective of nationality, race, language or religion, to equality with men in all fields of human enterprise, and to eliminate all discrimination against women.” While huge attempts have been made to realize this goal, decades later, human trafficking, “the illegal trade of human beings, through abduction, the use of threat of force, deception, fraud or ‘sale’ for the purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labor” is still alive and costing many people their lives and freedom, while enriching others with profit. I have learned throughout my second week participating in events surrounding CSW that in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, human trafficking must be stopped. The ending of human trafficking and achieving the Millennium Development Goals are intertwined


Research shows that there is a strong linkage between human trafficking and the Millennium Development Goals. For example, those who experience poverty and a lack of education are much more vulnerable to human trafficking. Furthermore, the third Millennium Development Goal hopes to inspire all nations to achieve gender equity and the empowerment of women to the same level of men. However, human trafficking, which disproportionately occurs among women, leads to sexual, physical, and mental abuse, which is a clear “violation of women’s human rights and negates gender equality.”[2]

After learning about the linkages between human trafficking and the Millennium Development Goals during the beginning half of the second week of the 58th Session of CSW, I made it a priority to learn about the ways in which youth can get involved in ending human trafficking, particularly among women who make up the majority of today’s victims of slavery. Women are trafficked for different reasons, “such as commercial sex, agricultural work, or housekeeping, yet they all share the loss of one of our world’s most cherished rights – freedom.” Shockingly I learned that no one is immune to being captured and forced into human trafficking: “Trafficked persons can be rich or poor, men or women, adults or children, and foreign nationals or US citizens.” [3] Even more infuriating is the fact that many of these trafficked women are sold off by their own parents and relatives, the same people they rely on for protection.

Even though human trafficking is a large and perplexing problem, young people are tackling it. I learned about an awesome project being carried out throughout Cambodia in which youth are creating and performing songs and other forms of art in order to spread the message about the disastrous effects of human trafficking. There is even a webpage on the U.S. Department of State’s website that showcases how to combat human trafficking in everyday life, listing 20 tips that anyone can do to combat human trafficking.

Ultimately, I have learned that although many of the global issues discussed by thousands at the United Nations can seem daunting, we all can do small things every day to end giant problems. There is no excuse. We can start small or large, but the main point is to start from wherever you are in life to help  better the world.