Local Walk, Global Impact

Chris Harper

Soon, local protesters in Seattle plan on banding together and making a difference by participating in the worldwide A21 rally.

From the year of 2017 alone, there were 783 active criminal and civil human trafficking cases which involved over 1900 defendants being overseen by the federal court system.

Over 95 percent of all active criminal trafficking cases are sex trafficking cases. The state of Washington is ranked 13 in the nation with regard to the volume of active cases in the federal courts.

Now imagine these statistics on a far more grand, yet tragic, scale.

As of September 2017, the International Labor Organization estimated that almost 25 million men, women and children were victims of human trafficking worldwide, with over 71 percent being female.

A21, a global anti-human trafficking organization, was formed in 2014. Their purpose is to raise awareness about the millions trapped in slavery.

Operating in 13 countries, participants wear black and walk single file all over the world. A21 aims to combat modern day slavery with their multidimensional strategy, “Reach, Rescue, Restore.”

For the organization, this strategy is incredibly important to their mission.

Reach signifies reducing vulnerability by engaging people through events, student presentations, and education programs.

Rescue means identifying victims by working closely with law enforcement on the ground to support police operations, in hopes of eradicating slavery at every level.

Restore references empowering victims by working face-to-face with every person their care based on their individual needs, providing them with access to housing, medical treatment, counseling, education, employment and repatriation to help them reach a place of independence.

With Seattle considered a trafficking hot spot in America, Seattle’s A21 walk is of that much more importance.

“The walk raises imperative awareness about an issue that is deeply ingrained in our city, and if left in the shadows of naivete or apathy it has the potential to compound, impacting so many more lives than even those being trafficked” Marla Cowles, the Seattle lead for A21, said.

“We have been doing the walk for a few years, and every year it has gotten bigger. Seattle has been rallying and becoming more and more involved. Especially since Seattle is a hot spot for trafficking. The walk hits home and makes a broader impact due to its community driven intimacy,” Cowles said on the impact and empowerment that locals are creating towards this ever increasing issue.

A21 is heavily involved in the state of Washington, with a plan to lobby roughly 21 state senators and Seattle representatives.

These senators include Gov. Inslee, Lt. Gov. Habib, Senators Cantwell and Murray, Representatives Jayapal and Smith, as well as Mayor Durkan and other individuals with influence.

The goal is to get representatives to vote yes on Washington HB 2857. The bill prohibits prosecution or detention for juvenile prostitution and requires the Department of Social and Health Services to partner with behavioral health organizations to increase treatment for sexually exploited youth.

In King County alone, an estimated 300 to 500 children are prostituted annually, so this bill would be a tremendous help and necessity.

Seattle has quite a few corporations supporting A21, matching donations and providing gift certificates. SoulCycle, Premera, Oracle, Chipotle and Safeway are a few of the generous partnerships.

Several hundred people will be rallying together and walking to make a difference. Starting at 10 a.m. in Churchome and concluding in Pike Place, the massive collective dressed in black hope to continue to spark change.

Cowles stressed that, “the emphasis of our walk, in a city full of a myriad of backgrounds and that’s surfeit with intellectuals is that while logically we know we cannot singlehandedly turn the tide of slavery, we can collectively make an impact that can affect millions.”