Human Trafficking

The Human Trafficking and Migration Initiative’s October 2020 Virtual Summit centers around labor trafficking and includes speakers, panels and documentaries from across the world.

The Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs is presenting the virtual summit throughout the month, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Human Trafficking and Migration Initative page. Every event is uploaded by midnight of the previous day and can be viewed by anyone, according to the page. Each event will be available on the page past their premiere date for a certain amount of time.

Courtney Hillebrecht, associate professor of political science and director of the Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, said UNL has had a fall program related to human trafficking for 12 years. 

“We’ve done a number of different formats for our human trafficking work, and what we’re trying to do is really shed a light on this ongoing challenge, which will hopefully leave people feeling inspired to take whatever action they can,” Hillebrecht said.

Sriyani Tidball, practitioner in residence of human rights & humanitarian affairs and chairperson of the virtual summit, said the summit became virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Hillebrecht and Tidball said that hosting the summit virtually opened up various opportunities, like increasing the amount of speakers and presenters and expanding their audience.

“There’s a lot of people we can get around the globe to talk to our students, staff and community members that we couldn’t otherwise fly in for a week or a couple of days,” Hillebrecht said.

Hillebrecht said the theme this year is labor trafficking because many of the indigenous women who particpated in last year’s conference about missing and murdered indigenous women also talked about a connection between sex trafficking in their communities and labor trafficking. 

On Oct. 21, Debra Haaland, the first Native American U.S Congresswoman, is giving a presentation about the challenges of missing and murdered indigenous women and the trafficking of Native American women and children, according to Hillebrecht.

A documentary featured in the summit is “The Price of Free,” which highlights the relationship between the habits of consumers with forced labor and modern day slavery, according to Hillebrecht.

Julia Reilly, assistant professor of practice of human rights and humanitarian affairs at the School of Global Integrative Studies, said she was a part of the planning for the summit and she came across “The Price of Free” online. Reilly said the documentary connects the fashion industry with labor trafficking.

“I think the fashion industry connection is a way that labor trafficking might impact many of our lives by the consumer choices that we make, and we might not even know,” Reilly said.

Reilly said it is important for people to realize how many areas human trafficking can affect in their lives, like the clothes people wear, or who picked or produced the food that they eat.

The first keynote address was Kevin Bales, professor of contemporary slavery at Nottingham University, where he framed some major issues in contemporary anti-slavery, both in terms of the challenges and opportunities that stakeholders, activists and students have to fight against labor trafficking and modern day slavery, according to Hillebrecht.

“He has done work all over the world, like in African nations, in Southeast Asia and he’s an interesting guy to listen to,” Tidball said. “Although he’s a researcher, he connects with his audience.”

Hillebrecht said the goal of the summit is for the audience members to understand the problem of labor trafficking, but to also know how they can make a difference to stop labor trafficking.

“We want to inspire students because they are the people who are going to bring the change that we want to see,” Tidball said.