Alyona – modern day slave
Alyona was a Russian teenager who worked tirelessly to support her bedridden parents. One day, she was offered a job in a new modern hotel in Greece, where she would clean, host and waitress for $1000 a month. Holding onto the belief that she could assist her family and radically improve her lifestyle with the new-found employment, she paid $50 to arrange the necessary travel documents. The nightmare began for her and six other women when they arrived. They were taken into the darkness of a factory basement, where Alyona was repeatedly beaten and forced to work 16 hours a day as a sex slave. For months, the girls slept on cold, wet concrete floors and had no contact with the outside world or any exposure to daylight.
Modern day slavery is a darkness that has been hidden for far too long. The U.S. Department of State’s conservative estimate is that there are currently 27 million men, women and children in bondage across the globe. “Right now, in the 21st century, there are more people trapped in slavery than ever before. One has to wonder… how is this happening?” says the A21 Campaign’s CEO, Christine Caine.
Fuelled by a global demand for sex and labour, human trafficking has become the fastest growing crime today. Priceless human beings are bought and sold as commodities in much the same way as we buy and sell products and resources like chocolates, food or clothing. It’s a gross violation of human rights, where victims at the average age of twelve are forced into countless acts against their will and ultimately lose their freedom and dignity.
While Alyona’s case was in Eastern Europe where trafficking proliferates in an environment of corruption and fear, there are hundreds of unidentified victims who exist a lot closer to home. Australia is a destination country for 300 to 1,000 people who are trafficked from Southeast Asia each year. Women frequently fall for online advertisements or place their trust in the wrong men, and end up being exploited in the very country where they were promised ‘paradise’. Human trafficking is not just a global problem. It’s a local problem.
Rather than getting overwhelmed by the statistics, the A21 Campaign is a non-governmental organisation that is absolutely determined to proclaim a message of freedom and abolish injustice in the 21st century. “We were not experts or professionals. We weren’t lawyers or social workers or psychologists … but we were ordinary people that just knew something had to happen,” says Christine Caine as she reflects on the organisation’s birth in 2008.
The problem of human trafficking is complex, but A21’s four-tiered solution is simple: Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership. Wherever they have a presence, they seek to educate and raise awareness in law enforcement agencies, schools, universities and churches. They have four restoration facilities where the victims of human trafficking are taken from a point of crisis to a state of stability in an environment where they can heal and make informed decisions about their future.
On the other end of the spectrum, A21 lawyers seek to prosecute traffickers and send them to prison in order to cut the industry’s legs from underneath. So far, A21 lawyers have seen 34 traffickers sentenced with a combined total of 453 years behind bars.
The A21 Campaign will never stop taking ground and fighting for justice. That’s where you come in. It’s important that in the battle against modern day slavery, people act now and work together by simply using what they have in their hand to make a difference. The abolition of injustice relies on ordinary people like you and me stepping out and giving a voice to the voiceless.
There is a hope rising from the steps of the Opera House to the stretch of beach in Surfers Paradise. A hope rising from the vibrant city of Perth to the outskirts of Hobart … a hope rising from the Melbourne Cricket Ground to the red sand of Alice Springs. Australians are uniting under the same banner of freedom. There are numerous individuals on the ground raising awareness and money for A21 through creative events such as fun runs and high teas.
Will you be a part of the solution?
Several months down the track, Alyona and the other girls were released because of their devastating physical state. Alyona was found and taken by a local authority to A21’s shelter. In the transition home, time and care enabled her to recover from her past experiences and empowered her to look to the future. She is now safe and secure. Today, Alyona is flourishing and travelling around the world with a job on a cruise ship: her dream vocation.