The Walk Against Slavery Was Just a Start

Photo: Adrienne Toumayan (front left) and fellow attendees, including Free the Slaves co-founder Kevin Bales, at a debate on modern-day slavery (Adrienne Toumayan)

The DC Stop Modern Slavery Walk is this Saturday! We're profiling two student activists who are involved with the Walk in a two-part series--come back tomorrow for the second feature.

A passionate college professor first inspired Adrienne Toumayan to get involved in the fight against trafficking. The professor had been involved in a negotiation with traffickers and was upset by what she saw as an incomplete effort. “She felt like she hadn’t accomplished enough.  There was still so much to do to stop this worldwide crime,” Adrienne explained.

Adrienne’s first gig was an internship with Innocents at Risk, an anti-trafficking NGO in Washington, DC. From there, she was hooked. The American University student next worked as a College Outreach Liaison with last year’s DC Stop Modern Slavery Walk, produced research on trafficking in courses for her International Studies major, and organized films and events on campus. At the moment Adrienne is studying abroad in Pune, India and working to better the lives of sex trafficking victims and their children in the city’s red light district.

Along the way, she’s come to see things from her professor’s perspective – to take it personally.

“Why do I fight? Because I can.  Because I enjoy a life of freedom, and there is no reason that the estimated 27 million slaves today should not enjoy the same kind of life. I don’t want to live in a world where slavery is okay, where people turn a blind eye because it’s not happening to them.”

Any notion that trafficking and slavery continue to exist is unacceptable. So unacceptable that she’ll devote her free time to fighting against it. How did she come to feel so personally affected by the problem? One key, she thinks, is realizing that the problem isn’t as remote from us as it might seem. The world can be messed up, and we can’t fix everything. But once you know more about human trafficking it’s impossible to not be moved, to not take action.

“Once you hear about the issue, I mean really hear about some of the horrible things that are happening, you can’t do nothing. How can you ignore the problem once you realize that girls your age and much younger are viciously beaten, raped and tortured in cruel and unusual ways?” And it’s incorrect that trafficking only occurs in already suffering countries. “It’s easy to ignore the problem when you think it’s happening halfway across the world, but I think more and more people are realizing that it’s right in our backyard.”

Even though modern-day slavery can seem overwhelming, there are a number of ways you can take action on the issue and help end human trafficking. Adrienne’s provided some ideas below:

+ Research: “Use academic projects and assignments to research the issue and share your results with your classmates. Write an article for your student newspaper. Write a post about the issue in your blog.”

+ Take Action: “Find out if your school has an anti-trafficking group on campus, and if it doesn’t then start one!  Host a panel discussion or a film screening at your school to raise awareness.  Volunteer or intern with local NGOs—they need our support!  Keep an eye out for events or trainings in your area and get your friends involved.  Discover fair trade businesses and demand slave-free products from your favorite stores.”

+ Live around DC? “Check out DC Stop Modern Slavery! Any questions about our work or how to get involved with us feel free to email me and if you’re in DC this Saturday September 29 then come out to the National Mall to walk against modern-day slavery with us!”