January 11th was Human Trafficking Day, a date and topic that hits close to home for us here at 50 Cents. Period. as we continue to fight against cultural stigmas and to educate young girls worldwide. Human trafficking is an obvious blockade to education. Adolescent girls are the main prey for the slavers, who often hunt in areas where there is a strong cultural stigma surrounding the topics of reproductive health and menstrual cycles. These young girls have had little to no education on women’s health, and the confines of the slave trade industry offer no opportunities to remedy that situation.
But the impact of the human slave trade penetrates much deeper into a community than just limited a woman’s knowledge and control of her reproductive and health choices. Human trafficking has recently received a lot of attention from the international press, but for 50.Cents. Period, the problem hits close to home for another reason. It might surprise many that Atlanta (where 50 Cents. Period. is headquartered) is considered the sexual exploitation hub of the United States. Atlanta CBS affiliate WGCL reported last week that approximately 200-300 girls are sexually exploited in Georgia each month, with up to half of those occurrences in Atlanta. Some are runaways, who may be trying to escape physical abuse at home. Typically, these girls are lured into the sex trade around the age of 12. Some are young girls who have been trafficked into the United States from all regions of the world and represent a variety of different races, ethnic groups and religions. Some may be brought to the U.S. legally, but most of them are smuggled in specifically for the sex trade. The rapid increase of this crime is alarming; the United States Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has stated that human trafficking has surpassed the sale of illegal arms, and estimates that within a few years, it will also surpass the drug trade. In the U.S. the human trafficking trade has seen significant increases over the past two years, and is now present (and growing) in all fifty states.
What is 50 Cents. Period. doing about human trafficking? First and most importantly, we are spreading the word. Educating the public about the problem is the first step in solving the problem. In Atlanta, we work with refugee communities to make sure girls and women are aware of the exploitation in the community, and provide educational programs to empower them against those who would seek to victimize them. We provide a safe place for them to go if they need to report cases of exploitation, or to escape from possible dangers themselves.
50 Cents. Period.’s stated mission is to “empower women and girls to stay fully engaged in their communities and education.” While the focus of the organization’s efforts have been around removing the stigma and barriers surrounding period, gender and reproductive choices, it is becoming increasingly vital that women and girls be given the tools and the self-confidence to avoid the trap of exploitation. With the appropriate publicity and resources to continue raising awareness, we can continue to enable women of all ages to address a situation that is detrimental to them and their community.