As Blue Campaign defines, human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labour or commercial sex act. While traffickers might use different methods, the most noticeable methods to lure victims into trafficking situations are violence, manipulation, false promises of well-paying jobs and romantic relationships.

Like many stories shared by A21, a non-profit organisation founded by Christine Caine that raises awareness against human trafficking, Maya* is a 14-year-old girl from a close-knit family in Latin America. Her cousin began forcing her to have sex with his friends. They threatened to involve Maya’s younger siblings if she did not do what they wanted.

Fearing for her siblings, Maya eventually gave in to her cousin’s demands. Fortunately, Maya’s mother sensed something was wrong. When she asked Maya about it, Maya confided in her, telling her everything.

Maya was referred to A21 for support. They assisted her with reporting and stopping her abusers from selling her for sex. Maya joined A21 Life Programs to develop practical daily skills and plan for the future. And currently, Maya is thriving and excelling in her class with new excitement and peace. Thanks to organisations like A21, Maya has gained hope for her future.

See, the first thing that might cross your mind is how could her cousin do such a thing? I hate to break it to you because 90% of Human trafficking victims know their abusers who usually threaten or groom them into keeping it a secret. This is why we need to teach young people the essential skills to tell the difference between safe and unsafe secrets.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 79% of human trafficking is sexual exploitation, mostly of women and children. 18% of human trafficking is for forced labour, which is less frequently detected and reported than sexual exploitation. While statistics may seem like just numbers, it’s important to remember that each number represents a real person, someone’s child, aunty, daughter, nephew, or a loved one. Reducing human trafficking to mere numbers can trivialise its severity and impact.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if Maya had never confided in her mother. So many stories go unheard, with countless victims suffering in silence every day, too afraid to speak up.

Silence is a killer.

The first step in breaking the silence is to become aware of human trafficking and its various forms. The more we speak on this issue, the better equipped we will be to identify the signs and beat this problem. We need public education campaigns, awareness-raising movements and more volunteers at anti-trafficking organisations.

One of the most impactful actions to keep the conversation going is the annual A21 walk, held worldwide in October. Participants, with informative posters, come together in silence, walking through towns and cities. This silent solidarity not only amplifies the message but also symbolises the voicelessness of human trafficking victims.

While certain factors like policies and legislation may be beyond our individual control, it remains our responsibility to speak out against human trafficking by actively raising our voices on this critical issue.

If you suspect it, report it!

0800222777 is the South African Human Trafficking Hotline number.

This Hotline takes calls 24/7. You will speak to specially trained professionals who follow international procedures, ensuring the fastest response to each case.

Tell us: What would you do if you suspected human trafficking was occurring?