Cazzie Reyes is a Researcher for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center's Anti-Trafficking Programs. She graduated from Bradley University with a Bachelor's degree in International Studies and a minor in Women's Studies.
To start, people engaging in anti-trafficking work come from a multitude of disciplines and backgrounds. You don’t have to have a degree in criminal justice or social work to be in this field. For example, anti-trafficking organizations and businesses who prioritize corporate social responsibility hire engineers, brand managers and web developers to support their mission. See our job opportunities list for other career examples and current openings.
However, even if your academic path is not one typically associated with anti-trafficking, it’s still important to have an understanding of the human trafficking framework. Some universities and study abroad programs offer classes that give an overview of human trafficking or address a specific form of trafficking. If these are not available to you, search online for syllabi and reading lists. In addition, taking certain courses in international relations, economics, political science, history and sociology can give you a base foundation by which you can begin to understand the structures that create and perpetuate human trafficking.
Ultimately, you’ll want to specialize and be an expert in one area (both technical and regional expertise). But being a generalist as an undergrad and even in your first couple of entry-level jobs isn’t bad nor will that pigeonhole you to a few roles. Additionally, if you have a good idea on what part of the world you’d like to learn about and invest in, I’d suggest learning a language other than English. French, Spanish and Arabic are great languages to start with.
Most undergrad programs have a senior capstone project that’s completed in one or two semesters. Majors in the humanities typically have a thesis due, so there’s an opportunity to conduct quantitative and/or qualitative research there. Furthermore, students from other disciplines can creatively complete projects related to anti-trafficking. For instance, End Slavery Now’s Program Manager graduated with a degree in Graphic Communication Design, and her capstone project was a video for End Slavery Now.
Remember that each paper you write and every assignment you complete is a potential writing or portfolio sample for your future employer.
Other than formal coursework, professors and universities often bring in practitioners and academics for lectures and conferences. Attend events and meetings that host individuals in anti-trafficking. Ask questions, both general and those specific to their organizations and work. Get their business cards and if they’re open to it, follow up to see if you can stay connected.
Being on a college campus gives you the opportunity to mobilize people or to join a group of activists who care about anti-trafficking. Free the Slaves, International Justice Mission and The Free Project are a handful of organizations who have student groups. As a team, you can host a film screening or fundraisers, conduct campaigns and even lobby. Check out our Action Library for more ideas.
Engaging in advocacy work illustrates your ability to plan, communicate, organize, execute and review programming – all transferable skills.
There are more than one thousand organizations around the world that fight human trafficking. Our Antislavery Directory includes service providers that work directly with trafficked people, but there are for-profit businesses, auditing firms, law clinics, performance groups and other types of organizations as well. Furthermore, don’t discount organizations that are not labeled anti-trafficking. In the end, having solid work experience is key.
One final note on internships and volunteerism: especially with those programs that allow you to engage in direct care, pick an organization with well-grounded local support/collaboration, a rigorous application process and one that requires long-term commitment. Even if you are working in your home country, a more long-term role allows you to adjust to the cultural and professional environment which leads to better integration and indicates program continuity and commitment to the population you’ll be working with.
Read our post on volunteering for more information on what to consider and questions to ask before applying to volunteer for an anti-trafficking organization.
Read Polaris Project’s latest report identifying human trafficking in illicit massage businesses across the United States.
An Aruna Run is a 5k run/walk created by the Aruna Project. By participating in an Aruna Run, you can raise funds and secure freedom for a specific woman trapped in modern day slavery.