Photo Credit: © UNICEF/NYHQ2009-2579/Shehzad Noorani. Parul hides her face in Proshanti, a shelter managed by the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA). She was married at 14 years old, but her husband abandoned her when she became pregnant. She left the baby with her parents when her aunt offered to find her a job in Dhaka. The aunt instead brought her to Kolkata, India, and sold her to a brothel. She was forced to become a sex worker. She was later arrested in a police raid and sent to a local women’s shelter. 

Human trafficking is perhaps one of the most unimaginable practices in existence in today’s world. However, it is real and it is happening even outside my very own doorstep in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Just this morning when I picked up the newspaper, I read the startling news that the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul has been ranked the 13th largest center for child prostitution in the country. Thankfully much is being done to combat sex and human trafficking in Minnesota thanks to the newly signed piece of legislation called the Minnesota Safe Harbors Law.* Yet much more needs to be done in this combined metro area of close to 3 million people, and even a larger battle remains on a global scale.

Nearly no place in the world is untouched by human trafficking. Furthermore human trafficking can occur within and outside of international borders occurring in a variety of industries ranging from sex trade, to forced child labor and child soldiers. Oftentimes the victims are kidnapped against their will or inadvertently taken from their families who believe their children are going away to get an eduction where in reality they are being sold into a life of servitude and slavery inside a brothel.


Children as young and innocent as this little four year old girl in Honduras are being taken against their will and sold into the huge international child trafficking market.

According to Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking workforce based in Washington DC:

“Human trafficking affects every country around the world, regardless of socio-economic status, history, or political structure.  Human traffickers have created an international market for the trade in human beings based on high profits and demand for commercial sex and cheap labor.  Trafficking is estimated to be $32 billion industry, affecting 161 countries worldwide”.  An estimated 12.3 million men, women and children are trafficked for commercial sex or forced labor around the world today”.

What is even more disturbing is the prevalance of child trafficking worldwide and within the United States. An estimated 5.5 million children worldwide are victims of human trafficking, an absolute disgrace. What is even harder to believe is that thousands of these children are within the United States and child trafficking occurs within every single state. Human trafficking cases have been reported in every state.  The highest rates reported have been in California, New York, Texas and Florida.


Two of the lovely little girls I volunteered with in Honduras. Honduras is principally a source and transit country for women, girls, and boys trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. Honduran children are typically trafficked from rural areas to urban and tourist centers such as San Pedro Sula, the North Caribbean coast, and the Bay Islands. Honduran women and children are trafficked to Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, and the United States for sexual exploitation.

In order to raise awareness of child trafficking, January has been delegated as Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

UNICEF, the leader in protecting children worldwide, has partnered with American actress Angie Harmon, to gain support for The End Trafficking Project.  Ms. Harmon is participating in several Public Service Announcements airing in January to help raise awareness of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s End Trafficking Project. Please watch the video below to see firsthand the issues at stake. It is time we stood up for children worldwide and put an end to the unthinkable practice of human trafficking.

Please check out this “one-paper” by UNICEF on human trafficking.  And for more information, check out the End Trafficking Project.

Resources for this post:

UNICEF (www.unicef.org)

Polaris Project (http://www.polarisproject.org)

Southwest Journal (www.southwestjournal.com)

*The Minnesota Safe Harbors Law was signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton on July 20,2011. The law mandates that “Sexually exploited youth under age 16 are considered victims in need of protection, not criminals, and established a mandatory first referral to services for youth 16 and 17; Increases fines on johns to create a funding stream for supportive services, and develops a victim-centered statewide service model.

This post was written as part of my work with the Global Team of 200, a group of women bloggers who aim to raise awareness of social issues and change the world. To learn more about the Global Team of 200, click here


  1. It’s absolutely horrible and so easy to think that this doesn’t happen where I live. Yes it does, unfortunately, and we should all work together to combat this despicable practice. No human being, young, old, male, or female, deserves this. No one.

    1. Yes so true. It is so awful. Have you ever read the book HALF THE SKY or seen the documentary? It is unbelievable especially the trafficking stories. If you haven’t, put it on your list. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time that made me become passionate about social good work and advocacy.

  2. Great post Nicole, it is shocking to hear that about Minneapolis & St. Paul! Great to put the story of Shezhad at the top of your post, it is really powerful to read the stories of these children.

  3. There’s a documentary called “Half the Sky” that talks all about human trafficking in other countries, you should check it out! I think a lot of times it is really easy to forget that this kind of blasphemy is happening right outside our doors. Great post!

    1. Oh I LOVE that book and the documentary was incredibly difficult to watch. It is amazing. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Another good book is “Little Princes” by Conor Greenen about trafficked children in Nepal. I read it in two days flat.

    1. I actually didn’t either until I did a little more research. I knew it was a huge problem internationally but here in MN and in every state! That is crazy.

    1. Thanks! Yes I actually did read Conor’s book and met him at a book signing here in MN! I went to Nepal two years ago and was mesmerized by it. The book is excellent and there is so much more we can do to help. Another good book is HALF THE SKY, if you haven’t read it yet. Amazing! 🙂

    1. Yes indeed it is yet it is still happening even here! DId you ever read or see the documentary on Half the Sky? A lot took place in India and it was an amazing story about what some women are doing to help others escape the brothels from traffickers. So much to be done!

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