by Michelle Palmer
This week, I want to highlight another anti-slavery organization that I believe is doing some amazing work. (You can read my first organizational profile on Free the Slaves here, and the Modern Slavery Primer here.) IJM (International Justice Mission) is a large, multinational non-profit organization who work with local law enforcement to fight slavery. IJM came back to the forefront of my mind recently when they premiered this video on Facebook, SUPERMAARKO, as part of their campaign to fight cybersex trafficking. It came across my newsfeed several times before I actually sat down and watched it. It’s heartbreaking and harrowing, and it encourages me that IJM is doing something to help kids like Maarko.
How they frame the problem
One of the unique things about IJM is their approach to the problem of slavery. IJM founder and CEO, Gary Haugen, suggests a theory that violence is the catalyst behind slavery and exploitation. (His TED Talk is here, and more resources and links to his book, The Locust Effect, are here.)
“According to the United Nations, 4 billion people live outside the protection of the law. That means that their public justice systems – their police, courts, and laws – are so broken, corrupt and dysfunctional, that there is nothing to shield them from violence.”
How they fight the problem
Framing the problem of slavery this way directly affects how they approach fighting slavery. Instead of ignoring or working outside of the broken justice systems they encounter, they work with local law enforcement.
The first part of the process looks something like this: Once victims are identified, IJM works with law enforcement to carry out rescue operations. IJM then provides training to help prosecute the perpetrators, remaining active throughout the legal process. (IJM also ensures the victims are given proper, individual care and rehabilitation.) In doing so, they “build relationships within the system, uncover where the system is broken, and prove the system can work.”
The second part of the process focuses on fixing the justice system by providing resources, training, accountability, and maybe most important of all, HOPE. And this creates something remarkably beautiful: PREVENTION. In my nearly 10 years studying modern anti-slavery, I have seen (and sometimes participated in) the glorification of “freeing slaves” and romantic ideas about Liam Neeson busting down doors to rescue a victim, but how wonderful to think that it can be PREVENTED from ever happening in the first place? That’s the real dream there. I love that IJM doesn’t check out after Part 1. They empower the local justice system to WORK. They work to become unnecessary in an area. After four years of work in The Philippines, there were up to 86% drops in the availability of minors for commercial sexual exploitation in major cities. Cambodia has seen a drastic decrease of minors in the sex trade. Owning slaves in India has become more risky as law enforcement have become more aggressive. All thanks to IJM’s work.
CASE STUDY / THE PHILIPPINES
When IJM began working in the Philippines, cases against traffickers often took more than five years – and could take twice that long. Because convictions were so slow to come, it seemed like traffickers would never be held accountable. Many people did not believe that the justice system could actually stop these criminals.
But the IJM teams in the Philippines have partnered with local prosecutors and courts to prove that the system can actually work, securing the conviction of scores of traffickers and concluding recent cases in as little as seven or eight months.
How they contribute to global abolition
Y’all know I love research. And I especially love when organizations share what they’ve learned to help others in the field to work smarter and better. In addition to the Locust Effect resources, IJM also publishes its research on their website, here.
How you can help
There are lots and lots of ways to get involved with IJM’s work listed on the website. IJM is a Christian organization, and they have lots of resources for church leaders to use with groups and congregations. There are also options to advocate, fundraise, and volunteer with IJM. Check out all the opportunities here.
But like Free the Slaves, IJM needs financial support to do what they do. One super easy way to help is to sign up for Shop and Support. This could not be easier. You just shop at the places listed (One of them is Lowe’s! You handymen and handywomen out there need to get on this!), and money goes to IJM. It doesn’t cost you a penny! If you are willing to spend a penny or two, you can check out the gift catalog. (If you’re planning to get me anything for Christmas, I’d happily have something from the IJM gift catalog!) And of course you can always GIVE one time and monthly donations.
I’m forgoing the For More Information… section this week because there are TONS of links in the body of the post. Check em out, learn more about IJM’s incredible model, and find a way to get involved with their amazing work!