When I [saw] teenagers going around, going to the movies and just being a teen … I just couldn’t understand why my life has to be this way …  –“Nicole,” human trafficking victim

Whenever I discuss modern-day slavery with audiences–no matter where in the world I do so–the vast majority of people are stunned to learn that there are more people enslaved today than at any other time in history.

In my most recent post I highlighted the work of journalist Nicholas Kristof, including the book he co-wrote with his wife Sheryl Wudunn: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The stories in Half the Sky demonstrate clearly that the abuse and enslavement of women and girls is the most outrageous expression of terrorism of our time.

Now comes the story of two young girls from West Africa–one from a small village in Ghana, the other from Togo–who, rather than receive the education their parents were promised, were forced to work in a hair braiding shop in Newark, New Jersey. Against their will they worked, on their feet for 12 hours a day. At night they slept on the floor with groups of other enslaved girls. Their enslavement was enforced through beatings, the withholding of food, sexual abuse, and isolation.

A woman who heads a clinic to help young women after they are freed from such conditions said,

Sadly, the work of our clinic is necessary in every community in America. Human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery, exists in big cities, in small towns, in rural areas with no towns, exists in restaurants, in hair salons, in hotels and in farm work.

Learn about another aspect of this tragedy on December 6 and 7 when NPR’s All Things Considered airs a two-part series. “Trafficked” is produced by Youth Radio and discloses the system of enslavement of young girls in Oakland, California. The FBI says that more than 100,000 children and youth are forced into prostitution each year.

At our website we maintain a list of organizations dedicated to eradicating modern day slavery. Please check it out. Become informed. Take action. You can make a difference.