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NYU Students Take On Human Trafficking

Photo: Panel (Rebecca Bavinger)

When most people hear about human trafficking for the first time, their reaction is likely to be similar to Kate Horner’s: “Human what?” When a friend first brought up the issue, Kate Horner, now a student at NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, was dumbfounded. Rebecca Bavinger, Kate’s classmate, learned about the issue from reading a beauty magazine in a hair salon when she was 18. Last week, Kate and Rebecca held a weeklong series of events to bring awareness of the issue to even more of their classmates, at Stop Traffic! Human Trafficking Awareness Week. 

Before arriving at NYU Wagner, both Rebecca and Kate forged their own paths as activists – Kate worked as the co-organizer of DC Stop Modern Slavery, spent three years with Free the Slaves, volunteered with Polaris Project, and interned with Vital Voices, whereas Rebecca co-founded Students Stopping Trafficking of People, worked for Made By Survivors both in the US and in India, started a social enterprise to train and hire survivors in India, and volunteered as an overnight shelter aide at Polaris. When asked what inspires her to keep going, Kate notes, “Although our culpability is difficult to acknowledge, having a role also means having real power to create change. That’s why I keep going, because I know that I have the power to very directly be part of the solution.”

Rebecca and Kate decided to take their passion for fighting human trafficking onto their campus at NYU Wagner because, as Kate said, “Trafficking intersects with a lot of these other big policy issues (dealt with on campus) so there is a broad awareness of trafficking. The understanding of it and how it relates to these different policy areas, however, is still quite shallow.” Rebecca and Kate arranged a variety of events to make sure that their classmates got a deeper understanding of the issue, including panels on supply chains, pimps, and anti-trafficking policies, as well as supporting the NYU Wagner / NYU Law production of the Vagina Monologues, and hosting a film screening with UNICEF.

The series of events was very successful; for Rebecca, her highlight of the week was “the level of engagement from the audiences. Every event was packed, and the questions were very well thought out and displayed true interest and concern for the issues.”

Though Kate and Rebecca are super-inspirational powerhouses on the issue, they both have lots of ideas for anyone to get involved.

“I think the most important thing for college students is to raise awareness about the issue at a higher level of understanding,” says Rebecca. For example, “there are university-wide campaigns to use sweat-free clothing sources for university apparel, to have organic/local food in university cafeterias, and to have a fair wage for all university employees. Getting a college to adhere to those standards is a HUGE win for the fight against exploitation and trafficking.”

“You can be part of the solution,” Kate adds. “We have the power to take money out of traffickers’ pockets through our purchasing decisions. We have the power to expose pimping for the cruel and cowardly act that it is. We have the power to pressure our lawmakers to do more, at home and abroad. We have the power to support a growing movement of people working tirelessly against trafficking because they believe a more just world is possible.”

If you’re a college student looking for a way to take action today, take part in the Against Our Will Challenge – your idea to help end human trafficking could win you $10,000!