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Columbia Spectator Staff

Economics is the primary force behind the thriving existence of modern day slavery, or human trafficking. As a crime driven by supply and demand, trafficking requires a continual demand from consumers and a supply of available victims to sustain the cycle. At a Columbia event that kicked off Freedom Week this past Sunday, author and researcher Siddharth Kara, Business '01, illuminated the highly lucrative nature of sex trafficking and the economic reasons behind the appeal of the industry, which stem from its ability to generate immense profits at almost no real risk.   The rise of globalization has only further increased the potential benefits to be reaped by those involved, and the growth in this illicit business means that there are millions of people trafficked around the world. The severity of abuse endured by the trafficked victims has brought human trafficking to the forefront of the agendas of human rights and social justice activists, creating a massive outpouring of generosity and birthing hundreds of organizations, mainly governmental and nonprofit, that claim the issue as their own.   While the ever-growing number of anti-trafficking organizations is no doubt a sign of an increasing dedication to the eradication of this crime, slavery is still a growing problem. The demand for sex slaves has risen as a result of the diminished costs of their acquisition via trafficking, which taps directly into the underlying economics of the issue. In spite of a well intentioned abolitionist movement at large, the rate of substantial change is still questionable. This lack of success among anti-trafficking organizations is largely due to the misdirection of efforts. A successful abolitionist movement must address the economic nature of modern-day slavery.  It is only logical that in order to effectively fight a crime that is essentially economic, one must employ economic tools. Nomi Network, an anti-trafficking organization in New York, understands and fills that gap by offering a sustainable and approachable method of fighting slavery. Nomi accomplishes this by building partnerships between the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Through its unique business model, Nomi aims to leverage the marketplace in order to provide economic and educational empowerment to trafficking survivors and at-risk women. In so doing, Nomi fights the powerful economics of supply and demand in the sex industry with its own sustainable model by offering employment to survivors and creating a market for their products.   Nomi's model provides the missing link in the emancipation cycle, a holistic approach to fighting trafficking. The cycle outlines the method by which organizations can intercede on behalf of the victims through prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration, and empowerment. Yet while the emancipation cycle attacks the issue from multiple angles, it still lacks sources of revenue to sustain it. Nomi goes beyond the boundaries of charity and generates revenue through the sales of fashion-conscious products that appeal to a global market. This model, based on the economics of supply and demand, creates an effective counter-cycle to the one that fuels slavery today.  Furthermore, Nomi Network offers each person the opportunity to actively fight this complicated global issue on an everyday level. Nomi's model is founded upon the idea that everybody can be an abolitionist by tapping into basic consumer tendencies. Rather than soliciting large donations or extensive amounts of time, Nomi leverages the power of the consumer dollar and facilitates the demand for slave-free products. Thanks to the widespread use of the Internet and social networking tools such as Twitter, Nomi offers easy access to its socially conscious products, giving hope to the abolitionist movement at large.  Nomi's model of "approachable abolitionism" offers a revolutionary tactic against trafficking. By employing an economic strategy to fight an economic crime, Nomi Network provides a remarkably hopeful message for what can be a daunting and overwhelming mission, and it represents the future of the abolitionist movement.  Lucy Herz is a Columbia College junior majoring in philosophy. Hei-Yue Pang is a Barnard College senior majoring in political economy.

Nomi Network human trafficking