One fateful day in the late summer of 2012, I walked by a lone man on the side of the street holding up a sign. As I approached him, I could see that his sign aimed to raise awareness of human trafficking, a subject that was rarely and barely discussed as a gripping problem in Mongolia at the time. After engaging him in short conversation, I learned that his name was Ganzorig Ts, and that it had been a couple of years since his young daughter had become a victim of human trafficking. Desperate and helpless, with no tangible resources or establishments to help him in his search for his daughter, he had been doing everything in his power to find her since, alone or not. It had been a fruitless search that did not seem to bring him closer to finding his daughter. Within a month after our first encounter, I found out that Mr. Ganzorig had passed away due to reasons unknown. It was suspected that his death was linked back to the human traffickers who had stolen his daughter. It was a death that garnered national attention, especially among young adults. What seemed like for the first time, people were spurred to use their collective voice and power to bring spotlight to a widespread, serious problem that had plagued the nation but hadn’t been addressed in any substantial way. This was the preamble to a national movement to increase awareness of and fight, in real and earnest ways, against the silent cancer that had spread across Mongolia.
After the passing of Mr. Ganzorig, I dedicated myself to learning as much as I could about human trafficking cases and dug deep into the facts behind each case. The more and more I read, and the deeper I dug, many questions arose, mostly out of disbelief and the difficulty of accepting what I was learning as true. How could this be happening in Mongolia? How could it have gotten so prevalent without it being brought to widespread attention sooner? How do we stop it?
The movement that began upon Mr. Ganzorig’s death only got bigger after that. More and more people, especially young adults, began to come together and have open conversations about human trafficking. The zealousness of the conversation grabbed the attention of the presses, and organically, the topic of human trafficking and our shared desire to fight it began to catch fire. The significance of the issue of human trafficking and the urgency in combating it finally became a national topic. As with everything, treatment can begin only after the cancer has been discovered. This was a momentous step in the right direction. With the help of national news outlets and social media, the topic grabbed the attention of Mongolians within and around the world. We are right in the midst of this fight now.
Since it all began, various non-profit and non-governmental organizations have reached out to us seeking ways to help. Their collaboration has been of great value, but something we’ve noticed about the composition of these NPO and NGOs has revealed to be even of more significance. Over 80% of the people who work and volunteer for these organizations that support human trafficking causes consist of women. It was an imbalanced ratio that naturally led to the question: where are the men in all this? After all, aren’t men the main perpetrators of human trafficking? This juxtaposition made it clear to us that however much effort we put to fighting against human trafficking, we will never be completely rid of it unless we tackle the source of it. It became clearer to us that we must start with educating not only women and girls about the various ways perpetrators carry out human trafficking activity and ways to protect themselves against falling prey, but we must also make sure we are educating the men in our society - the husbands and the brothers, to respect and value the women in our lives. The men, too, play a pivotal role in this societal, collective fight against human trafficking. We must raise our boys to value girls, to see them as equals, while also realizing their role in defending the rights of women, that they, too, must fight just as hard to ensure their mother’s and sister’s rights remain intact. A result of this awareness was manifested through the 100 Guys Against Human Trafficking campaign that called men to action against human trafficking. The fight must continue, our voices must be heard, and we must all act together, as this is a human fight against human trafficking.