Jeannie Mai: Fight Against Human Trafficking

Jane Lu

Human trafficking is becoming the second largest crime in the world, and anyplace that’s war-torn and lacking in education is at risk. Listening to stories from victims of human trafficking and having personal experience with abuse made Jeannie Mai, producer, fashion expert, and host, an ambassador to fight the issue. On a SHE Innovates podcast, Michelle King, a leader in UN women’s gender innovation work, interviews Mai to discuss ways to end human trafficking.

Mai has worked with NightLight, a private organization in Thailand, to help mentor and encourage victims. Some people become victims of human trafficking because they owe money, while others are promised better lives and futures. The International Labor Organization estimates there are more than 20 million victims of human trafficking globally.

The global epidemic of human trafficking

Mai says that the business of bodies is very lucrative. When Libya lost its government, the first thing the country did was sell people as slaves. A lot of work had to be done, and sex is sought as a way to keep up the livelihood of the community.

There is no governmental structure that effectively punishes human trafficking. In countries where citizens receive little government protection, perpetrators receive a week in jail or the victim is blamed for being part of the business. Mai points out the United States’ inattention to human trafficking. She says there are 17 brothels on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard – a popular street that hosts red carpet Hollywood parties. There are at least 10 Google News notifications each day about trafficking crimes in the United States.

Lack of gender equality furthers the problem. Mai emphasizes that toxic masculinity and social approval when men act in a hostile manner enable men to downplay women’s issues. Men are victimized as well, but they can play a big part in ending human trafficking by inviting women into the conversation and raising the bar for how they are treated.

The road to recovery

Only about 2% of human trafficking victims have been able to escape. Mai suggests working with organizations like Nightlight and Not For Sale to better understand the victim’s perspective. These organizations offer therapeutic solutions to remind people of their value. Finding employment is a big catalyst for a victim’s recovery, as jobs provide independence, security, and self-confidence.

As a community, we can help by collecting information and acting on it. Applications and technological solutions, such as Spotlight, a web-based tool created by actor Ashton Kutcher, can help law enforcement track perpetrators and rescue potential victims faster.

Mai recommends starting your fight against human trafficking by educating yourself on the topic. Stopping Traffic is a film that explores human trafficking in the United States, Mexico, Thailand, and Texas – all big ports for trafficking. At the end of the film, the creators present nine ways you can help stop trafficking. Everyone can play a role in ending the business of bodies.

Listen to Jeannie Mai’s interview on the SHE Innovates podcast.

SHE Innovates is a podcast that shares the stories, challenges and triumphs of women across innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. Listen to all our podcasts on PodBean.


Jane Lu

About Jane Lu

Jane is a writer and marketing intern at SAP. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in English at the University of Waterloo. While Jane is currently studying in Waterloo, she is originally from Toronto.