N.I.T.E. Launches Blue Heart Campaign
The students promoted a U.N. campaign to bring awareness to human trafficking by wearing blue felt hearts.
Video: Dani Barta | USF News
Video: Dani Barta | USF News
TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 21, 2012) - More than 400 blue, felt hearts were passed out and donned by students this month at the University of South Florida to raise awareness of human trafficking.
N.I.T.E, Necessary Improvements to Transform the Environment, participated in the United Nation’s “Blue Heart Campaign” to raise awareness of human trafficking and attribute a symbol to it, much in the same way the red ribbon represents the fight against AIDS.
The campaign at USF that took place throughout February was inspired by a friend of students Erin Stassin and Elizabeth Moschella who was a survivor of human trafficking.
According to the UN website, “the Blue Heart represents the sadness of those who are trafficked while reminding us of the cold-heartedness of those who buy and sell fellow human beings. The use of the blue UN colour also demonstrates the commitment of the United Nations to combating this crime against human dignity.”
Human trafficking includes forced labor and forced prostitution and pornography.
“Some [victims] are under the false sense they owe something to their trafficker,” Stassin said. “A lot of them are sick and malnourished. It’s a system of oppression.”
Stassin said N.I.T.E. decided to do their campaign in February to associate new meaning to the heart symbol, other than that of love and affection demonstrated for Valentines Day. She said many chocolates purchased for the holiday are made by victims of human trafficking and that people should research brands that are not made by forced labor.
Moschella, the N.I.T.E. treasurer and outreach coordinator, got involved with N.I.T.E. through an English class that required participation in a social justice project. She likes the focus N.I.T.E. has on promoting awareness about various social and safety issues.
Florida is third highest in the United States for incidents of human trafficking. Stassin and Moschelle want students tor realize that this isn’t something that just happens in third world countries or to students studying and visiting abroad. It happens right in their backyards.
“A lot of people are very shocked to realize how prevalent (human trafficking) is in our society,” Moschella said. “They don't fully understand that these kinds of crimes happen in the U.S. and more importantly, they don't want to believe that these kind of crimes can happen to, first off, themselves, and, second off, people they know and care about.”
The UN estimates that 2.4 million people worldwide are lured into forced labor and that woman and children account for 80 percent of the victims. More than $32 billion is the estimated total market value of human trafficking.
Aside from the Blue Heart Campaign, the UN has launched the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, which “urges governments to take coordinated, comprehensive and consistent steps to combat such trafficking and to adopt a human rights-based approach.”
Daylina Miller can be reached at 813-500-8754.