USC social work professor aims to end human trafficking

For the people · Annalisa Enrile (center) will travel to the Philippines this year with 30 social work students to combat human trafficking. Photo courtesy of Annalisa Enrile

On a map depicting human trafficking cases reported in 2016, California tops the list.

The online master of social work program at the Dworak-Peck School of Social Work released an interactive website about human trafficking as the second piece of a two-part campaign to spread awareness about the issue. The website provides a place for the public to learn about human trafficking from an educational standpoint.

On Wednesday, the Dworak-Peck School collaborated with Professor Annalisa Enrile to create this resource.

Enrile said she developed her passion for putting an end to human trafficking when she was an undergraduate student in 1993.

“When I first got involved, it was because I heard stories about those who have been labor trafficked,” Enrile said. “My family is from the Philippines, and the number one export of the Philippines is its migrant labor force. For me, there have always been personal components.”

Colleen O’Day, a community manager for the online master of social work program, touched on Ernile’s experience.

“[Enrile] is a leader in the fight against human trafficking,” O’Day said. “She has done a lot of research in the area and is a really great resource, not only for educating about human trafficking but also for how social workers can play a role in ending the practice.”

The new website is the second component of the campaign. The first part of the project was a video titled “Freedom’s Journey: Understanding Human Trafficking,” which was released on Jan. 11, Human Trafficking Awareness Day. According to the video, more than 20 million victims live as modern-day slaves.

Marina Araiza, a student in the masters of social work program, agrees with the website’s intentions.

“I have a passion for the issue of human trafficking,” Araiza said. “I think it’s a major problem in our society, and it’s a global problem,”

In addition to describing and providing statistics on the issue, the website includes personal stories from survivors, as well as a spotlight on child soldiers. The website’s visuals provide additional information about the human trafficking epidemic. The maps show the different countries that the victims come from, as well as where they end up.

“One of the most basic things we have to do is educate people on the topic,” Enrile said. “There are a number of different sites that do that, but very few sites have been able to bring all the information together in one place.”

O’Day added that it is important for people to understand the magnitude of the issue because human trafficking is so widespread. 

“It sounds like such a faraway issue — you’re not thinking about it being so common, but people don’t understand just how close to home this hits,” O’Day said. “Our goal is to demonstrate the scope of this issue.”

Araiza said she believes this will be an important resource for the public.

“I think that if we can make something powerful and easy to read, that would be great,” Araiza said. “People don’t have access to resources that are easy to read and to understand.”

Enrile, along with 30 students from the master of social work program, will travel to the Philippines in a few weeks. The group will work with various parts of the government to create innovative ways to solve the human trafficking problem.

“One of the reasons this issue has become so paramount in social work is that social workers are really taking leadership in these area,” Enrile said. “[They] are on the front lines of this.”

The interactive website provides a list of ways that people can get involved in the fight against human trafficking, beginning with education.

“In order to stop it, we always have to make sure it’s at the forefront of people’s consciousness,” Enrile said, “We are hoping to use this platform to move people from awareness to action.”