Two and a half million people. That’s about the population of Chicago. But according to the United Nation’s International Labor Organization, it’s also the number of people across the world who are currently victims of human trafficking and exploitation — people coerced into prostitution, manual labor or domestic servitude. Other estimates range from 4 million to 27 million.
MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) is working to put an end to this modern form of slavery. It’s a worldwide initiative using television documentaries and dramas, online content, concerts and live events, and partnerships with anti-trafficking organizations to raise awareness and prevent human trafficking.
Launched in Europe in 2004 and then expanded to Asia and Latin America, MTV EXIT’s campaign lives on-air, online and on the ground. Its television programming is extensive and powerful. It has created searing half-hour documentaries hosted by local personalities and international celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu and Jared Leto; live concert broadcasts; PSAs; music videos featuring Radiohead, The Killers, Muse, The Click Five, Best Coast and Simple Plan; and original dramas, including a manga-style animated feature called Intersection and a three-part series, Butterfly, both produced in Korea and televised throughout Asia.
MTV EXIT programming has been seen by an estimated 60 million viewers on MTV and partner stations and by another 27 million people online. And the initiative also engages hundreds of thousands of others online. The campaign’s website, at mtvexit.org, offers extensive information on human trafficking and exploitation along with safe-migration advice and links to anti‐trafficking groups and support helplines. The campaign also maintains active profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Vimeo, YouTube and Instagram.
Some of the campaign’s greatest successes have come at live events. It has produced 31 awareness-raising concerts across 10 countries in Asia, including the first concert by an international artist held in Myanmar in decades. More than 650,000 people have attended these shows. Thousands more across the world have received anti-trafficking information at concerts by Radiohead, R.E.M. and Thievery Corporation, as well as at music and film festivals, MTV awards events and fashion shows.
And MTV EXIT acts as a catalyst to broaden the fight against trafficking, going out on the road to train youth advocates to mobilize people in their own communities.
MTV EXIT is produced in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and Walk Free: The Movement to End Modern Slavery; it’s supported by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“That humans can be bought and sold, treated like a commodity…it’s still hard to get your head around. Once you know, you know, and you can’t really avoid it.”
Jason Mraz, Singer/Songwriter
“I love EXIT for the fact that it’s a concert but also is introducing people to this topic,” said Jason Mraz, who headlined the historic concert in Myanmar, attended by 70,000 people. “The music is the sweetness, but the information that you are giving is medicine that people get to drink down, to really get awakened to this situation.
“If we truly want to have world peace,” he also said, “we have to end exploitation and human trafficking.”
“Trafficking in persons is a critical issue to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are countries with a significant young population. Through the proven work of MTV EXIT, the strength of our young people and the power of social media, I know we can protect our citizens and increase human security for all.”
-Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General, ASEAN