Outdoor portrait of a beautiful little girl

When many people hear human trafficking, they envision young girls being smuggled into the United States from foreign countries or college girls being snatched while vacationing. Allow us to introduce to you a modern-day illustration happening every day, right here in Texas. Young, minority girls in low socioeconomic neighborhoods are increasingly becoming victims of human trafficking. Older teens and adult men are targeting young girls in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, with low self-esteem and complicated home lives and luring them away with “love” and attention. Before they know it, they’re living in a house with their older “boyfriend” and ten other girls. That’s just one illustration. There are so many other scenarios.

Now is the time to start educating young girls about the warning signs and the types of situations that could leave them susceptible to becoming a victim of human trafficking. Not only that, but it’s time to start empowering them and providing them with a safe, judgement-free setting for them to talk about the issues they’re facing with their peers and a caring adult mentor. That’s where we come in. With the help of a $30,000 grant from Dallas Women’s Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas launched Girlstrong in the spring of 2017. Girlstrong is a new program, combining the evidence-based curriculum of SMART Girls and Net Smartz to provide human trafficking prevention and awareness to youth in at-risk environments. This combined curriculum encourages healthy lifestyles and healthy decision making.

SMART Girls provides a targeted curriculum for girls ages 8-12 and teens ages 13-18 in a safe setting in which they can address health and social issues unique to them, and build the necessary skills to resist negative influences such as drugs, alcohol and premature sexual activity. It is designed to encourage healthy attitudes and lifestyles that will enable girls to develop their full potential with sessions incorporating learning experiences that include mentors, guest speakers, hands-on activities, and field trips.

NetSmartz teaches girls about how to be safe online and covers subjects such as cyberbullying, online privacy, and digital ethics. Videos and testimonials provide examples of internet risks. Outside speakers, such as the Dallas police department, speak to the girls about human trafficking cases and tracking missing girls. They also educate them on the dangers of smartphone apps such as KIK, where girls often meet older teens or adults.

Many of the girls served by Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas are from low socioeconomic communities and are primarily African-American and Hispanic. Unfortunately, given their environment and circumstances they are at a greater risk for becoming victims of human trafficking. Therefore, it is important for us to arm them with knowledge, awareness, and a trusting adult for them to confide in. With your support, we can make sure this generation of girls, and every generation thereafter, are STRONGER.

For more information about how you can help fund this initiative, call 214-821-2950 or email nswartz@bgcdallas.org.