Education, Awareness-Raising and Advocacy to End Human Trafficking – It’s a Penalty Bi-Annual Impact Report 2022-2023

It’s a Penalty stands as a beacon in the fight against human trafficking, exploitation, and abuse. Our work contributes to prevent these forms of violence through education, awareness-raising and advocacy. 

The past couple of years have been very busy at It’s a Penalty – since the beginning of 2022, we have launched six global awareness-raising campaigns during major sporting events including the Super Bowl, Commonwealth Games and FIFA World Cups, as well as developed our programmes CommonProtect and Student Ambassador Programme to great success. 

The recently published Bi-Annual Impact Report provides a snapshot of all of our recent achievements and insights into the impact we have had as an organisation. 

Key Initiatives and Achievements

It’s a Penalty operates through multiple impactful programs targeting different facets of the fight against human trafficking and exploitation. Here are some of the highlights from our Bi Annual Impact Report:

  1. Campaigns and Awareness: Through strategic campaigns, It’s a Penalty has reached millions of people worldwide over the last couple of years, leveraging major sporting events like the Super Bowl, Commonwealth Games, and FIFA Women’s World Cup. These campaigns not only raise awareness but also educate the public about the signs of exploitation and encourage reporting.
  2. Survivor Support: Partnering with dedicated organisations, It’s a Penalty has helped to safeguard hundreds survivors of abuse, exploitation, and trafficking during 2022-2023. This support extends beyond immediate intervention to prevent further victimisation.
  3. Legal Reform Advocacy: Our CommonProtect advocacy programme focuses on legal reform and systems change to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) across the Commonwealth. The ultimate goal is to establish comprehensive legal frameworks in each Commonwealth country to criminalise CSEA and ensure better child protection.
  4. Student Ambassador Programme: Empowering the next generation, It’s a Penalty’s Student Ambassador Programme engages university students in the fight against human trafficking. With over 380 members across 60 universities in the UK and expanding into the US, these ambassadors undergo specialised training and undertake various initiatives to raise awareness and advocate for change.

Impactful Campaigns

The Bi Annual Impact Report also highlights the success of It’s a Penalty’s campaigns during major sporting events:

  • Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, USA: With a global reach of over 737.5 million people, the campaign raised awareness and facilitated the identification of 14 missing children. During the campaign period, there was a 20% increase in reports to the US Human Trafficking Hotline. 
  • Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK: Engaging the local community, this campaign aimed to prevent modern slavery and protect survivors. In total, campaign posters distributed at Birmingham Airport and other locations throughout the city reached a potential of 20.6 million people. Over 441 people were trained to recognize signs of human trafficking, During the campaign period, nearly 1,000 potential victims indicated to the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline. Our collaboration with Missing People saw 22 missing persons in total identified during the campaign period. 
  • FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand: Harnessing the platform of women’s football, this campaign focused on child protection and safeguarding, reaching millions and increasing awareness and knowledge about abuse and exploitation. In-flight on four major airlines, our campaign video achieved a potential reach of 5.4 million people travelling all over the world. Our collaboration with the Oceania Football Confederation reached 149,000 people in communities across six Pacific countries. The campaign increased awareness of abuse and exploitation of children, with 93% of respondents reporting increased knowledge and 87% feeling more equipped to find help and report suspected cases.
  • Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands: In the Solomon Islands, the campaign emphasised child protection in sports settings, collaborating with local organisations including UNICEF Pacific and Salvation Army to educate communities and distribute resources. In total, 840 campaign posters featuring the local reporting hotline were distributed, and over 107,000 people were reached through campaign posters at Brisbane Airport and in-flight on Solomon Airlines.

Collaborative Efforts and Partnerships

As always, collaborative efforts and partnerships were incredibly important to It’s a Penalty in years 2022-2023. Our impact is amplified through collaborations with governments, civil society organisations, sports figures, and corporate partners across a variety of industries. These partnerships enable us to reach diverse audiences and effect meaningful change on a global scale.

  • Campaign Partnerships: We collaborate with a wide range of partners to execute our campaigns effectively. Our partners include corporations, non-profit organisations, government agencies, and law enforcement bodies. For example, during the Super Bowl LVI campaign, partnerships were established with organisations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), NFL ambassadors, hotel chains, airlines, and media outlets. Similarly, partnerships with local community organisations, law enforcement agencies, and hospitality industry stakeholders were pivotal during campaigns like the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and the Arizona Super Bowl LVII.
  • Legal Reform Advocates: CommonProtect, It’s a Penalty’s advocacy programme, collaborates with governments, legal experts, human rights organisations, and child protection agencies to drive legal reforms aimed at protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse. Partnerships with organisations like the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Trust Law, Sysdoc, and Clayton Utz facilitate research, policy development, and legal advocacy efforts across Commonwealth countries.
  • Academic Partners: Working with academic institutions is key to expanding our reach and impact as an organisation. With the Student Ambassador Programme, we collaborate with universities and academic departments to educate and empower students in the fight against human trafficking. Beyond academic partners, we also work with local organisations in the areas surrounding our university partners to ensure on-the-ground impact and engagement with our Student Ambassadors. 

What’s Next for It’s a Penalty?

The years 2022-23 were our most exciting and impactful yet! To find out more about our recent achievements, you can read the full Bi-Annual Impact report here.

2024 is going to be a significant year for us as it will be a decade since the first It’s a Penalty Campaign was launched (at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil) and we are so proud of how far we’ve come since this first campaign. 

Over the next couple of months, we are finalising our plans for our next campaign launching during the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics to raise awareness of human trafficking and exploitation, in partnership with the travel and tourism industry, local organisations and Olympic and Paralympic athletes. 

With the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) approaching in October 2024, we have big plans for our CommonProtect advocacy as well. In the lead-up to the Samoa 2024 CHOGM, we are increasing our efforts to influence action on child protection from sexual exploitation and abuse in the Commonwealth, bolstered by the 2022 Kigali Declaration on Child Care and Protection Reform. Working with a variety of partners, our aim is to have the Kigali Declaration and actions that Commonwealth governments must take to implement it on the agenda. 

Our UK Student Ambassador Programme is also gearing up over the next few months, particularly in the West Midlands. Working in partnership with the West Midlands Anti-Slavery Network (WMASN) and other local partners, we will be launching a project to address students’ vulnerabilities to modern slavery, increase awareness amongst students and staff and make key recommendations for universities to tackle modern slavery. We will also be working together to establish a Lived Experience Forum in the West Midlands to strengthen the voices of survivors across the region.

We are looking forward to seeing what we, together with our partners, will go on to achieve this year and beyond. 

Written by Elizabeth Speller

Advocacy Director, It’s a Penalty