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Advocates march to battle sex trafficking, and share how families can keep children safe

HONOLULU (KITV4) -- Volunteers across the state put on a sign wave Wednesday, to bring attention to "National Human Trafficking Awareness day."

It's part of a collective effort led by local non-profit, Ho'ola Na Pua.

The plan was to march from Bishop Square to the state Capitol. Once the group arrived, dozens waved signs advocating for the public to do more to "shine the light on sex trafficking." 

Around the world and on Island, Wednesday was dedicated to fighting human trafficking. The effort led locally by Ho'ola Na Pua, organized sign waves on Kauai, the Big Island, and on Oahu, where the group operates a shelter.

"it's so important what they do, especially with Pearl Haven and the Starfish Mentorship program, to be able to build those relationships with survivors, and to know they're not alone as they go on to the next chapter of their lives," Simone Ispahani told KITV4.

Confronting sex trafficking is a multi-faceted approach, advocates say, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable: children.

There are tips for parents to monitor a child's time online.

"Instruct them not to give out private information and be aware of what online devices they have access to," said Tammy Bitanga of Ho'ola Na Pua, "Be aware of what your children are looking at on social media and who they're talking to and educate them."

"So on the internet, you should not be letting your kids talk to strangers or people that are talking to them inappropriately," she added.

And it's not just stranger danger. Advocates here say it's important to look beyond that.

"So in Hawaii, what we see is children are being trafficked by somebody that they know. Three out of four children that we interviewed or we had been a part of a study," Bitanga said.

Simone Ispahani runs the e-commerce company Social Brew, which has a business model to give directly to address the crisis.

"I give 50% away to fighting human trafficking. Ho'ola Na Pua is one of my partner organizations. And today we're out here creating awareness for the 50 million people that are trafficked globally, which is mind-blowing," Ispahani said.

Advocates here say focusing locally is a start.