The first profile in the Women’s Empowerment Month: Sustainability Series is Melanie LeGrande, Rights and Equity Lead for Amazon Web Services (AWS) Global Social Impact.
Each year, we estimate 25 million people are trafficked worldwide. It’s a global public health concern that has become even more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic as criminals seek to capitalize on the time adults and children spend online.
To address this growing problem, institutions around the world are developing tools to defend people of all ages against online predators. Multiple nonprofits facing human trafficking rely on AWS to power their technology, and when these customers need additional support to amplify their work, they turn to the AWS Global Social Impact team.
“If technology is an enabler of this problem, then technology should be used to combat it.”
Rights and Equity Manager for AWS Global Social Impact
“Making a difference in the lives of people and communities who need our help is important to me,” LeGrande said. “Promoting human rights and protecting vulnerable populations is an integral part of Amazon’s commitment to corporate social responsibility, and combating human trafficking is central to my work. It is gratifying for me to support those at the forefront of this issue and help them accelerate their cloud-first technology strategies. »
Prior to joining Amazon in 2021, LeGrande spent 17 years focusing on social impact at various institutions, including Major League Baseball, the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The recurring theme in her work, regardless of employer, she said, has always been, “How can I make the most of my company’s assets to positively impact people in our society. ?”
She’s embraced this mindset in her role at AWS, supporting nonprofits like Polaris and The Lantern Project. For both organizations, AWS provides services that enable their systems to be more efficient, and LeGrande identifies opportunities to bring greater awareness to their work through speaking engagements, employee engagement, and marketing efforts. .
“My job is to listen to our clients, understand their business goals and challenges, and work with them to deliver on their ambitious missions to change the world,” said LeGrande.
Polaris operates the US National Human Trafficking Hotline to help victims and survivors of the $150 billion illegal industry. Through the hotline, Polaris has handled more than 330,000 signals– including calls, texts, online chats, web forms and emails – and identified more than 73,000 cases of human trafficking since 2007. AWS has been working with Polaris to integrate cutting-edge technology into its infrastructure and lead the organization’s development of the largest known US human trafficking dataset. Polaris then uses this data to improve how trafficking is identified by law enforcement and others, how service providers help victims and survivors, and how communities, businesses and governments can prevent it by transforming the underlying inequalities and oppressions that make it possible.
Similarly, The Lantern Project works to end the exploitation of trafficking in communities by changing the culture through prevention, intervention and transformation. The organization is also part of the Tech Against Trafficking Accelerator Programan initiative that connects member companies of Tech Against Trafficking (including Amazon) to accelerate technological advancements that will help eradicate human trafficking.
For LeGrande, Amazon’s ability to collaborate with others in the fight against human trafficking isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a responsibility.
“Studies have shown that technology has enabled trafficking to grow as a criminal enterprise,” she said. “AWS has the resources, expertise and infrastructure to end human trafficking globally. We should work with everyone we can to provide the best solutions available. If technology is an enabler of this problem, then technology should be used to combat it.
If you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking or have information about a potential case of human trafficking, contact the US National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 711) or by texting “BeFree” (233733). Help is also available via live chat.