January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month – Get Involved!

jan_trafficking_month

Image via sharedhope.org

Last year, President Barack Obama designated January 11 as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Human trafficking has been cited as the second-largest criminal industry in the world and growing. The numbers are huge: over 27 million people are estimated to be enslaved worldwide, the highest in recorded history.

Bleak as this sounds, great strides are being made internationally, nationally and locally!  Last year, the New York Junior League’s Advocates for Public Policy Committee (APP) and the New York State Public Affairs Committee of the Junior League (NYSPAC) continued their on-going advocacy efforts to combat human trafficking through support for the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act (TVPJA).  Ultimately, after several years of advocacy, APP volunteers saw TVPJA became law! On October 21, 2015, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the historic legislation along with a series of bills aimed at advancing women’s equality.

More recently, I found myself at a baby shower seated at a table set for tea with a group of accomplished women who were the “Who’s Who” of the New York financial world. While I work in finance, I found that when asked the age old conversation opener, “So, what do you do?” I talked about my volunteer work for a non-profit organization called The Nomi Network instead.

The Nomi Network works with women and more sadly children as young as three years old, who have survived being sex-trafficked in South and Southeast Asia. I talked about our training centers in Cambodia and India to assist these victims as well as some facts according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.

Then another woman began to tell a story about a friend of hers from southern California – a mother who was shopping at a local Target store with her ten year old daughter and two of her daughter’s friends.  On their way out, the mother asked her daughter and friends to wait outside the store entrance while she retrieved the car to pick them up.

By the time the mother reached the store entrance with her car, all three girls were gone. They had been taken.  It took authorities two weeks to find the girls, who had been trafficked up and down the coast of California during that time. It was only then that I realized human trafficking is not only a problem overseas, but also a problem here at home.

I tell this story, not to sadden readers but rather to encourage you to get involved – advocacy has strength in numbers!  Having seen firsthand the benefits and thrill of advocating on a grassroots level and the success that can come as a result, APP encourages all NYJL volunteers to join their efforts!  Regardless of your current committee placement, you can support the APP committee in its 2016 advocacy efforts on these and other pressing issues.  Please contact the committee via email at advocates@nyjl.org to learn about this and other opportunities to get involved and to sign up!

by Mary-Elizabeth Dooner Walker – Advocates for Public Policy

Strengthening the families of the greater New York area.

The New York Junior League is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.

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