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How Not to Portray Trafficking

Last week in St. Augustine, Florida, we hosted an art show of photography created in the Vision for Empowerment workshop series, which we offered to women in Calcutta last fall and will offer again in January.  The purpose of the workshops, taught by international photographer Sarah Annay, was both therapeutic self-expression and to explore careers in photography, an overwhelmingly male-dominated field in India.   The beautiful and uplifting images the women captured through their photography are a sharp contrast to the images we often see about human trafficking and other gender violence issues. The way survivors and the issue are portrayed is often counterproductive , violating the privacy of survivors, making the problem seem hopeless, or perpetuating violence. Joe Schmidt, CEO of the abolition...

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Why Did You Not Come Sooner?

Next week I will be speaking at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis, alongside 2014 Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who has helped over free over 60,000 children from slavery.   Many of the children Kailash has rescued were enslaved in carpet loom factories, a brutal industry in which 300,000 children are ensnared. These children often do not see the light of day for months or years. Their small fingers are prized for making the tiny, elaborate knots of Oriental rugs. Traffickers promise their parents that the children will be educated, will work part-time, and will be able to send money home. Many of those parents never see their children again. Children work from morning to night, and sometimes sleep chained to...

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Learning to Trust

Fifteen of us sat in a circle on the cool marble floor, drawing birds and flowers.  The girls ranged in age from Jasminda, a tiny seven-year-old with uncanny artistic abilities, to Rishi, a clever 20 year old who just started at college and probably should have been studying, but couldn’t resist joining in the fun. Leela stood alone in the corner, silently watching.  She seemed to be about 16.  She wrapped her arms around her body, looking cold despite the warm temperature. Her eyes were impossible to read.   Angry, afraid, yearning to join the group, depressed or completely detached?  I couldn’t tell.   She is in a safe place now, at the new shelter we built last year near Darjeeling, India, but...

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A New Perspective on Walls

There is a lot of talk about walls in the press these days...    We all know about walls, but just to offer a different perspective, let me walk you through the walls that surround the shelter home we built last year for girls in Jalpaiguri, India, in partnership with Women's Interlink Foundation.These walls keep girls safe from those who sold them into slavery, those who brutalized them and profited from their pain, and those who would come back and take them again. The 10 foot tall security wall makes it safe to go outside to swing, play badminton, or chat with a friend in the sunshine - normal activities most kids take for granted.  The wall makes this home a place where our girls can recover in safety...

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Through My Children's Eyes

“Why don’t the police do more about trafficking?” my daughter asked when she was 11, “or the government?”     “We can’t wait for others to take action,” I told her.  “These girls need our help now”. Last month, I took my children to visit our programs in India for the first time.  Maya, 16 and Luke, 15, have grown up with this work as a major feature of our lives.  When they were 4 and 5, I told them my job was helping helping people get free from slavery.  When they were 11 and 12, I shared the bitter truth of sex trafficking, child marriage and rape, which is what prompted Maya’s question.  At that time, she was the same...

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