Editor’s Note: Slavery survivor Timea Nagy now helps others escape enslavement on the streets of Canada. She is a recipient of a Free the Slaves Freedom Award for her heroic resilience and ongoing commitment to others. Her group, Walk with Me, has recently released a powerful music video, which we thought you should see. We asked Timea to say in her own words how the video came to be.
As the winter months say farewell, warm weather seems to be right on the horizon. Unfortunately, the coming of summer will bring with it a rise in human trafficking in Canada. Sex slavery will return to the streets, and Walk With Me is making a great effort to raise awareness.
Walk With Me Canadian Victim Services is a survivor-led organization dedicated to raising awareness and providing education about slavery, delivering and coordinating services to support survivors, and advocating action for change. We have trained and assisted more than 60,000 law enforcement personnel across Canada since 2009. Our organization has been involved in big cases such as Project OPAPA, assisting 22 victims in Canada’s largest human trafficking case to date.
The battle against human trafficking is now starting to enlist Canadian musicians and dancers. “Break the Silence” — a song written and performed by Francois Mudler, a young, talented Canadian artist – illustrates the struggles of people exploited by human trafficking.
Hearing Francois’ voice had been one of my personal coping and healing mechanisms when I would feel overwhelmed by work or by flashbacks from my past. I was fortunate to actually meet him. Francois then read my book, “Memoirs of a Sex Slave Survivor,” and said he would be happy to write a song to expand public understanding. The dancer in the video is a young artist, who came to our first fundraising gala last year and asked to volunteer any time we need help.
The song was recorded last September. Every single story in the video is real, and permission was granted by those involved in the cases to include their stories. The idea is for anyone to be able to use the video. It has been launched as a public service announcement, aiming to raise awareness all over the world. Funds that are generated will be used to keep providing services for victims of human trafficking.
About 50,000 women and girls work in restaurants, dance bars and massage parlors in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. Many of them endure brutal sexual abuse. One tool to ending the exploitation is to educate the country’s community police force to recognize sex slavery and respond to it effectively.
With that in mind, a six-day training project has helped transform the way police think about the way women are treated in Nepali entertainment establishments.
“This training really helped us to open our eyes,” said one participant. “We will put all our efforts to end this kind of crime from society.”
The officers watched films about the impact of sex slavery in Nepal. They heard presentations from Free the Slaves and from our frontline partner Shakti Samuha, an organization formed by sex slavery survivors.
“We are very hopeful that community police will cooperate to create a respectable workplace environment for women in the entertainment sector,” said Shakti Samuha chairperson Sunita Danuwar.
Participants received certificates and learned the importance of working with community organizations to identify hotspots, and to recognize the physical and psychological needs of survivors who are rescued. Activists have encountered police officers that refuse to file criminal cases, but the police commissioner says those days should be ending.
“This type of training will give the opportunity to understand, and create opportunity for working together in future,” said Police Commissioner Kuber Singh Rana.
You can read about other innovative techniques that FTS uses to fight slavery in Nepal on our Nepal webpage.
Historic news this week from a special U.N court. Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was convicted of “aiding and abetting” crimes against humanity.
The charges included sexual slavery of women, and conscripting children to fight as soldiers, which is also a form of slavery. The charges are a result of Taylor’s support for rebel troops during the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.
The court determined Taylor did not directly command rebel troops who committed the atrocities, but he was guilty nonetheless because of his support for them.
“This judgment confirms that with leadership comes not only power, but also responsibility,” said the chief prosecutor in the case.
Taylor’s conviction on Thursday is the first time a former head of state has been convicted of war crimes since World War II.
Editor’s note: This is the second part in a series of blog posts written by longtime Free the Slaves supporter Carol Metzker. Carol has traveled to India to see Free the Slaves’ frontline partner work. Here, she gives us a snapshot of the Punarnawa ashram, where girls who have survived slavery rehabilitate, and receive vocational training. Punarnawa means “new beginning.” Read her earlier blog post here.
Robert Schuller’s simple, yet profound, question—once given to me on a greeting card—stared me in the face on a tiny yellow porch more than 7,500 miles from my front door. In November 2011, at a visit to Punarnawa Ashram, a safe haven in India for girls rescued from human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, I viewed the mural. There, I also witnessed the extraordinary endeavors and resounding success of Free the Slaves.
Painted in large black letters above a mural depicting faith, hopes, dreams and scenes from daily routines, the question remains steadfast. What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? It encourages and touches the minds and souls of young girls who enter Punarnawa’s yellow dorm. Painted by volunteers and residents of the shelter, the mural artfully reveals activities and the simple, yet profound, changes that take place each day at the ashram, or campus.
At the mural’s center, a peace sign and symbols of Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Buddhist faith welcome girls of all religions. They honor the girls’ prayers at the start of each day at Punarnawa, which means “new beginnings.”
Surrounding the symbols, stick-figure and three-dimensional drawings of girls stand next to a classroom chalkboard, sewing machines and bicycles. They show aspects the education and vocational training received by each girl during recovery. They speak of the mid-day lessons that serve to eradicate root causes of slavery: illiteracy, poverty, vulnerability.
Stylized bright red, blue and green blooms grace the painting and celebrate the yellow marigolds, pale orange celosia and scarlet canna planted by the survivors. They remind me that where there is no hope, people don’t sow seeds, wait for green shoots to spring from red dirt or anticipate the opening of a bud. In contrast, at Punarnawa growth and hope are as plentiful as the abundant flowers and gardens where children learn to play again during late afternoons.
Faces—some painted with large tears and others shown with smiles and hearts—tell the story of transformation. They tell the story of the center where dedicated teachers, caregivers and medical professionals help girls heal from brutal physical and psychological hurts. The simple drawings depict the journey from captivity and a life without a voice to a future brimming with possibilities, self-esteem, self-expression and power to pursue a life of one’s choosing.
If you knew you could abolish slavery, what action would you take? If you could save the life of one girl or change the circumstances of 27 million slaves worldwide, would you buy a cup of fair trade coffee, make a donation, teach a child to read, demand a new law or spread the word that slavery must stop? What would you attempt to do, if you knew you could not fail?
Some of them run away. Some of them simply have nowhere to go.
But the lives of prostitutes—often coerced into sex slavery—are usually misunderstood.
Trafficking is considered the third largest industry for organized crime, generating billions of dollars annually.
Here’s a news roundup of some recent news stories about sex trafficking:
New York Times: “Shining Light on the Role of Drivers in Prostitution” by Christine Haughney:
Sofia, a sweet-voiced and cherubic 24-year-old, was one of the lucky ones: She managed to escape much of the suffering shared by the millions of sex workers trafficked throughout the world, and even saw two of her traffickers forced out of the country and back to Mexico.
But the young woman said she still feels that complete justice has eluded her, because the drivers who ferried her from john to john, her de facto bosses, remain at large.
Deseret News: “Stolen Innocence: The battle against modern-day slavery in the US” by Elizabeth Stuart:
ATLANTA — Maybe it was the defiant glint in her eye. Maybe it was the way she dragged her feet on the way to join the other underage girls in tube tops and 8-inch heels hawking their bodies in a bad part of Atlanta. Keisha Head wasn’t sure. But somehow Sir Charles always knew when she was considering trying to escape.
“You better not be thinkin’ ’bout leaving,” the pimp would say. “You know what’s gonna happen.”
CBS News: “Captive sex slave for 10 years tells her story” by CBS News:
For 10 years, Tanya Kach, of McKeesport, Pa., was held as a sex slave under her abductor’s complete control. Now, she’s come out to tell her amazing survival story.
In 1996, Kach was a 14-year-old girl carrying around grown-up problems. Her parents were splitting up. And, like most girls that age, adjusting to the teenage years was tough.