On Wednesday July 23rd the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons held their Sixth Annual Intern Roundtable on Trafficking in Persons. This roundtable, entitled “Journey from Victim to Survivor”, focused on the progress of the movement thus far.
Luis CdeBaca, the United States Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons began the discussion through explaining the viability of anti-trafficking as a career path for the interns that sat before him. He presented modern day examples of human trafficking, such as Shyima Hall. Hall’s traffickers, who forced her to work as a domestic slave from age 8 in the United States until her rescue in 2002, exemplify the brutality of modern day slavery.
CdeBaca drew parallels of this story with slavery of the past, notably bringing forth Frederick Douglass’ life as a slave. By connecting these two stories from quite different times, CdeBaca demonstrated that modern day trafficking is no less gruesome than the slavery that plagued the United States before the abolitionist movement.
In addition, CdeBaca explained the ranking system of the Trafficking in Person’s Report released in June of 2014. He noted the downgrade of a few countries, including Malaysia from the Tier 2 Watchlist to Tier 3. Despite favorable international relations between the United States and this nation, CdeBaca made it clear that there needs to be improvement in these nations that fail to enforce anti-trafficking policies. Although whether economic sanctions will be imposed on the four nations that experienced this downgrade is unclear, the ambassador commended the Malaysian Prime Minister’s demand to his cabinet to provide more services for victims.
After CdeBaca’s opening remarks, a panel of three more activists discussed their involvement in the anti-trafficking movement. The first panelist, Bradley Myles, initially wanted to work for organizations fighting violence against women when he heard about human trafficking. Joining the Polaris Project, he began working on both issues. Eventually, he became more immersed into the project as he realized the importance of offering social services, including hotlines, to trafficked persons. He attributed this notion to lessons learned directly from victims. Through understanding the experiences of trafficked survivors, Myles contended that effective polices aimed at ending human trafficking can be created.
The next panelist, Evelyn Chumbow, described her experience as a trafficked survivor from Cameroon. At the age of 9, Chumbow was brought to London and then Silver Spring, Maryland to work as a domestic slave. Until she reached the age of 17 and was finally rescued, Chumbow admitted that she didn’t even know she was a victim of trafficking. Without hotlines or many social services at the time Chumbow remained in the dark about her dire situation. After being enlightened, she decided to join the anti-trafficking movement. At the panel, Chumbow asserted that “ever since I’ve been rescued, I want to make a difference.”
Chumbow contended that the economic nature of human trafficking, whether that is through saving money by utilizing a domestic slave or making money through other forms of trafficking, makes it especially favorable to traffickers. Thus, the business of trading humans needs to be directly addressed.
The final panelist, Amy Pope prosecuted Chumbow’s trafficker, Theresa Mubang, resulting in a sentence of 17 years in prison. Pope currently serves as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the Transborder Security Directorate. She maintained the need to combat human trafficking on both the domestic and international level.
Pope explained that the bipartisan nature of the anti-trafficking movement and thereby the easiness of people to coalesce around this issue. Addressing the issue through a layered approach also requires cooperation with home governments. Only through this way can trafficking networks organized by crime syndicates be permanently dismantled. Viewing this issue on both spectrums allows the anti-trafficking movement to effectively “cut off the avenue that facilitates the crime.”
The roundtable the key issues facing the anti-trafficking movement and provided the interns with a clear picture of what a career in this field would entail. This movement has clearly grown, but definitely has potential for future growth. This expansion could include creating stronger partnerships with groups focusing on other relevant issues, such as violence against women, labor violations, and national security issues. As a final point, Myles highlighted the importance of treating all forms of trafficking as equally problematic, rather than focusing on either sex or labor trafficking. Through this lens, we can help the millions of human beings break the chains of their enslavement.
Looking at the interns that represent the future of the anti-trafficking movement, Chumbow pleaded “do it with your heart because there are children crying for your help.”