By Presidential Proclamation, January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the US with January 11 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
This year, the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking and CAN streamed the first ever Virtual Human Trafficking Summit on Facebook Live. With thanks to the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest for hosting, the virtual event reached over 26,000 viewers across the globe.
The schedule included representatives from the Coalition and around the state to inform the viewers on topics such as education, legislation, law enforcement, and healthcare as well as general community mobilization.
Keyla Munoz from the FBI provided an informative HT-101 segment and, with Lt. Mike Fairweather, shared law enforcement ‘s perspective on how to combat trafficking and help victims.
Susan Panzica from Justice Network and the Coalition served as a panel member for several segments including Fair Trade & the Marketplace and Community Mobilization, as well as the Coalition’s Speaker Bureau, Arts Committee, and Board of Trustees.
The survivor accounts were very powerful; as such from a mom who talked about her daughter’s victimization and how she had to help her overcome and get through the hardships due to her own medical training. Another person talked about her time with children in Cambodia and Vietnam who were out in the open living in slavery sold sometimes by their own parents.
Other panels spoke about the Coalition’s impactful college student intern program, education programs in public and private schools around the state through Project Stay Gold led by Danny Papa, healthcare and service providers such as from the Atlantic Health System, abolition in the travel industry, legislation initiative, the SOAP program, and how community leaders can incite abolition everywhere in their networks.
Programs like these are critical to spread awareness to the general population and inform industry leaders about the prevalence of human trafficking, but also ways that we all can combat it.
1. From Kelly Lyngard of Unshattered: “We don’t need to be perfect; we need to focus on progress.” In the fight for slavery-free consumer goods, it is an uphill battle to determine the sourcing throughout supply chains. But the more we advance our impact, the sooner we will be assured that our items have not had slave involvement.
2. From Jim Halfpenny of the Coalition Speaker Bureau: “We need to address ‘demand.’” Indeed if we eliminate or reduce the demand for sexually exploited people or labor trafficked merchandise, we will effectively end trafficking. Guest speakers are available to speak at any event.
3. The NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking offers a wealth of information on their website. There are upcoming events to attend, ways to become involved, and information about the internship program. Their website is https://www.njhumantrafficking.org.
4. Human trafficking is everyone’s problem. All of us know someone who may be vulnerable. As one of the student college leaders Gianluca said, “Personally I haven’t seen it (human trafficking) firsthand, but I know it’s there.” as well as the ability we have “To question everything…to take risks.”