January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month
By Cathy Chang | World Mission migration and human trafficking regional facilitator
LOUISVILLE — According to a United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime 2016 Global Report, nearly 71 percent of human trafficking victims are women and girls, and one-third are children.
Born to an alcoholic and drug-addicted mother, Cyntoia Brown was already vulnerable and at-risk. No longer under the protection of social services, she ran away and became romantically involved with a man who eventually became her pimp. In Nashville, Tennessee, Brown was found guilty of killing Johnny Allen, a man who paid to have sex with her. She was 16 at the time of the murder and was tried as an adult. She received a life sentence with the possibility of parole.
During these early days of January, which is designated as National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and as one of his last acts in office, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam commuted her life sentence.
Through a faith-based mentoring program called Take One, a faith-based cooperative program with the Tennessee Department of Corrections, Brown received emotional support from Bishop Joseph Walker III and his congregation at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville. She earned her GED and an associate degree with a 4.0 grade point average and is expected to complete a bachelor’s degree this year.
“With God’s help,” she said in a statement, “I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people. My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”
The Sundernagar Mother’s Group in Nepal is also telling its story through community groups. Like Brown, members understand that awareness of human trafficking is more than knowledge — it also serves as prevention. They know how to overcome human trafficking through education.
Chairwoman Maya Tamang explains, “Now we are more aware about trafficking issues. … We have gained knowledge and ideas and learned how important a group can be in the community. Because of support by group members, we have been able to catch traffickers and save our children from them.”
Traffickers tricked 14-year-old Santosh into a job that would pay him NRP 5000 per month (USD $60). His parents told the group what had happened to him, and they asked the group to help rescue him in India. The women made plans to catch the traffickers by asking around and collecting information about them. This group also circled the house of the traffickers and warned them to bring Santosh back in two days. The case was registered at the local police station, and with police assistance, they brought Santosh back home from India. After this experience, Santosh has promised to share his story with other children so that they will not fall into the same trap.
By empowering girls and their families to keep them in school, this community-based group is also preventing human trafficking. The girls gain the confidence to speak up for themselves. The families are warned about the dangers of migration and human trafficking. Teenage girls meet for mutual support. They also sell incense sticks for other girls who cannot afford school stationery. Bhabishara, the group secretary of the Butwal-based group, who is also in Grade 7 at a local government school, says, “Without education, it’s like sitting in darkness. To go forward, we need an education.”
These groups are how the organization United Mission to Nepal (UMN) seeks to create “peaceful, harmonious, just, safe and secure communities.” UMN is an international non-governmental organization that strives to address the root causes of poverty as it serves the people of Nepal in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ. Presbyterian World Mission considers UMN an effective partner in addressing human trafficking.
To read more on the General Assembly’s policy on human trafficking, read the 2016 report “Human Trafficking and Human Rights: Children of God, Not for Sale.”
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