Mission co-worker Christi Boyd shares progress to date during lunchtime talk
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — A $9,000 grant from Presbyterian Women, a passion for prevention and plenty of shoe leather are helping raise awareness around preventing human trafficking in the African island nation of Madagascar.
Christi Boyd, a mission co-worker for nearly three decades who’s based with her husband, Jeff Boyd, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, told about a dozen people during a brown-bag lunch at the Presbyterian Center Wednesday that the fledgling anti-trafficking campaign called “Mamonji,” a word translated as “Save,” has to date focused on Madagascar’s coastal communities, which are popular with tourists and are therefore places where residents are at increased risk of being trafficked.
Over the past nine years, reports that the Rev. Helivao Poget, the director of ministry to marginalized people at SAFFIFAA with the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), SAFFIFAA identified and rescued 235 Malagasy women who’d been trafficked and were working against their will in either Lebanon or Kuwait.
Boyd said Poget and others working to end human trafficking in Madagascar and elsewhere agree that one of the best ways to combat it is through prevention. FJKM, which is the worship home to one in four residents of Madagascar, has access to radio stations and print publications to help spread the awareness campaign, Boyd said.
“The church is the means to help make people aware of the risks of trafficking,” she said. “Addressing domestic violence is a key angle. If women are drawn to take employment overseas and have already been abused in the home,” they’re less likely to withstand abuse where they’re being forced to work, Boyd said.
The campaign is geared to adults as well as young students. In one exercise, students are shown pictures of people in a variety of settings. “What do you see in this picture? Is this really a problem? What should be done?” they are asked.
Poget asks children, “What can you buy at the market?” She then tells them, “Children are not for sale!”
“That’s the message,” Boyd said. “You are a beautiful creation of God. You are not for sale.”
Boyd played a clip from “Flowers of Hope,” a film made by 10 human trafficking victims in July 2018 during a five-day participatory video workshop organized in Madagascar’s capital city, Antananarivo, by the Global Migration Film Festival.
“Life was hard in Madagascar, so I found a job abroad,” one young woman says in the six-minute film. “But once I got there, I suffered even more. No matter what people tell you, whether they promise you good jobs and a lot of money, don’t listen to their lies. It is better to endure in your own country than to suffer in a foreign country.”
The anti-trafficking campaign “was just launched this summer, and it will take time to raise awareness,” Boyd said. It will also take time to develop materials, “and students and local pastors will need to take ownership of the campaign. The place we will see the most influence is at the local level.”
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