According to a 2011 report by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 85 percent of counties in Tennessee reported investigating at least one sex trafficking case in the past 24 months.
“Human trafficking, including the trafficking of underage girls for sex, is modern day slavery,” says Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga board member Ann Coulter. “It’s a vicious and dangerous life, and it’s unfortunately growing not just around the world but in our own communities.”
This is why, in 2011, the WFGC partnered with other women’s funds across Tennessee to form the Women’s Fund Alliance, aimed at raising awareness of and eradicating this crime in the state. In two years the Alliance has lobbied to help pass 19 bills, placing Tennessee among the states in the nation with the strongest anti-human trafficking legislation.
Another accomplishment has been the Alliance’s work with the Tennessee Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. Although the state mandated hotline has been operational since 2011, no funding was allocated to promote its existence and it has been virtually unused. In March of this year, the Alliance funded and launched a public awareness campaign for the hotline. Since March, calls to the hotline have increased 66 percent and multiple victims have been rescued as a direct result of calls to the hotline.
To promote awareness in the Chattanooga community about trafficking in Tennessee, the WFGC has invited CNN investigative journalist Amber Lyon to speak at its inaugural Voices event, held Oct. 2 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Stratton Hall. A three-time Emmy Award-winning journalist, Ms. Lyon helped shut down the Craigslist’s Adult Services section with her 2010 report on the sex trafficking of domestic minors on the online classified site.
“The sex trafficking campaign perfectly aligns with our mission to give voice to the voiceless,” explains Kara Fagan, WFGC executive director. “Everyone should know the problems women face, understand those problems have remedies and understand that they have a voice in resolving the problems.”
Human trafficking isn’t the sole focus of the WFGC. Founded in 2008, the fund works to improve the lives of women and girls by changing policy that impacts their safety, education and economic opportunity. Working to educate decision makers and influence legislation can have far reaching and long lasting impact on the lives of women and girls in the community, officials said.
Organizers of Voices, the first “fund and friend raiser” of the WFGC, hope the event will introduce the WFGC more broadly to the community.
The response so far has been overwhelming, says Betsy McCright, who is chairing the event along with honorary chair Vicky Gregg. “There are many talented women with diverse backgrounds working on this event, and I attribute the success so far to the relationships various committee members have with community,” says Ms. McCright.
In addition to Ms. Lyon’s presentation, the event will include a unique, women-focused silent auction with offerings from some of Chattanooga’s most stylish retailers. To purchase tickets, visit http://chattanoogawomensfund.com/ or contact Pam Ladd at 265-0586. Corporate sponsorships for the event are still available.
About the Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga:
The WFGC unites advocates, donors and activists to promote safety, education and economic opportunity, improving life for women and girls across the region. As a component fund of the Community Foundation, the WFGC utilizes empowered philanthropy, education and advocacy, collaborative partnerships and strategic grantmaking to accomplish its goals.
For more information, contact Pam Ladd, interim director of WFGC, 265-0586