Coinciding with ‘END IT’ week to help shine a light on slavery and human trafficking, Senator Bob Corker convened a hearing on Wednesday featuring leading advocates and survivors who urged the U.S.
to purse a greater leadership role in ending modern day slavery. Thursday marks the END It Movement’s third annual “Shine A Light On Slavery Day” when supporters from around the U.S. and around the world will raise awareness and call for action.
“Today with this hearing we are marking the annual effort to draw attention to these horrific circumstances inflicted on girls and boys, women and men,” said Senator Corker. “End It Day is an opportunity for us to say enough is enough. More importantly, it’s a day for us to not just understand what is happening but to do something about it.”
Cindy McCain, co-chairwoman of the Human Trafficking Advisory Council at The McCain Institute, highlighted the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who are utilizing innovative methods to target traffickers.
“There are increasing numbers of people dedicating their lives to fighting trafficking every day and some NGO’s that do outstanding work,” said Ms. McCain. “The McCain Institute has had the honor of partnering with THORN, Digital Defenders of Children, to help get their innovative Spotlight tool into the hands of over 2,000 police departments in 49 states. THORN’s work on the pervasive use of the Internet to buy and sell human beings for sex, using the brightest minds in technology to disrupt trafficking networks, and save victims one at a time is making a difference. The global battle against human trafficking has many shifting fronts and there are a variety of weapons, like the Spotlight tool, available to combat it.”
Free the Slaves Executive Director Maurice Middleberg presented his organization’s successful Community Based Abolition Model that involves four primary components: (1) educating and mobilizing vulnerable communities; (2) enhancing legal protections; (3) increasing access to basic social and economic services; (4) and liberating and reintegrating slaves. With proven methods of intervention available, the primary challenge facing the anti-slavery movement, Middleberg argued, is the need to bring these and other global efforts to scale, which demands a relatively modest investment in additional resources and U.S. and global leadership to raise the issue on the international agenda. Dedicating just two-cents for every dollar earned annually by traffickers, Middleberg suggested, would substantially improve international assistance for anti-slavery groups.
“We must match the nobility of our intentions and words with the actions and resources that will change the lives of millions,” said Mr. Middleberg. “There is no better place than the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to create a political environment conducive to bold action.”
Evelyn Chumbow, who was trafficked from Cameroon to Silver Spring, Md., at the age of 10 and abused by her adoptive family, described her experiences in forced labor captivity and how she eventually escaped, earned a degree, and went on to support victims like herself. Noting how traffickers came to her parents with promises of a better education in the United States, Ms. Chumbow emphasized education and awareness as key to preventing vulnerable populations from succumbing to these false promises.
“Many victims come from impoverished areas where there is little to no opportunity for advancement,” she said. “They have a skewed reality that a foreign country will offer more opportunity. However many find themselves enslaved. Additionally, those that have even escaped from their situation find themselves re-victimized due to lack of job opportunities.”
Leah, an advocate with the non-profit A21 Campaign, detailed her tragic story of survival from the sex-trafficking trade and reiterated the need for education and awareness to save future victims.
On Wednesday Senator Corker introduced bipartisan legislation known as The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, which will help eliminate slavery and human trafficking worldwide. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed the legislation last year. In December 2015, the Senate passed the fiscal year 2016 “omnibus” appropriations bill, which included funding for the initiative.
“It is time for us to work together to move this bipartisan piece of legislation to passage and enactment,” Senator Corker said.
Those interested in Senator Corker’s efforts to end modern slavery can join the conversation online using the hashtags #EndSlaveryAct and #EndItMovement. They also can show support by posting a photo of themselves holding up their hand marked with a red “X”. An example is here.
Read more about The End Modern Slavery Initiative Act here.