Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Soroptimist International - Our Fight Against Human Trafficking

The word itself “Soroptimist” seems to be hard to pronounce for a lot of people.  But it’s actually quite easy -- Sor and Optimist.  Soroptimist means “best for women.”  It is a global women’s service organization began in 1921 in California and spread like fire throughout the United States and then to Europe.   Soroptimist now has four federations, namely:  Soroptimist of the Americas, of Great Britain/Ireland, of Europe, and of the South West Pacific.  Most recently, women from all over the world converged on Istanbul, Turkey, for the 20th international convention, with approximately 1,500 Soroptimist members attending from July 9 to 12, 2015, including me.   Workshops held at the convention included “Slavery in the 2lst Century” and “The Power of a Second Chance for Women.”    

My specific area is the Midwestern Region which encompasses the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kentucky, and we are all members of Soroptimist International of the Americas.  There are approximately 721 members in those combined states as part of 32 clubs.  Currently, my position is Governor-Elect of the Midwestern Region.   In April 2016, my position will change to Governor of the Midwestern Region for a two year term where my duties will be to lead Soroptimist members of the Midwestern Region in their efforts to improve the lives of women and girls locally and globally through programs leading to economic and social empowerment for women and girls.

Soroptimist members have been educating themselves about the problem of human trafficking for approximately 10 years.  It all began at a Soroptimist meeting in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, where I met a survivor of human trafficking.  Back then the term “human trafficking” was just coming into existence.  The story I heard that night was a story I had never heard before - of a young girl being trafficked as a child.  You could hear a pin drop the entire time this young woman spoke to a roomful of Soroptimist members.

Since then, I have made it a point to attend as many events regarding human trafficking as possible.   What affects me the most are the stories told by the survivors.  The stories are real.  The stories are believable yet unbelievable.  The stories told by young women and girls is heart breaking and heart wrenching.  How can this happen to our girls and women? How can all of us prevent these things from happening to our girls?   What can we do?  The answer is that we must address the problem of trafficking at both the global and local levels.  The Soroptimists Stop Trafficking program can help you!  Here you can find a variety of resources to educate yourself and to help you educate your community about human trafficking and how you can take action to stop it. 

Take Action:  

Vivian Walczesky is a Legal Assistant, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for abused and neglected children, current Governor Elect of Soroptimist Midwestern Region, a Mediator with the Michigan Southeastern Dispute Resolution Services, and former Board Member for Friends of CASA and Monroe County Community College Alumni.   

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Break the Silence! Highlights from our upcoming Conference, Human Trafficking: A Closer Look

Here are some highlights for our upcoming Human Trafficking Conference.  Join us at the Dearborn Convention Center on October 15th-16th.

Survivors Speak Out--Labor and sexual victims who started the long journey to survival will recount their experiences.  They’ll describe what was of value to them along the journey and what was not as helpful.

Coleen Owens from Washington DC will be a key note speaker addressing the chronicles of labor traffickers who commit crimes against workers in agriculture, domestic work, hotels, and construction.

Becca Stevens from Thistle Farms-Magdalene, in Nashville, Tenn. will also be a key note speaker. She is one of the premiere speakers in the United States working with communities of women who have survived human trafficking, prostitution, and addiction.

Bridgette Carr Professor and Director of the world-wide renowned Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School will be speaking at the Conference on "Myths surrounding human trafficking and how this harms victims".

To register for the conference, visit www.michiganprosecutor.org.  Click on training and then human trafficking.  The cost of registration is $125 although applications for scholarships for police officer and survivors are being accepted.  For more information or assistance registering, call 517-881-8013.

Please note that the conference is MCOLES approved.  Social work CEs will also be available at no extra cost.