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.