Katerina Canyon (CONCERN)

Katerina Canyon (CONCERN in Nepal): Prior to her fellowship Katerina obtained a BA in creative writing from Saint Louis University, where she wrote for OneWorld Magazine and University News. She served as an international affairs intern at the Peace Economy Project, where she researched U.S. spending and involvement in military actions. At the time of her fellowship Katerina was studying for an MA in Law and Diplomacy at The Fletcher School, Tufts University. After her fellowship, Katerina wrote: “I look at the world and children differently. I am now starkly aware of the differences between the U.S. and other parts of the world.” kcanyon@advocacynet.org

The 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report and Other Thoughts on Human Complacency

22 Jun

So this week wasn’t one of the most productive weeks of my life.  I started off Sunday at CONCERN working on a grant application in order to gain support for CONCERN’s women and children’s advocacy program, which we are trying to fund.  This program would help educate public entities about the enforcement of human rights violations.  This program is something that the Government of Nepal greatly needs.  I will discuss why a program like this is needed in my next blog post.

By Monday, I had put a pretty decent dent in the grant application, but I was starting to feel ill.  I figured I must have eaten something I shouldn’t have, and that it would pass, and all I needed to do was drink plenty of fluids.  It did not pass.  I ended up spending a few days in the hospital, and I was unable to attend an important child labour task force meeting on Friday between several Nepali NGO’s.

One good thing that came out of my stint in the hospital was that I had access to television, and I was able to watch John Kerry announce the release of the 2014 Trafficking in Persons report. I caught him just as he began his opening remarks.  I discuss some of his key remarks below.  The transcript can be found here on the Department of State’s web site.

Kerry’s Remarks

Kerry began by acknowledging key people in attendance and acknowledging their work.  He then discussed the report and emphasized how the report was about more than statistics.  He stated, “This is a call to action. It’s a call to conscience.”

He acknowledged those whom he called “heroes” and “distinguished guests,” whose stories he went on to share later in his speech.  Then he said something very poignant:  “If the cries of those who are enslaved around the world today were an earthquake, then the tremors would be felt in every single nation on every continent simultaneously.”

This is true.  Every country on this planet has been affected by the horrible tragedy of human trafficking.  The comparison to an earthquake made me think of an actual natural disaster.  Whenever we see one of those tragedies on television, the world pulls together to provide aid.  Just as the world gathers together to provide water and food to countries suffering in natural disasters, we should gather together to end the trafficking of human beings.

Human trafficking is an unnatural disaster.  Children’s legs are crumbling under the rocks they are forced to carry for ten hours a day or more in stone quarries.  Girls are falling through the chasms of the sex trade.  The family foundation is falling down all around us, and all we do is watch it all, or fail to watch it at all.  We need to go beyond passive acknowledgement.  There are serious wrongs occurring here. It is a world-wide tragedy, and we need to act.  As Kerry pointed out in his remarks:

“Whether it is a young girl trapped in a brothel or a woman enslaved as a domestic worker or a boy forced to sell himself on the street or a man abused on a fishing boat, the victims of these crimes all have names, all had families. And they each have been robbed of the right to lead their lives the way that they might choose to for themselves.” 

Many communities and many families consider forced labour and human trafficking to be nothing more than the way things are done, a fact of life, a necessary evil. But this is just an excuse for inaction. Forced labour and human trafficking are not “the way things are”;  they are illegal activities. Every time we buy products without knowing where they came from, every time we see a domestic situation that looks a little odd and say that it’s none of our business, every time we see a child who looks too young to be doing the job he or she is doing but keep silent, and every time we know that there is something we can do, and we do nothing, we are complicit.  We are accessories to criminal activity, participants in this unnatural disaster, and we need to stop being passive.

If you haven’t already, take time to review the 2014 Trafficking in Person’s Report from the State Department.  Take note of the condition of your home country and the countries with whom you do business.  Think about what you can do to end this tragic crime.

Kerry closed his statement with the following words,  and I think we should carefully consider his words and take heed: “And it’s a call to action to governments and citizens around the world to uncover modern slavery and hold it accountable to identify the victims, and bring their abusers to justice. There cannot be impunity for those who traffic in human beings. It must end. So that is the standard that we intend to hold ourselves to.”

So please, help end this unnatural disaster.  If you are wondering how to do this, supporting NGOs like CONCERN is a great way to start.  CONCERN has been working to end child labour for over 20 years and has started many programs to help accomplish this.  If you are interested in donating, you can use the donate button at the upper right hand side of my blog and make sure to note that your donation is for CONCERN.  Thanks in advance for your support.

Posted By Katerina Canyon (CONCERN)

Posted Jun 22nd, 2014

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