Victims’ voices lead the way in the fight against human trafficking
30 July 2021
Human trafficking is a crime that strips people of their rights, ruins their dreams, and robs them of their dignity. UN country teams around the world are joining "The Blue Heart Campaign." A initiative that encourages everyone to get involved: to raise awareness and inspire action to help stop human trafficking and to fight its impact on society.
On this year’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons, Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is calling us to recognise that "Each and every victim of trafficking in persons has a story we should listen to. Victims’ voices are key to preventing trafficking, supporting survivors, and bringing perpetrators to justice."
As our UN Resident Coordinators around the world are joining UNODC Executive Director in saluting victims of human trafficking who are rebuilding their lives while helping to protect those of others, we are sharing victims' voices to lead the way in putting a spotlight on victims’ untold stories, and on their roles in the fight against trafficking.
In the words of Secretary-general António Gutrerres: "The United Nations is committed to listening and responding to the voices of victims and survivors of human trafficking, ensuring their rights and dignity, amplifying their stories and learning from them in our fight to prevent and put an end to this terrible crime."
Listen to some of those voices:
Marcela Loaiza - Colombia/USA
As a 21-years old woman with a family of her own and bills piling up, Marcela was tricked by human traffickers and sexually exploited for 18 months. Now she is leading the way as a founder of an organization that is empowering victims and survivors in their journey of social reintegration by providing services to overcome personal challenges and find employment.
“Often, the reason for victims to not seek support is lack of resources. Offering things like bus passes and babysitting is crucial in maintaining a good attendance at our workshops,” explains Marcela, founder of Marcela Loaiza Foundation, an organization that is helping to raise awareness, integrate human trafficking as a topic in the curricula and include the needs of victims and survivors into courses at high schools and universities in Colombia and the United States.
Awah Francisca Mbuli - Cameroon
Francisca not only owns her story, she embodies it. She identifies herself as a survivor of multiple labour and sex trafficking situation on three continents. “I almost sold my kidney to raise money to escape my abuser,” she adds after explaining how she was exploited and abused as a domestic servant after being tricked by a trafficker who promised her a good job teaching English abroad. Francisca returned home only “to be stigmatized”.
Through Survivors’ Network, which is managed by survivors of human trafficking, Francisca has helped more than 5,000 women and girls in Cameroon and worldwide to escape human trafficking and gender-based violence situations by providing temporary or long-term shelter or accommodation in safe houses, where they also receive psychosocial support and have the option of taking part in a programme of economic empowerment.
Shandra Woworuntu - Indonesia/USA
After being dismissed from her steady job in the financial sector, Shandra decided to give herself permission to explore a new career path. Nevertheless, transitioning to the hospitality industry became an unexpected life-threatening decision for her.
“I found a gap in the support system for survivors,” she says, “not all survivors have an education or skills”, outline, Shandra Woworuntu.
After paying the agent fee and going through all the paperwork to get her visa, she was abducted at the airport and recruited into sex trafficking. She managed to escape, and turned her ordeal into a survivor empowerment programme “Mentari” that is providing mentorship, leadership and culinary arts vocational training programmes, specifically designed for human trafficking survivors.
Senga Jeanbaptiste - Rwanda
Senga was only five years old, when he and his parents fled genocide. They were living in the streets when Senga was recruited by a man who offered him a misleading way out. Instead of getting a job, he ended up on the battlefield. After a traumatic decade endured as a child soldier, Senga escaped his captors and surrendered himself to the United Nations peacekeepers. His personal story had a drastic twist when Senga engaged with the survivor-led organization “Footprint to Freedom”, which enabled him to transform his own path and become a leader.
“Safe and sustainable self-employment is one of the most effective ways to prevent exploitation”, Senga explains. Since he has experienced the lack of integration support and options for male survivors of human trafficking, he is co-leading prevention and reintegration actions that aren’t gender-biased, in partnership with the “Soul of Rwanda” foundation towards the reintegration of street children who can easily fall prey to traffickers.
To learn how countries have implemented policies informed by UN Country Teams, backed by socio-economic impact assessments focused on at-risk populations, please visit the SDGs section of the UNSDG Chair Report on DCO.