When I consider what World Day of Trafficking means to me and what significance it could hold for others, it is a place of reflection, not celebration. I cannot celebrate when there is still so much to be done. I had thought by now that we could have collectively achieved more progress. But there are glaring gaps in standards of care, and some survivors are still marginalized and left outside of aftercare services. For the amount of awareness raised for this issue, how have we seen survivors we know and love served by this?
There are still myths to dispel and disbelief to quiet. If stories of trafficking are merely meant to entertain an audience, we are missing something so critical. There is, however, a triumphant song rising. I find evidence of this in all of the survivors in the US and Tanzania who have called Courage House home. They are the best ones to tell the world what is still needed.
Safety and security are basics on the hierarchy of needs, but they can never be considered one-time checklists. Polaris, the national organization that runs the US hotline, shared a landmark study done on critical gaps and needs for survivors. The National Survivor Study led to a report entitled In Harm's Way: How Systems Fail Human Trafficking Survivors entailed the results from this study. This is one of the best reports that I know of that can clearly explain from a survivor's perspective the work that still needs to be done. Within all of the research and data presented, 54% of survivors said that their most valuable source of support was their resourcefulness. I hope that we all celebrate a survivor's strength, resiliency, and resourcefulness to not only survive what is unimaginable but to choose to thrive afterward.
No timeline can be instituted, and no definition of healing can apply to every survivor because their trafficking experience and how they begin to heal will look different.
I could not have pictured what my life looks like today when I left trafficking in 2009. I had no frame of reference for how much life can happen in years. But what made all the difference in the world was having someone to believe in me. That is where we start and end.
Liz Williamson G.
The theme for this year's World Day against Trafficking to reach every victim of trafficking and leave no one behind is in line with the mission of Courage Worldwide: in a world where children are sold for sex, Courage Worldwide provides safe houses and resources to child victims so they can reach their unique potential. To-date, women and children suffer greater violence at the hands of traffickers. Courage Worldwide seeks to end that statistic by endeavoring to end the exploitation of trafficking victims by providing them with shelter, education, and resources, providing support through trauma informed training for the victim-survivors once they are free from their traffickers, and last but definitely not least, creating opportunities for the victim-survivors so they are no longer vulnerable to traffickers. As a victim survivor, I am a testament to the work done by Courage Worldwide to end human trafficking, while strengthening resilience against exploitation and the underlying socio-economic and cultural issues that are conducive to trafficking. On a personal level, I have been a victim of the some of the challenges that plague and oppress women in the world, which I seek to remedy. Forced into wife inheritance, I have witnessed the scourge of child marriage that affects women and children involved in this abusive cultural practice.
My life odyssey in Kenya, my mother country, where I was forced into exile for my resistance
to the patriarchal and abusive policies of my rural village has inspired an insatiable life-long quest to learn, serve, and lead for global change in developing nations and communities ravaged by child marriage, wife inheritance, and the subsequent consequences, which includes trafficking of women and girls trying to seek better lives for themselves and their families. My goal is to be an agent of change for a bold return to Africa!
I am eager to leverage my experiences and dedicate myself to making transformative impacts on the global scene, particularly in projects, organizations, and agencies which are rooted in resolving human trafficking and the elevation of women’s status. I want to use the blessings and privileges of the safe harbor and training the United States has so generously bestowed upon me to eventually deliver educational resources, grassroots leadership strategies, and political and personal know-how, and sow seeds of hope and empowerment throughout Africa.