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Guest to speak about human trafficking

10/25/2010
By:

Laura Bowden

Staff Writer

The thought that human trafficking is occurring on a local level may seem unreal to people in Connecticut, according to Ebony McClease, a graduate intern for women’s studies. The 8th annual graduate conference on Human Trafficking will concentrate on this at a local and nationwide level.

The graduate conference, “Trafficking Humans: an Interdisciplinary Approach Addressing Sex and Labor Exploitation,” will be held on Saturday, Oct. 30 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Engleman C112. Anyone is able to attend this public event that is sponsored by Southern’s women’s studies department.

The vision of this conference was created by McClease and Leah Knowles, also a graduate intern for women’s studies at Southern. According to both women, the focus of human trafficking was not a hard decision to make as the conference topic since they both are passionate about the subject.

“When I started to learn about women in history and the different disciplines, I realized that this could be an area of study that I could be very passionate about,” said Knowles. “We hadn’t done a conference about human trafficking in this program yet and we also don’t talk about it much in our classes so for me and for Ebony as well, we both felt it was something that needed a lot of awareness since it is a current issue.”

This event will cover different aspects of human trafficking in the world. According to the tentative schedule, the event program consists of six different sections. Events and topics include: regional statistics, education about sex trafficking (curricular and co-curricular contributions), a theatrical performance, activist field work, survivor narratives and the keynote address.

The keynote speaker will be Sister Rose Bernadette Gallagher, who has been the director of the Women’s Desk in Bangkok, Thailand for 10 years. She also is part of the Maryknoll Sister’s Center in New York and travels around the world to speak with people about the problem of trafficking women throughout the world. She also attends meetings at the UN relating to women’s advocacy, according to the Southern website.

“I will speak about my personal experiences I have witnessed with human trafficking,” said Gallagher in an e-mail. “The driving force behind my working with women and youth who have been trafficked is because of such violations to their personal cries for active and immediate response.”

Since Sister Rose has been stationed in Thailand, which deals with a large amount of human trafficking, she has seen victims of trafficking such as women in prostitution first-hand, according to McClease.

“Human trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon, funnelled by greed for profit, lustful and undisciplined behaviour, mostly by males, and the U.S. is very much a part of this reality,” said Gallagher. “The importance of these conferences is to give awareness of this problem, both at home and abroad, and commitments taken to address it in positive and active ways.”

Knowles said human trafficking does not only consist of sexual exploitation, but labor is also a big deal, in which men are also trafficked quite frequently.

“Trafficking can be generally defined as any kind of coercion or fraud against any person who has been exploited either sexually or for labor purposes,” said Knowles. “It’s also called modern-day slavery which is also a huge international problem—it’s happening on a global level, it’s happening on a local level– which people are really shocked to hear.”

McClease said she and Knowles are trying to put together a survivor panel to talk about sex and labor through survivors’ own personal experiences. They said this would be an asset to their program but it is difficult to find people who are willing to speak about these subjects when they are personal to them.

“My belief is that young people don’t have the ability to speak up for themselves,” said McClease. “If I’m going to open my mouth about something it’s going to be about something that matters—you should use your voice for something good no matter what the subject.”

McClease said that our government is not putting young people in positions of power, which is a problem, in that people aren’t able to be heard and educated.

“Not many people are taught to care,” said McClease. “We don’t think about it because people don’t tell us it’s going on. So what do you do? It’s almost hard to pay attention to things that don’t affect you.”

According to Gallagher, there are steps that can be taken in order to alert people of the dangers of being trafficked in our own communities.

“I don’t feel that human trafficking can be stopped until the ‘demand factor’ stops,” said Gallagher. “Be informed about laws and legislation against trafficking on the books, in our own cities and state, and see that perpetrators are brought to justice. Join or volunteer with agencies and organizations, in your own districts, working toward stemming such violations against the human person.”

The conference will be helpful to Southern’s community to show them that these are the things going on around them, according to McClease.

“Human trafficking is here in full force and we have to learn that its important to talk about these things,” said McClease. “I am young, only 22, but I have been interested in this since high school and want to continue learning myself and teaching others.”

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