Human trafficking is a major issue around the world. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are over 40 million people who are trafficked globally each year, mostly women and children. They also estimate that traffickers make upwards of $150 billion. It is important to note that human trafficking and human smuggling are not the same. People pay smugglers to move them from point A to point B and then they are free to go, while in trafficking there is some form of exploitation involved. This can include the sex trade, domestic servitude, forced labor, and debt bondage. It is a huge problem in many countries including the U.S. This was the impetus for putting on an Arts and Ideas event to draw attention to the issue. On Tuesday March 30, the Justice, Law and Public Safety Studies Department (JLPSS) had the pleasure to host Mexican human rights activist Ms. Rosi Orozco as a speaker at the event. The event, “Human Trafficking – The Story of Survivors” was attended by students, community members, faculty and staff.
I first heard Ms. Orozco speak at a virtual United Nations event I attended in 2020, and contacted her to see if she would be willing to speak to the students at Lewis University. She was happy to do so, which prompted the creation of an Arts and Ideas event so she can share her knowledge and experience on the topic. We were thrilled to have her as she is one of the world’s most recognized activists in the fight against human trafficking. Through her work, Ms. Orozco has brought this issue to the attention of millions of people and trained over 100,000 authorities. She is the President of Comisión Unidos Vs Trata (Commission United Against Human Trafficking) and as a member of the 61st legislature she was able to assist in the passage of a tough new law against trafficking in Mexico in 2012. In May 2015, she spoke in a hearing before the United States Senate Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Human Rights. She is also featured in the Stopping Traffic Film (For more information about screening the film visit: https://stoppingtrafficfilm.com/portfolio/rosiorozco/).
She is also the author of Blank Page: Stories of Triumph from Human Trafficking Survivors which was published in 2020. In the book, she covers the stories of ten brave survivors of human trafficking. As part of the Arts and Ideas event JLPSS purchased 15 copies of the book which they gave to participants who were selected at random, so they can gain a better understanding on just how widespread the problem is, and how survivors can overcome their suffering. Ms. Orozco has directly helped over 300 victims of human trafficking re-write a new story on that “blank page.” Due to her work in this area, she was a nominee for the Nobel Prize and has received numerous other awards. Her presentation during the Arts and Ideas event was very informative, and when she got to the portion where she recounted the stories of survivors, it was truly touching. Some of the girls were stuck in the trade for many years, and are now also activists in their own right, trying to make it better for others. Her work is truly inspiring.
The event ended with a panel of faculty from the different departments in the College of Education and Social Sciences (COESS) including JLPSS, Psychology, Social work, Sociology, and Education. The topic of human trafficking can be tackled from a truly interdisciplinary approach. The panelists also highlighted some of the programs in our college. I want to thank the co-sponsors of the event: Pi Epsilon Theta – the Lewis Chapter of the Alpha Phi Sigma National Honors Society, the Gros Institute, and of course the Comisión Unidos Vs Trata (https://comisionunidos.org/). If you missed the presentation, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/ifuZVujbONs