The Global Freedom Exchange wrapped up July 1 and participants headed home to bring best practices and an international network of support back to their home cities in 13 different countries.
Shandra Woworuntu, a survivor and advocate working with Safe Horizon‘s Voices of Hope in New York, was glad to connect with advocates from outside of the U.S. “This is a wonderful and excellent program for leaders to meet with other international leaders to know about other countries and their coordination. The program’s name is right: It’s really a global exchange of learning and collaboration from around the world.”
The group’s final visit in Dallas was to the Judge Peggy Hoffman‘s Dallas County Criminal Court No. 9, which runs a divert court as part of the Dallas Prostitution Diversion Initiative. This program recognizes the often exacerbating factors of addiction, mental illness, and trauma that can go hand in hand with the street life, and so rather than charging prostitutes with a crime, the court provides the opportunity for recovery and rehabilitation. The purpose of the court is to provide them with the resources and services necessary to prevent them from returning to the street.
Participants will take this innovative model and many more ideas learned from one another as they return to their homes. Collaboration will continue, however, and strategic planning sessions yielded opportunities for the group to make concrete plans about their next steps. As the group members will become part of the Vital Voices network, there will also be opportunities to continue to engage Hilton Worldwide through local connections to hotels in their home countries.
Peruvian Fiorella Duran Flores from CHS Alternativo emphasized Shandra’s sentiment, one echoed by many. “Sometimes I feel discouraged in my work. But here I found a group of people working toward the same goal, and so many resources. So I am refreshed and motivated to continue working.”
Call to Action
To support the fight to combat child sex trafficking led by activists like the members of the Global Freedom Exchange, you can:
- Take action and ask your senator to support Senate Bill 121 and establish a United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.
- Contribute to Vital Voices initiatives to empower leaders on the front lines combating child sex trafficking.
- Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (@VitalVoices), and share this blog to spread awareness about initiatives combating child commercial sexual exploitation.
Megan Abbot is Vital Voices program coordinator, Human Rights.
Top: Global Freedom Exchange participants Shandra Woworuntu and Rahel Gettu.