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The Global Freedom Exchange visited New York last week for meetings with survivor organizations, local government and creative service providers. 

Saturday featured the arts as the Global Freedom Exchange visited SOHarlem Creative Outlet, a social enterprise noted for combining arts and business incubation. Founded by Janet Rodriguez, the organization works to combat poverty and unemployment in Harlem by helping people gain skills for working within the culture industry. 

Participants next hit Brooklyn for a presentation by the outspoken actors of Girl Be Heard, a theater company that empowers girls to lead awareness on social issues. The group presented song, dance and skits of “Trafficked,” a play written and produced by the group that portrays the experiences of sexual trafficking and exploitation of young women. The theme hit close to home, as the company is host to survivors of violence and trafficking.

Portia Malgas, who works directly with survivors of sex trafficking through Child Welfare South Africa, said the performance was the highlight of the program so far. “It was a WOW moment for me. They are so empowered. I really want to copy that model for my girls.”

“Human Trafficking: A Crime that Shames Us All” Global Freedom Exchange members stand outside UNODC with a banner for the Blue Heart Campaign.

Valerie Kariem, also of South Africa, cited the Brooklyn Family Justice Center as the most valuable part of the New York Program. The one-stop care center for survivors of domestic violence and trafficking co-locates city agencies and NGOs in one location to reduce barriers to services for victims. Valerie says, “It reminds me of the Thuthuzela Care Centers in South Africa, but it is striking that NGOs are there too. It is an excellent model, especially because they work hand-in-hand with the mayor.”

The New York leg of the program also featured a visit to the Mayor’s Office Working Group on Human Trafficking, End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA), the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the Disrupting Slavery symposium Vital Voices co-hosted with Hilton Worldwide, the Somaly Mam Foundation, Somaly Mam herself, and Made In A Free World.

Next stop for the Global Freedom Exchange is Dallas, Texas.

Megan Abbot is Vital Voices program coordinator, Human Rights.

Top: Global Freedom Exchange participants and Girl Be Heard company members in Brooklyn, NY.

Other posts: DC and Dallas, TX recaps.