On January 5, 2018 I was invited to Washington DC for the relaunching of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. This is a task force that was appointed by the Obama administration comprised of mostly survivors to advocate and set policies that will give survivors of sex and labor trafficking the freedoms and protections they rightly deserve. When I arrived at the Baker Institute-across from the White House, I entered a crowded room of government employees, advocates and survivors. I will admit I knew every survivor on the task force and they are fighting very hard to have their voices heard and to make a change on the national level. Before the re-appointments, the women on the panel were giving their final analysis on what still needs to be done not only on the national level but with NGOs and non profits....read more...
The unfortunate reality it that when people hear you are a survivor right away they’ve already put you in a category. If it’s a non profit or NGO you are expected to advocate for free and be at their beck and call. If you are trying to get a decent paying job it can be challenging as a survivor when you don’t have the right support and encouragement. If survivors are going to be used as advocates for NGOs, non profits and government agencies they need to be sustained financially. It’s not a good feeling for anyone to know that they may not be able to pay their bills, eat or have a place to live. These are basic rights that no one should be denied because of a past situation. It’s a human right.
I actually had someone question the self sustainability that BeaSister2aSister offers survivors. Not understanding the meaning of it which was interesting to me because how is it that a survivor that may or may not have a lot of education understand it but a woman who is a professor can’t. Maybe this person has never had to think about where her next meal was coming from or if she will be able to pay her bills and have a place to live. When you are dependent on another person or entity to provide you a “life”, it’s pretty difficult to learn how to survive without them. If you’ve never learned how to provide for yourself how do you think you would fare on your own? Sometimes people need to learn how to be independent because they’ve never had that freedom or it was taken away from them and they have to learn how to be independent again. To depend on themselves, earn their own money, buy their own food, pay bills and rent an apartment. Most of it is financial sustainability-the most important thing that everyone needs to feel secure in their life.
It’s really a very simple concept. Survivors are not decorations or ornaments to policies and legislation to make it look legit or serious. They cannot live on free advocacy or complimentary speaking engagements, they need something permanent that will sustain their lives. If they are not self sustainable, they will not be able to advocate or write policy or be on a government task force because they will be in a shelter or back on the streets. We need and can do better for them.
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