Symons: Trafficking ‘Genocide in Slow Motion’

Post a Comment » Written on March 20th, 2009     
Filed under: News
By Gustav Skogens

CHICAGO, IL (March 20, 2009) – “It’s a genocide in slow motion,” says Sara Symons in describing the plight of an estimated 27 million victims of human trafficking worldwide.

Symons, who is co-founder and CEO of The Emancipation Network (TEN), addressed a gathering of North Park University students and faculty on Wednesday. The network is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting worldwide slavery.

“There should be a much, much larger public outcry,” she added. “We should all stand up, march down the street and say that this is outrageous.”

SymonsRaising awareness is key, Symons said. Part of the problem, she claimed, is that press reports focus on human trafficking as isolated cases and not as the global issue it really is. It allows people to say, “Oh, that’s so sad,” without thinking more about it, she explained.

Symons used to write and record music for television, but her life changed when she watched the documentary, “The Day My God Died,” in 2002. The film told the horrifying truth about child sex trafficking between Nepal and India.

She volunteered in Boston with Friends of Maiti Nepal, an organization fighting exploitation of Nepali girls and women. Symons also visited the group in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. In 2005, Symons and her husband, John Berger, founded TEN, based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The modern-day slave trade utterly disregards the value of human life, Symons said. In the 19th century, buying a slave was considered by some an investment.

Slaves cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s dollars, she said. Now, the average slave is sold for less than $100.

“These are truly disposable people,” Symons lamented. “There are more slaves today than anytime in history.”

The demand is always high because slaves provide “cheap, powerless, easily controlled labor for the end buyer,” Symons said. According to U.S. government reports, 18,000 people are trafficked into the country, most from Mexico.

Every country in the world is somehow involved in the human trafficking business, either as a source, transfer or destination country, Symons said.

Almost exclusively, people are trafficked from poor to rich, and rural to urban areas, Symons said. Poverty, war and civil unrest make people more vulnerable to being trafficked.

Typically, slaves originate from Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, India, Nepal and former Soviet Republics. They end up in Japan, the Arab world, the U.S. and Western Europe. They are forced to work in brothels, on plantations, or in industries.

Symons said there is hope, however. Many shelters across the globe host survivors and girls who used to live in high-risk areas. TEN empowers them by importing their handicrafts like jewelry, handbags and paper to the U.S.

When people purchase these products, they generate immediate income for the producers, and the “survivors get to see it’s leading somewhere,” Symons said.

TEN combines this effort with outreach and education programs. Symons recommended some practical ways for ordinary people to help and raise awareness:
•    Host a community-awareness event, such as a home party where people can purchase products made by survivors, sponsor a child via the TEN website, or network with others.
•    Create and participate in campaigns and online communities such as Facebook.
•    Volunteer in survivor shelters across the world – the need for doctors, nurses and teachers is especially great.

North Park senior Nyenemo Sanguma thought Symons’ speech brought attention to facts people usually don’t see. He is the son of Mossai Sanguma, president of the Covenant Church of Congo (CEUM).

Approximately 50 people attended the event, which was held as part of the university’s recognition of Women’s History Month.

For more information, visit the Evangelical Covenant Church website and the Break the Chains initiative to fight human trafficking or The Emancipation Network website.

(Editor’s note: Gustav Skogens is a North Park University student completing an internship with the Department of Communication.)

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