The U.N.'s World Day against Trafficking in Persons may prompt renewed debate over prostitution. The debate splits groups often allied in other causes, including Catholic sisters and human rights advocates.
In the West African countries of Gabon and Togo I have watched Sisters Rita, Julienne, Lucie, Clarisse, Gaby and Elisabeth get up each morning with one goal: to offer children an alternative life and to protect the most vulnerable.
Based in Sydney, Marist Sr. Noelene Simmons lives in a "destination country," or the final stop for trafficked people — in Australia's case, trafficked people from Asia. Simmons is the president of Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH), which is among the many networks of sisters around the globe that combat human trafficking.
Every day, 250 women come to the Fountain of Life Women's Center, run by the Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd Sisters, to gain skills they hope will give them an alternative to earning money in prostitution.
GSR Today - In its three years of existence, the International Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking has shown remarkable growth.
In 2016, sisters at Bakhita Villa, a safe house in Lagos, Nigeria, helped rescue and rehabilitate nine victims of human trafficking. St. Louis Sr. Patricia Ebegbulem, director of the safe house, talked to GSR about her ministry, why she feels drawn to St. Josephine Bakhita, and why so many people are at risk for being trafficked today.
"Just looking at the grass, or flowers, and sitting in the sun; the beauty of nature helped me recover."
Sacred Heart of Jesus Sr. Florence Nweonuma was on the front lines helping draft the law that outlawed trafficking in Nigeria in 2003. Global Sisters Report caught up with Nweonuma in October to hear her reflections on two decades of anti-trafficking work.
GSR Today - There are 2.4 million trafficking victims globally. With regional and national organizations that provide support for smaller groups and ministries, sisters around the world are working together to save victims, operating safe houses, rehabilitation programs, educational programs, and public campaigns.
Travelers have the chance to help rescue sex-trafficking victims via the TraffickCam app, which is creating a database of hotel room photos. It's a project of Exchange Initiative, which came into being after meeting planner Kimberly Ritter crossed paths with the Sisters of St. Joseph.