Shall I start with the beautiful city of Cartagena, Colombia? Or shall I begin with the extraordinary surprise of meeting the pope? Shall I talk about the girls who suffer so many risks in a world of social inequality? Actually, each of these elements, as they converged during a papal visit in September, caused me to look anew at my own life. For 34 years, I have been a Sister of the Good Shepherd. I am a Colombian whose life has held an ordinary history of joys, lights and shadows.
Sr. Joan Dawber is the founder and executive director of LifeWay Network, an organization in the New York City metropolitan area that provides secure housing for survivors of both labor and sex trafficking. She spoke to GSR about the importance of community living in LifeWay Network's work.
GSR Today - Trafficking victims live among us. They may grow our food, make our clothes, serve us in a restaurant, do our hair or nails, or build our electronic devices. Trafficking occurs in every state in every nation. The number of networks of sisters working against trafficking around the world is an impressive force, but the problem of trafficking is getting worse
Members of the Asian movement of religious against human trafficking comprise about 200 nuns from 63 congregations working in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The group was founded in 2009 and is now linked with the Talitha Kum international network of consecrated life against human trafficking. They work to educate villagers and school children about the crime, organize vigilance groups and rescue girls from traffickers.
Working under the Africa Faith & Justice Network in Nigeria, sisters from different congregations went on a five-day advocacy trip to educate and advocate on the local level for the closing of illegal brothels where girls are trafficked for commercial sex in rural communities.
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.