Tag Archive: Global Sisters Report

Sisters Inspire, Help Fund App Used In Anti-Trafficking Work

February 19, 2023

It began with a request from the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation, who wanted to ensure their 2008 national gathering was at a hotel that worked to stop human trafficking.

Kimberly Ritter, senior account manager at Nix Conference & Meeting Management, laughed at the idea. “I said, ‘Well, we’re not in India, Sister.’ ”

But the sister explained that human trafficking happens everywhere, even in the United States, and at rates that would shock most people: The U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline reports 10,360 cases of identified trafficking in 2021 involving nearly 17,000 victims.

“Then we researched the details and found that the average age of entry into sex trafficking is 12 to 13, and [Nix owner] Molly Hackett and I both had daughters that age. We couldn’t believe it,” Ritter said. “And it’s happening in hotels, where we spend millions of the sisters’ money. We knew we had to do something.”

So the St. Louis-based Nix worked with the hotel hosting the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation to sign ECPAT-USA’s Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, a voluntary set of business principles that travel and tour companies can implement to prevent sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.

Nix employees then wondered why they should stop with just one hotel, since they have the buying power to demand every hotel they contract with sign the code of conduct. In 2012, Nix became the first non-hotel company to adopt the code.

At the time, Backpage.com was notorious for running advertisements selling sex, and many ads featured women and girls who had been trafficked. Nix employees, who see hundreds of hotels every year, found they could identify the locations of those women and girls based on the pictures that Backpage.com posted with these ads. But when there were photos of hotels they didn’t recognize, “we realized an office of meeting planners wasn’t enough,” Ritter said.

Read the full story by Dan Stockman on Global Sisters Report.

Network’s 50th Anniversary Gala Shows How The Group Will March Into The Future

May 13, 2022
I’m old enough to remember the beginnings of Network. I was in graduate school, going on peace marches and wearing “Boycott grapes” buttons. I was not directly involved with Network, but many of our sisters were in this new social justice advocacy group, and, being a bleeding-heart liberal from birth, I was really proud of them. And at the April 22 gala celebrating the group’s 50th anniversary in Washington, D.C., it was my honor to sit with four of the pioneers. I had come with one of them, my housemate, Ursuline Sr. Angela Fitzpatrick.

I hovered around the edges of Network for years, writing letters, signing petitions, and actually visiting the Network office when our U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking group went to Washington to lobby our congressional representatives. (Network let us leave our luggage in their offices while we went to the Capitol.)

I finally jumped into the deep end and went on the 2018 tax justice tour with the Nuns on the Bus in spite of the fact I knew nothing about taxes —if you get involved with Network, you learn fast! — the 2020 virtual tour, and lots of good webinars in between.

But I was bowled over by what I saw and felt and experienced April 21-23 at the big 50th anniversary celebration, which included training for advocates and the gala.

Picturing the Network sisters I had known over the years (many white and, at this stage, mostly gray-haired), I was blown away by the explosion of diversity and youthful energy at the meeting. Oh, yes, there were a few of us old-timers, but there were young sisters and men and women of all ages and ethnicities/nationalities: associates, young staffers, college students, activists of all sorts, and, of course, our young sister-columnists for Global Sisters Report. One of my favorites was a young adult from India with a pink pageboy mop of hair.

I met old friends from past days in academia, from United Nations nongovernmental organizations, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and from religious leadership days.

Read the full story by Michele Morek on Global Sisters Report.

Ugandan Boarding School Rescues Young Teen Girls From Forced Marriage

March 22, 2022

AMUDAT, UGANDA — Sitting at her desk in a classroom at Kalas Girls Primary School in this remote town of northern Uganda, 15-year-old Susan Cherotich narrated through tears how she had fled her parents’ home some six weeks earlier following pressure from her uncles and elders to marry before she completes her education.

The eighth-grade student said her parents were opposed to the idea, but the decision by the majority of her clan members to start a home with a man was more binding, a common practice in her Pokot tribe.

Susan said her uncles and elders wanted to sell her against her will into marriage for dozens of cows to an older man she had never met.

“I heard that the man had several wives, and he was willing to give out many cows,” she said.

“I left at night after realizing they were coming to marry me off.”

She took refuge at a police station before religious sisters took her to Kalas Girls Primary School in Amudat parish, run by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix-Ggogonya. “My father pleaded with his brothers and elders to let me finish school, but they objected, saying it was the right time for me to be married off since schools were taking a long time to resume due to the COVID-19 lockdown.”

Susan is among thousands of girls in northern Uganda who have been rescued from marriages they did not want and taken to Kalas Girls Primary School, which is also sponsored by UN WomenUNICEF and the World Food Program. The boarding school provides hope and a haven for girls who have escaped genital mutilation and child marriage. At the school, the girls receive counseling and psychosocial support.

The East African nation is one of the countries with the highest rates of early and forced marriage, according to a 2019 report by UNICEF: The country of more than 45 million people is home to 5 million child brides. Of these, 1.3 million married before age 15, UNICEF reports.

The report also notes that child marriage results in teenage pregnancy, which contributes to high maternal deaths and health complications like obstetric fistula, premature births, and sexually transmitted diseases. It is also the leading cause of girls dropping out of school.

Read the full story by Gerald Matembu and Doreen Ajiambo on Global Sisters Report.

Join Catholic Sisters In Praying And Working To End Human Trafficking

January 26, 2022

The fight against human trafficking continues, 15 years after the United States designated today (Jan. 11) as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in 2007, and January as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month in 2010.

Catholic sisters around the world are deeply committed to ending the scourge of modern-day slavery. Through regional organizations, such as the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking and Rome-based Talitha Kum, initiated by the International Union of Superiors General as a “network of networks” active in five continents coordinating efforts of congregations in 60 or more networks, sisters work to raise awareness, aid and rehabilitate victims, and lobby for stricter laws and enforcement.

Global Sisters Report reflects these efforts in our coverage of sisters’ ministries and work related to human trafficking and through columns by sisters. We also take opportunities to help raise awareness through other venues. Our GSR in the Classroom curriculum, for instance, offers six lessons about human trafficking. GSR correspondent Soli Salgado, who has reported extensively about human trafficking, produced a special video presentation for the annual California Ministry Conference Hope, Heal, Renew, sponsored by eight dioceses and archdioceses from California, Nevada and Hawaii. The 2021 conference was a virtual gathering held Nov. 4-6.

The hourlong segment, entitled, “Migrating Toward Exploitation: Why Migrants Are Susceptible to Human Trafficking, and How Sisters Are Helping,” featured an explanatory introduction, plus interviews with Sr. Sally Duffy, a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati who is involved with migration and trafficking issues, and Jennifer Reyes Lay, executive director of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking.

Other resources are available to help observe the day and month, according to Sr. Ann Scholz, a School Sister of Notre Dame and the associate director for social mission for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, including a toolkit with events, prayers and other information. She also recommended the  anti-trafficking page of the Justice for Immigrants website, and a prayer to end human trafficking posted on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

There are also other official days to commemorate trafficking victims and efforts to raise awareness and stop human trafficking. Feb. 8 is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was born in Sudan and sold into slavery and taken to Italy where she eventually joined the Canossian Sisters. Feb. 8 is a World Day of Prayer, Reflection, and Action against Human Trafficking, designated by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General.

The theme for this year’s day of prayer is “The Power of Care — Women, Economics, Human Trafficking.” The International Day of Prayer website has more information and updates, including background, social media banners and posters and an invitation to join the prayer campaign. Networks of religious congregations from around the world will join together for a global prayer marathon. More information will become available.

In addition, the United Nations observes the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30. Talitha Kum, along with UISG, last year launched a special campaign, “Care Against Trafficking,” on July 22 in anticipation of this day. “We ask our networks and partners to stand together and amplify our efforts to transform the economy of trafficking into an economy of care that empowers everyone, and especially women, to foster safe and thriving communities,” the organization said, according to the Catholic News Service article about the launch. “Today, we call on all people of goodwill to come together and tackle the systemic causes of human trafficking … [and] … we call on governments to commit to long-term support for survivors, including quality education, work permits, access to justice and compensation, and medical and psychosocial assistance.

Read the full story by Gail DeGeorge on Global Sisters Report.

Warning Girls About The Tactics Of Human Traffickers

August 3, 2021

As we, the Africa Faith and Justice Network-Nigeria walked into Government Girls Science Secondary School of Kuje, Abuja, in Nigeria, I felt we were at the right place to speak with a vulnerable group of young girls who might be future victims of human trafficking. I was happy that we were going to share with younger children information about the dangers of human trafficking. The school administration was also pleased to welcome us to speak with the students on how to avoid being trafficked, and to teach them to speak out when they notice unusual behaviors. There were about 200 girls, from grades 7-12.

It was interesting that — though the students already have some idea about what human trafficking is — they were surprised that perpetrators can be family members or friends of a family. I could see their innocence and fear when they realized that no one could be trusted, since family members too are potential perpetrators of human trafficking.

They were very attentive and active during the program. The students were eager to know more and share with their friends about what they learned about human trafficking and the tricks perpetrators use to lure their victims. Anyone can be a victim and/or an agent for perpetrators. This was highlighted in a short drama that I guided them to act. The drama shows that there are chains of traffickers linked together, waiting for an available opportunity to strike.

In order to educate and inform their consciences, I asked the students if they understood the core message of the drama and the ideas it was trying to get across. Their answers were affirmative and that gave me joy. In fact, understanding the message I tried to get across with the help of a short drama means that this group of students will be able to elude the tricks of traffickers.

Read the full story by Teresa Anybuike on Global Sisters Report.

Act Locally To Help Break The Chains Of Human Trafficking

July 6, 2021

Chains. People locked “together with the weight of an ox-chain in the beating sun forced to walk the distance to damnation” to the slave market. That’s a description from Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste, about enslaved people and a type of caste system in the 19th-20th century United States.

Chains. Twenty-first century, women and children bound and walking to another market, not so public but equally damning. The market of human trafficking is silent and difficult to see without a perceptive eye.

On April 18, the League of Women Voters of Litchfield County, Connecticut, and the Litchfield Historical Society presented a zoom lecture on human trafficking. It was given by Alicia Kinsman, a senior staff attorney with the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants and a staff attorney for Project Rescue, the institute’s anti-human-trafficking program.

On May 1, a workshop on how to recognize human trafficking and what the public can do was given at the Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center in Litchfield. It was co-sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Project of Torrington, Connecticut, and the Litchfield County League of Women Voters. The program, using stories, statistics and videos, was eye-opening.

How did these two programs come about? It all started with the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita in February 2021. Congregations of religious sisters around the world were raising awareness of Human Trafficking and asking for prayers for the end of this tragedy.

I was also reading Pope Francis’ book Let Us Dream, where he encourages us to “see, judge, act,” which, in his words, are “contemplate, discern, propose.” I started looking for places where prayers were being complemented with action.

An informal conversation with a local friend led me to the human trafficking workshop of the Susan B. Anthony Project. Another conversation with Lynn Campbell, executive director of the Hartford Archdiocese’s Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry led me to Amirah.

I contacted Amirah, an interfaith nonprofit organization that provides “refuge to those seeking to break free from exploitation and heal in community on their journey toward lasting hope.” In this agency, I found what I was looking for, namely, an action to support trafficked persons. Amirah provides aftercare for women who have survived sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. Amirah’s safe homes for long-term recovery are in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Read the full story by Rosemarie Greco on Global Sisters Report.

Sisters Fight Nigeria Trafficking With Networking, Advocacy And Collaboration

June 17, 2021

Nigeria has one of the highest rates of human trafficking in sub-Saharan Africa. But a very organized and active network of Catholic sisters is determined to change that by providing help to survivors and conducting education campaigns to prevent others from being victimized.

“Because trafficking of persons is on the increase despite efforts to end it, it has become one of the main projects of our ministry,” said Sr. Gloria Ozuluoke of the Religious Sisters of Charity. The congregation has a corporate stance to abolish human trafficking, she added. “It is part of our ministry — not just on special days set aside to campaign against human trafficking, which we marked with prayers and training for women and youth. Other days, we also train people and do advocacy on human trafficking. It’s a way of bringing to an end the social ills of human trafficking.”

Her congregation, which has its regional house in Lagos and has 45 members in the country, and others are now preparing programs to mark the United Nations’ World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30. The Religious Sisters of Charity and others throughout Nigeria also held special prayer services and workshops on Feb. 8, the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, as did congregations around the world.

Yet education and rescue efforts by her congregation and others transcend particular days and are constant, as she noted in an interview with Global Sisters Report. That focus is part of a massive campaign through July among women religious congregations in Nigeria, and in collaboration with nonprofits and government agencies focused on anti-trafficking, Ozuluoke said. For instance, the sisters work with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, or NAPTIP, and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, or NDLEA, in combating trafficking and rehabilitating those affected by drug or substance abuse.

Read the full story by Patrick Egwu on Global Sisters Report.

A Conversation on Anti-Human Trafficking

January 26, 2021

On 8 February, the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking takes place. In preparation for the event, the Global Sisters Report organized a webinar featuring Srs. Gabriella Bottani and Jean Schafer, both of whom are recognized as leaders in anti-trafficking efforts. They were joined by over 350 participants.

Sr Gabriella Bottani joined the webinar from Italy. As International Coordinator of the international network against trafficking in persons sponsored by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), Talitha Kum, she brings a wealth of knowledge regarding the breadth of this pandemic on the international level. Sr Jean Schafer, board member of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, sheds light regarding the plight of trafficked persons in the United States.

Key is exploitation

Sr Gabriella explained the international reality of this evil, which she described as complex and difficult to identify. Exploitation is one important issue she said needs to be considered. “It is the entry-door to identifying trafficking,” she said. While types of trafficking are nuanced throughout the world, “the dignity of the person is destroyed through exploitation and the limitation of freedom”, she emphasized.

Forms of trafficking

Some forms of human trafficking are domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, forced labor and begging. A common element, she said, is that women and minors are particularly vulnerable. The ratio is about 70% women to 30% men. One in every three trafficked persons is under 18 years-of-age. Thus, human traffickers primary targets are women and children. Trafficking takes place in every corner of the globe, whereas Southeast Asia and Africa have higher rates of trafficked persons. She also made the connection between ecological exploitation and human trafficking.

“Another element that we observe when we speak about human trafficking is the connection of exploitation of human beings and the exploitation of the environment. Often, they go hand in hand.”

United States reality

In the United States, trafficking exists in “every zip code”, Sr Jean Schafer said. The myth that there is an area in the US untouched by trafficking is false. It affects primarily people of color, citizens and immigrants. African Americans, for example, represent 13% of the overall population, but represent about 40% of those who are trafficked. Sr Jean said that higher sex trafficking areas are found in larger cities that attract large numbers of tourists. People are also becoming more aware of how much grooming of children is taking place online. “We thought it was something happening in Southeast Asia. But suddenly we find out our children are caught in the trap of vulnerability,” Sr Jean said. Many are learning about it and finding out how to counteract it.

To read the full story by Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp, on Vatican News: Click Here

Anti-Trafficking Advocates Warn That Pandemic Is Increasing Human Trafficking

December 13, 2020

Those involved in efforts to end human trafficking fear that the global pandemic and resulting lockdowns are increasing the numbers of people forced into trafficking.

“The broad upshot is that we need to brace ourselves for 2021 and expect a huge increase in the number of people affected” by trafficking, Luke de Pulford, director of the U.K-based anti-trafficking organization Arise, said during a Dec. 2 webinar by the Catholic Sisters Initiative of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. (The foundation is one of the funders of Global Sisters Report.)

“We don’t know how bad the damage is yet,” de Pulford told GSR in an email after the event. “[But] when the statistics come in, they are going to be deeply shocking and troubling.”

Those being lured into trafficking work — be it slave labor or sexual trafficking — are those “already struggling” and at risk due to poverty, Sr. Jane Wakahiu, associate vice president of program operations and head of Hilton’s Catholic Sisters Initiative, said during the webinar.

“COVID has exacerbated dramatic increase in unemployment, reduced or loss of income for individuals working in informal or low wage sectors which leads to vulnerability, and at-risk individuals find themselves in precarious circumstances,” Wakahiu told GSR in an email following the webinar.

“The principal underlying cause of human-trafficking is poverty and the search for better economic opportunities. Prevention is impeded not just by levels of poverty itself but by a series of vulnerabilities, including armed conflict and migration, homelessness, disabilities, lack of supportive families, and racial and ethnic prejudice.”

“Populations which are more vulnerable [to trafficking] include those who are homeless, unemployed, and struggling to support their families,” Jennifer Reyes Lay, another webinar participant who heads U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, told GSR following the event. “As the pandemic continues with little economic relief or support in sight, we can anticipate that there will also be an increase in exploitation and trafficking as traffickers take advantage of these vulnerable communities desperate to survive.”

To read the full article by Chris Herlinger on Global Sisters Report: Click Here

Anti-Trafficking Action Feels Like Joining A Wave

November 11, 2019

I have been enthralled to read the articles about sisters throughout the world who are on the frontlines of fighting against human trafficking, and rescuing the victims. One of the articles particularly struck me. I think it was a sister from Nigeria who said something along the lines of, “Do not think of your efforts to be as a drop in the ocean but that we are an ocean of many drops.” This led me to think of my own journey of trying to stop the evil effects of human trafficking and how often I felt I was only a drop in the ocean, especially since I am getting on in years!

From the Talitha Kum website — its section on Nigeria — I read that one of our own sisters, Blandina Ryan of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, helped bring about awareness of this erosion of the human dignity of Nigerian women, through the Nigeria Conference of Women Religious. In 1999, while working in Nigeria, I first heard about Sister Blandina working in collaboration with other women religious in Italy; they met trafficked Nigerian women and restored them to their families. I knew she risked her life and was very proud of her.

Upon my return to the United States in 2002, I found some ways to help. In a circular letter from the Christian Brothers Investment Services, Julie Tanner suggested leaving a copy of the letter at hotel and motel desks for the managers, asking them to train their staff to look out for human trafficking. After several years of this I was delighted to hear from ECPAT (formerly End Child Prostitution And Trafficking) that most of the hotels had complied with this code; now it was time to thank them for doing so.

My next project was to ask if I could use the same sort of letter to write airlines, to ask them to sign the code to protect children from human trafficking; I received help from ECPAT’s Michelle Guelbart. Delta Airlines had already signed the code, so I wrote to the CEO of American Airlines to do the same — and also asked him to train his flight attendants to watch for human trafficking on its flights.

I heard nothing, but a year later, my sister traveled with American Airlines and sat next to a woman who told her she was the flight attendant in charge of training the American Airlines flight attendants. I thanked God for his providence because if my sister had not told me this story I would have given up hope. I have since learned that many sisters have been working on alerting airlines to the tragedy in human trafficking through the efforts of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, or USCSAHT.

Recently I heard about another sister with U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, who used to “corner” the flight attendants on every flight she took, to talk to them about how to detect human trafficking. There was a recent story about how airline staff in the Philippines detected a woman trying to smuggle a six day old baby out of the country in a sleeve sling. The baby was rescued.

Not knowing about this yet, my next move was to write to the CEO of American Airlines to congratulate him for training the flight attendants; before asking him to sign the code I checked the ECPAT website and found that American Airlines had signed the code a few months before. Overjoyed, I thanked God again.

I was encouraged to continue when I remembered something about the woman at the well from a book by Blessed Dom Columba Marmion. He said that all she had was a glimmer of goodwill, and Jesus used that glimmer to reveal himself to her and send her forth as his missionary.


To read the full story by Margaret Anne Meyer on Global Sisters Report: Click Here