Assistant Managing Editor
WILBRAHAM Members of the Wilbraham Junior Women's Club are doing their part to support survivors of human trafficking. On Nov. 13 the group sold handicrafts made by victims of trafficking.
Thanks to The Emancipation Network (TEN), a Massachusetts nonprofit dedicated to fighting slavery and trafficking, survivors have a chance to earn a living by their own means as an alternative to exploitive jobs such as sweatshops and prostitution.
Along with the merchandise for sale, TEN provided the Club with an informational DVD titled "Made By Survivors." The film paints a sobering view of young people sold into slavery, some snatched as young as eight to 10 years old. Among the 27 million slaves in the world, up to 18,000 are trafficked into the United States, one of the top destinations of traffick victims.
In the July 2007 "Trafficking in Persons Report," the U.S. Department of State reported that the "United States is a source and destination country for thousands of men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. Women and girls, largely from East Asia, Eastern Europe, Mexico and Central America are trafficked to the United States into prostitution."
Club members huddled into the children's room in the Scantic Valley YMCA in Wilbraham and watched as trafficking victims explained their plight on the documentary-style video.
One young woman in the film recalled going to a fair with her neighbor. At the fair a female acquaintance of her neighbor's offered the girl a biscuit. When she refused, the woman insisted and so she consumed the bread only to wake up many hours later in Bombay, sold into slavery as a sex worker. The video is filled with similar stories.
TEN makes this video available so that those who are interested in hosting an awareness evening, like the Wilbraham Junior Women's Club, can do so armed with the facts.
According to the TEN sponsored Web site, madebysurvivors.com, TEN provides anyone interested with hosting an awareness event with "the tools to educate your guests about trafficking, including a video, a speech for you to read, printed awareness materials, recipes, catalogs, brochures and beautiful handicraft products. There are no sales pitches or product demonstrations, and there is no pressure to buy. The goal is to offer information about slavery and human rights in a way that is not overwhelming or depressing but empowering. We chose the home party model because we have learned that people are most responsive and interested in the issue when it is presented by someone they know."
"The items are really great," Wilbraham Junior Women's Club President Michelle Tenczar told club members.
Tenczar said she purchased a notepad and pen set made by survivors at a conference she attended last winter. She urged other women to purchase an item or make a donation.
Anyone interested in hosting an awareness event can visit www.madebysurvivors.com. For more information on the Wilbraham Junior Women's Club check out www.wilbrahamjuniorwomens.org.