Mariah is the Program Manager of End Slavery Now. Currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio, she graduated from the University of Cincinnati's DAAP program with a degree in Digital Design.
This past week the 2015 TIP Report was released. Along with the report there were eight heroes named for their extraordinary work in the anti-slavery field. These heroes were taken on a tour of the United States, starting in Washington, D.C. and ending in Miami, Florida with a stop in Cincinnati, Ohio. Members from our team, including myself, were able to spend some time with the heroes on their U.S. tour this week. I wanted to take a moment to tell you about that experience.
Early Monday morning we arrived at the U.S. State Department for the release of the TIP Report. The heroes were given their awards by Secretary of State John Kerry. The highlight of the morning was hearing TIP Hero Ameena Hasan address the crowd on the work she is doing to rescue those of the Yezidi population taken captive by ISIL.
Betty Lozano of Colombia shared her organization's awareness material to combat human trafficking. Her materials included a game similar to Chutes and Ladders designed to educate players on the dangers of human trafficking. She was also able to get material in the form of coasters and signage for the bathrooms into bars and restaurants.
Ameena Hasan with her interpreter engaging with a young lawyer at the American Bar Association.
Norotiana Jeannoda works with child domestic slaves in Madagascar. She faces the huge challenge of changing the culture in her country which accepts the use of child domestic servants. She told me that her time in the United States has given her more motivation to keep fighting for justice in her country.
The heroes were able to visit The Polaris Project in D.C. and learn about the sucess of the Human Trafficking Hotline. Moses Binoga of Uganda is hoping to set up a similar hotline in his country. He was curious as to how the hotline handles investigations and if every instance of human trafficking reported on the hotline is investigated by the police. Polaris explained that it is up to the caller if they would like an investigation to take place, and most are too scared to say yes on their first call to the hotline. They encouraged Moses to set up case managers who can work with the caller about the benefits of investigating and prosecuting but also to make sure they feel safe. The first goal of the hotline is to meet the immediate needs of the caller; investigations come second.
Of course no trip to D.C. is complete without a picture of the White House. The heroes were able to ask American government officials on how the U.S. could aid their countries in this fight.
After their time in D.C. the heroes traveled to our home office in Cincinnati, Ohio at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Here, they took a tour of our museum learning about slavery in America and how that affects our country today. Here, heroes are sitting inside a real slave pen that was used to house African Americans until they were marched down south to be sold into slavery.
Cincinnati sits right on the border of Ohio and Kentucky, a former free state and a slave state respectively. While learning about the relations between the two states in the 19th century, Moses was curious as to how that affects the border relations between Ohio and Kentucky today.
The Freedom Center houses one of the only permanent exhibits on modern-day slavery called Invisible Slavery Today. Here, End Slavery Now's Executive Director Brooke Hathaway is explaining the five major forms of slavery and the stories we use to represent those forms. The heroes left with different ideas on how to raise awareness in their own countries and were especially struck by the sculptures that represented each form of enslavement.
Help support survivors of human trafficking by donating to Polaris.
August 23rd is International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. Honor it by planning a trip to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH.