This initiative is about bringing awareness to the crime of trafficking in people for sex or labor, learning what is being done in our community, and how the community can help. On Saturday, October 8, over 130 participants gathered together at the Moraine Park Fond du Lac Campus to do just that! This event was specifically planned for October as a part of educational opportunities available during Fair Trade Month.
The keynote speaker, Elizabeth Marczak, Product Development Specialist for SERRV International, educated community members on, “What Fair Trade is doing to combat the Global Crime of Human Trafficking.” Liz began with this definition: “Human trafficking, often compared to modern-day slavery, systematically exploits men, women, and children by forcing them to work unbearably long hours, under inhumane conditions, for little to no pay. They often end up in these situations as a result of lies or violence. It exists across continents and is facilitated through a variety of venues, but ultimately- human trafficking is an industry that profits from the exploitation of the world’s most vulnerable.”
Liz explained, “Figures on human trafficking globally show that 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor and human trafficking and 5.5 million of those are children. In the last UN Trafficking in Persons report, it was determined that the percentage of children being trafficked is on the rise. Next to trying to change the entire government labor structures in poor and developing countries, Fair Trade is one of the best options for helping these marginalized populations. When these people are given opportunities to learn a trade, make money doing their traditional crafts, or work for a Fair Trade organization in some capacity, their human rights and well-being are protected. Fair Trade helps combat human trafficking by creating job opportunities, looking out for the workers and their families, and educating to stop the cycle of poverty and exploitation that leads to this tragedy. Fair Trade ensures transparency, respect, and strives to protect all individuals.”
Next came an eye opening panel discussion, focused on statewide and community efforts to combat trafficking, moderated by Nancy Irizarry-Beachy, the chair of the Wisconsin Anti-Human Trafficking Consortium, and including: Angel Gilbertson from ASTOP, Nicole Johnson from Solutions Center, Tiffany Parker from Agnesian Domestic Violence, Detective Nick Hahn from the Fond du Lac Police Department, and Assistant FDL County District Attorney Laura Kohl. Through the panel discussion many facts and real life Fond du Lac stories were brought forth.
Sex trafficking of children and youth is growing nationally and in Wisconsin. In the experience of our local law enforcement and service providers, sex trafficking of minors is occurring throughout the Fond du Lac area. In addition to trauma and sexual abuse, children and youth who are sex trafficked experience coercion, physical violence and many times drug addiction, from the traffickers and from the “johns” who purchase sex. Young people with current or past history of child abuse, being homeless, runaway, and not having a good support system are especially at risk, but as Assistant DA Kohl pointed out, “it can also happen to kids from supportive families.”
Participants asked many good questions of the keynote speaker and the panel, running out of time wanting to learn more about this serious issue and what can be done globally and locally! The remainder of the morning was spent in an interactive “Stay Out of Traffic” experience with community partner organizations and Fair Trade vendors including: Just Fare Market, Gallery and Frame, Living Light Studio, Soroptimist International of Fond du Lac, AAUW-Fond du Lac Branch, Kiwanis Club of Fabulous Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac Area Women’s Fund, Solutions Center, ASTOP, Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes, Beacon House, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Solutions Center, St. Agnes Domestic Violence, ASTOP, FDL Law Enforcement, Mahala’s Hope, and FDL County Social Services.
Paula Stettbacher, Director of Human Resources for MPTC was a participant, “As a mom and a community member, it was reassuring to learn of the local community resources available for human trafficking victims and the collaborative efforts to make Fond du Lac a traffic free zone. It was extremely empowering to learn of the day-to-day actions I can personally take to make a positive impact.”
Save the date! The next Make Fond du Lac a Traffic Free Zone event will be held at the FDL Public Library on the evening of January 9.