To End Human Trafficking; Survivors Craft, Sell Products
Byline: Meredith Hulley, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson was the keynote speaker at the Human Trafficking Summit hosted by the African Tourism Organization at the National Harbor earlier this fall.
I cannot think of a better place to have a summit like this, Mr. Johnson stated. Our county is very diverse, with many nations represented in our population. Therefore, it is proper that we be at the forefront of the discussion and the fight against human trafficking.
Mr. Johnson pledged during the Sept. 18 and 19 summit that he would set up special units of local prosecutors dedicated to investigating human trafficking and heightening awareness among police.
Working together, we can build the foundation for an effort that will ensure that families are no longer separated from each other for such cruel and inhuman intentions, and we can see that those who would use human trafficking as a way to make money are caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law, Mr. Johnson stated.
According to the State Department's 2008 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, human trafficking is a multi-dimensional threat. It deprives people of their human rights and freedoms, it increases global health risks, and it fuels the growth of organized crime.
The TIP report divides human trafficking, which affects up to 27 million people each year, into nine major categories: forced labor, bonded labor, debt bondage and involuntary servitude among migrant laborers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labor, child soldiers, sex trafficking and prostitution, children exploited for commercial sex, and child sex tourism.
Human trafficking has a devastating impact on individual victims, who often suffer physical and emotional abuse, rape, threats against self and family, and even death, according to the TIP report. But the impact of human trafficking goes beyond individual victims; it undermines health, safety, and security of all nations it touches.
Mr. Johnson isn't the only one making a difference in the fight against human trafficking.
When Anna Leung was in college at the Rochester Institute of Technology, she watched a documentary about human trafficking and decided I was going to spend my life working to stop it.
Earlier this year, she founded a company, Restoring International Justice Imports Green (RIJI Green), to assist trafficking survivors by selling merchandise made by survivors and donating the profits.
I've been an abolitionist for six years, said Ms. Leung, 25, who lives in Manassas.
Ms. Leung said she had worked with organizations before, and when the time came to make a decision about starting out on her own, her husband told her to pray. When she did, she discovered a Bible passage that read, The fields are ripe for harvesting.
Long story short, that's how I founded RIJI Green, Ms. Leung said. Through my experience working with survivors, through my experiences with all these different human trafficking issues, and through an affirmation from God.
Because trafficking is mainly caused by poverty, RIJI Green's solution to end modern-day slavery is through economic empowerment for at-risk [people] and survivors of human trafficking, she said.
The products, which include bags and journals, are made by survivors in their own countries and shipped to the United States for sale. Ms. Leung said she makes contact with the survivors through organizations designed to help them after they're rescued from slavery.
In November, RIJI Green partnered with the International Justice Mission (IJM) and donated half its profits to help free people from slavery. The original goal was to raise $45,000, which would have sponsored 10 rescue operations. …