WORST OF BOTH WORLDS – Human Trafficking stage play in the Baxter

Witty slice of the human meat market

July 31 2012 at 09:32am
By Helen Herimbi


TO WOW1

Worst Of Both Worlds

DIRECTOR: Bulelani Mabutyana

CAST: Thando Suselo and Lubabalo Nontwana

VENUE: Golden Arrow Studio inside the Baxter Theatre

UNTIL: August 4

RATING: ****

When the grass on the other side is just about as brown as the side you’re on. Written and directed by Bulelani Mabutyana, this play was named the Best of Zabalaza at this year’s annual Baxter Theatre festival. And it’s clear to see why. Bringing the worldwide issue of human trafficking a lot closer to home, Worst of Both Worlds uses a story that is so relatable it could be anyone’s really.

In the beginning, Pinkie Stofile is a child from Khayelitsha who has a sweet tooth and a soft spot for a song her mother taught her. By the end, Pinkie is a woman whose taste of life abroad brought an even bigger urge to hold on to something more than a song that reminds her of her mother.

When she’s just a little girl, Pinkie is lured into a car by her school principal, an authority figure with a pocket full of lekkers, more formally known as sweets.

She becomes a victim of child trafficking and becomes a tiny drop in an ocean of prostitution that makes supply and demand its ebb and flow.

There is never a shortage of demand, so the supply keeps coming. From all over the world, there are girls and women who are never to be seen again by their loved ones. As Papa Joe – the modern day slave master and pimp – practically spits at Pinkie, “your mother is in Africa, you will never see her again”.

But Pinkie does get to go back to the Motherland, even though she doesn’t find what she’d been looking for. After growing up on the streets of New York and getting her education through the hard-knock school of the sex industry, she decides she is fed up with “cold people and cold conversations”.

Her confidant and fellow slave, Ada, is tired of being offered crack as payment for her services when what she really wants is money or freedom, whichever comes first.

The friends hatch a plan to free themselves of Papa Joe and this makeshift family and Pinkie winds up back in Khayelitsha. But, naturally, she doesn’t have much luck with finding a legitimate job and is hoodwinked and abducted once more. Now a sex slave in her own country, Pinkie realises she may have thought life abroad was worse, but it’s the same as being at home.

Interestingly, Pinkie is not played by a woman. In fact, all the characters are acted by two spell-binding young men. Performing in English and Xhosa, Suselo and Nontwana take turns playing Pinkie, prostitutes, policemen and pamphlet slingers with panache.

They use an almost bare set to its maximum potential and in many ways, it lends itself to the metaphor of being stripped of your home, past and identity and having to make do with the little you have that runs through the story. How arm wrestling becomes symbolic of rape and physical violence is very clever and arrests the emotions.

The rectangular table in the middle of the stage and the black chair towards the edge take turns becoming a car, a news anchor’s desk, an interrogation space and a window.

The actors use their bodies in swift, seamless moves to interact with these make-believe objects and each other. It’s so fluid that it’s a pleasure to be transported wholly into New York City and Khayelitsha, respectively.

Through deliberate lighting, red is the primary colour that is used to signify danger, a memory (picture the red in a photographic dark-room) and a change of scenery. Suselo and Nontwana even wear red pants and red T-shirts through-out the play.

I enjoyed that there were no blurred lines or grey areas here and with their backs to the audience, we followed the actors into unknown territory with their towering shadows on the wall in front of them telling the story.

Human trafficking is handled in an edu-tainment sense that is laid out in simple, visual terms. The audience left questioning how they themselves can be more vigilant and help end this sadistic trade.

While the play was great, it wasn’t perfect. Perhaps, owing to the fact that it wasn’t a full house, the actors sometimes hammed up some of the camp characters to get bigger laughs.

Also, the 55-minute-long play feels uneven towards the end because there is what feels like a premature conclusion of events before Pinkie’s great escape home.

These, however, are problems that could be solved with time.

Original article on iol.co.za

Why Abolitionists should talk about Pornography

This is a post by Saskia Wishart, who has spent three years of her life fighting human trafficking in Cape Town, South Africa. She wrote this post as a contribution to the Pornography: Poison and Prey blog series by Gemma Wilson.

Saskia is the European Coordinator for the Not For Sale Campaign and lives in Amsterdam; where she is assisting in the creation of a social enterprise that provides job skill training and opportunities to survivors of sex trafficking. She has been working with individuals exploited through human trafficking since 2008 and tweets @saskiacw.

For many years I never thought much about pornography – to be honest, beyond a quick glance of a photograph ripped from a magazine by some curious boys at a school, I had never really seen pornography. Not until I began dealing with the issue of human trafficking. My exposure to the sex industry has been to combat the mess of exploitation that rips apart lives and families.

In Tel Aviv 5 years ago, my friends and I were walking along the beach in the evening, we passed an older man beside some bathrooms, with him was two young girls, maybe 14 years-old. He was photographing them in sexual poses. And we kept walking. One guy in our group of friends became angry, he wanted to go back and check on those girls, he wanted to interfere, to put a stop to something that looked very wrong. But we talked him out of it, I am ashamed to say, we walked on.

I remember when a child pornography case was busted open while I was working in Cape Town. The police told me of how the young girls exploited in this case were targeted by a business man in the community, a man who offered to assist families in financial need, a man who paid the school fees of young girls age 13 – 14 and in exchange lured them into a living hell, where he photographed and sexually exploited them. The police told me of the trauma the girls faced, girls who were so damaged from the experience, one continually tried to take her life. The 73 year-old man in this case pleaded guilty to 95 child porn charges last month, but his pleading guilty will not heal the emotional wounds that have been inflicted on his victims. The case was uncovered when neighbours began to question why this man was often being seen at the house he used as a ‘gym’ with underage girls. The choice of the neighbours to ask questions and call the police led to the arrest of this pedophile.

When I moved to Amsterdam and began working in providing nutrition to women in prostitution, I began seeing pornography weekly, it plays in the brothels and is advertised on the outside of sex shows. Last year I wrote apost exploring the angry emotions I had to face when seeing the lives of women and men destroyed by pornography. Triggered by a sign in a shop window advertising ‘rape-sex’ DVD’s, I started to research the links between pornography and human trafficking, pornography and child exploitation, as well as pornography, sexual addiction, and the abuse of women in prostitution.

As abolitionists we have a role in addressing the demand of sexual services; from protecting those who are underage to giving dignity to women who are vulnerable to exploitation.

Pornography and sexual addiction have become normalised in our culture, and many of us choose to ignore it, often by our own naivety of how serious the issue really is. Just like that day in Tel Aviv when we saw something that looked wrong, but choose to keep on walking, something is going wrong with the porn industry, and blinded by its allure and promise of satisfaction, we can choose to keep on walking, or we can stop and draw attention to some of its dangerous and exploitative aspects.

Some will say that not all pornography is linked to abuse, and this is probably true, but from where I stand the lines are too often blurred to justify what has happened around the world through the mass distribution of pornography.

One of the girls who is getting training in our project is a survivor of sex trafficking and has endured horrific abuse; one of the first things she did when she came into our building was point at the projector on the ceiling, and full of fear, she asked if the projector was a camera. For her, the reality of exploitation and slavery was intrinsically linked to being filmed while forced to perform sexual acts. Filmed for the purpose of making pornography that thousands of members of the general population consume over the internet.

Let us take a stand for freedom, even when it is uncomfortable. Let us not walk by a situation that isn’t right, but instead explore the complexities that allow the exploitation of others to go unnoticed.

 

The original post on gemmaruthwilson{dot}com

Confessions of a Retoucher

Objectification of women through the media plays a major role in how they are viewed by men and also how women view and value themselves. One such retoucher shares some of the ins and outs of the media industry’s representation of people and the effect it has on women in particular.

via gemmaruthwilson{dot}com

                                                                                     Photo credit: BeautyRedefined.net

This week, I tweeted a link to The Photoshop Hall of Shame which caused some interesting discussion amongst my friendship group about how important it is that people know images are retouched, how our minds can process them knowing this, how to NOT buy into the media machine that tells us we aren’t good enough. I then came across something shocking: a “photographer’s best friend” (a digital retoucher) who decided less than 2 months ago to quit his job and call for reform in the industry. Here is a video of him explaining what happened, and an accompanying letter. WOW.

My name is Roy A. Cui and I live and work in Los Angeles, California. You may be familiar with my work. I have worked on many clothing and beauty advertising campaigns. I’ve worked on covers and editorial spreads for popular magazines that you see in the grocery store. You’ve probably even seen my handiwork on the billboards or bus stops you pass by on your way to work. You may have even seen my work in well-known art galleries in Los Angeles, New York, and Europe.

If you’re thinking that I’m a photographer, I’m not. I’m a photographer’s best friend. My pseudonym isEyeConArtist: I con the eye, and my tagline is “making the unreal appear real.” My chosen profession is being a digital retoucher. I’m a part of the media machine that has suckered you into thinking that you need to look like this flawless person who does not exist anywhere in the world. You then feel unhappy with how you really look, so you buy the products that the person of perfection is using in the image that I retouched.

I didn’t enter this profession with the intention of deceiving people. My first passion was photography and I worked as an assistant to many Los Angeles based photographers in the early 90’s. Then I was introduced to the “magic” of Photoshop and I was in awe of the endless possibilities that Photoshop offered.

When I started out as a retoucher, photographers made every effort to make sure they had near flawless sets, models, apparel, makeup, and products. They shot their images with film, which were scanned and then retouched. If the images needed digital retouching, it was extremely expensive and only large companies could afford to have it done. If small commercial companies needed retouching back then, it was minimal.

Today, with photographic technology where it is, it’s not just the major campaigns that have retouching done. It’s every image produced for public consumption that is retouched, whether it’s a model, a bar of soap or even a dog. EVERY image used in advertising is retouched.

It’s standard for me to thin and elongate legs, thin down the waist and arms, remove any bulging flesh, remove wrinkles, bags under the eyes, blemishes, freckles, tattoos, fix a lazy eye, remove or minimize creases where there should be creases, like the underarm or the neck. As more and more has been asked of me technology made it easier to do more in less time, I never questioned the ethics of what I was being asked to manipulate.

It never occurred to me that what I was doing was causing anyone any harm. Everyone knows everything is retouched right? If they don’t, it’s not that big of a deal. We take everything we see with a grain of salt, right? It didn’t cross my mind until about ten years ago when I was out with a friend at a popular apparel store. The store had several images of their product all over the store that I had worked on. I mentioned this to the young woman that was helping us and she looked at me in disbelief and wanted to know what was done on the images. I pointed at one image and explained that I had cleaned up every square inch of that model’s skin, brought in the bulges from where the bra and panties were tight on her hips, torso and shoulders, thinned down the sides of her body to give her a smooth hourglass look, and even changed the color of some of the garments. She was horrified. She told me that she had no idea and that she came to work everyday thinking that something was wrong with her because she didn’t look like the girls modeling the clothes in the pictures. I told her that everything that she sees in print media has been retouched, especially women in ANY ad, and reassured her that she looked fine…the MODELS don’t even look like that.

She was only one person. How many other women feel that way when they look at the images I’ve had a hand at retouching? Maybe those thoughts filled my head that day, but I had more important things to focus on like making living with what I know how to do, retouching… What was pressing me to keep going: Feeding and clothing my two sons and daughter.

My daughter is 11 now. She’s old enough to internalize what she sees. I think she’s beautiful inside and out and I’d hate to think I had anything to do with making her dislike herself. So, I tell her about how retouching is used in every printed image she sees and even show her before and after’s of files I’ve worked on, because I’m on the inside. But what about all those other girls, young women and ladies that have no clue as to how the images they see affect them? I’ve felt, for years, that I should do something about it.

These thoughts of needing to spread the truth have haunted me and grown greater with every passing year. It all came boiling to the surface after seeing the screening of Miss Representation at the California Endowment on May 17, 2012. Periodically during the movie there were images flashing on the screen that were taken from print ads to show examples of how women are being negatively portrayed in media. Then one of the covers that I retouched popped up in the movie and a lightning bolt of anxiety shot through me.

During the Q&A after the screening I mustered up the courage to go up and ask the director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, how I could help turn things around, stop being a part of how the media portrays women, and maybe still be able to make a living. She was so impressed by me coming forward to start being part of the change that I decided to get my story out, risking career suicide, just to try and do my part to change the culture.

Which leads me to here, my first video blog. Now that I’ve decided to make this change, I don’t know what happens next. I’m scared, but I know it’s the right thing to do. I don’t know where, when, or how, but I need to find a way to use my talents in a positive and constructive way.

Hopefully my story can help women understand how they are being manipulated and maybe even get magazines, photographers, art directors, ad agencies AND their clients to realize what they are doing to the women of the world.

So, please help me support MissRepresentation.org to get magazines to have ONE UNretouched image of a model printed per publication for this summer.

Thanks for listening to my story and stay tuned to see how this turns out for me.

®y

Standing up for sex workers is standing up for pimps

by Caroline Norma, 19 June 2012, for The Age

 

Prostitutes are not sex workers, they are prostituted women.

ELITE academics in Australia love to profess their support for ”sex workers”. University of New South Wales academic Catharine Lumby in ”Sex is not dirty work” on these pages pleaded for the media to treat sex workers with more respect, given that prostitution is a legal form of employment in Australia.

Lumby recalls telling her sons over the dinner table to not make jokes about women their friends call ”prosties”, and to remember that feminists and Christians could be condemned for failing to properly recognise prostitution as work.

Illustration: Matt Davidson.

Illustration by Matt Davidson

This idea of prostitution conveyed to the two Lumby juniors is unmistakably a liberal one. In this framing, prostitution is embarked upon by individual women as something akin to a small-business enterprise (women in brothels in Australia are legally recognised as sub-contractors, not employees). While ”sex workers” might be at the bottom rung of the social ladder in terms of education, prior victimisation, social networks, and personal asset bases, liberals see them as admirable for attempting to improve their circumstance, and possibly give their kids a better chance in life.

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In conveying this idea of prostitution, Lumby teaches her sons to be nice to ”sex workers”, which is indubitably a charitable thing for an elite academic to do.

However, in framing prostitution as a benign form of ”work”, Lumby also disenables her sons taking social and political measures against the sex industry and its customers as perpetrators of serious and widespread harm against women in Australia.

There now exists a mountain of empirical research, not only from feminist social scientists, but also from psychologists, clinicians, nurses, anthropologists and economists, of the harms of prostitution for women. These harms include post-traumatic stress disorder, genital and other physical injuries, pregnancy, depression and anxiety, and social isolation.

It has been known since the late 1970s that a major precursor of women’s entry into prostitution is childhood sexual abuse. There is also empirical evidence of the damage to women’s social status, and the negative impact on women’s connection to local community, of the sex industry.

Overwhelmingly, the social science and health literature condemns prostitution as a source of harm to women, as well as children.

For liberals to successfully frame prostitution as ”work”, rather than commercially mediated sexual abuse, they must close their eyes to this evidence. They must also avoid encountering most women in prostitution – even the most conservative demographic studies of this population find that half would leave the sex industry if they could. And they must overlook the good results that governments in Sweden, South Korea, Norway and Iceland have achieved in declaring prostitution a violation of gender equality, and criminalising the sex industry and its customers.

Most significantly, though, liberals must avoid mentioning pimps, traffickers, and sex industry customers in making their argument that prostitution is a legitimate form of work for poor women. Lumby doesn’t breathe a word of the profit-making activities of pimps in Australia, nor the acts perpetrated by sex industry customers who buy women in half-hour blocks. She fails to tell her sons about the strategies of violence, debt and intimidation that pimps use to keep women in prostitution, and to make sure they service customers with a smile.

She also omits to mention the kinds of sex acts customers do to women in prostitution, and the misogynistic abuse and brutality that women face when they’re dispatched to the hotel rooms and houses of prostitution buyers.

These inconvenient facts cause liberals great difficulty in selling the message that prostitution is work. In light of these facts, prostitution begins to look like a system of hush money paid to pimps to supply men with vulnerable women for sexual use and abuse.

When elite academics like Lumby publicly declare their allegiance to ”sex workers” they concurrently reveal a loyalty to pimps and sex industry customers. They do this through framing prostitution as ”work”, and therefore sending the message that no policy or community action need be taken against the sex industry as an employer of women and legitimate business sector.

In this atmosphere, pimps and their customers are able to continue their harmful activities, and the sex industry in Australia is able to profitably expand and diversify.

On the other hand, when elite academics like me declare our support for ”prostituted women”, we declare a commitment to elimination of the sex industry. We work towards public recognition of prostitution as a social harm through public awareness campaigns highlighting the effects of the sex industry on individual women, and women’s social status.

Just like the anti-smoking campaigns that began in the 1970s, we seek a reorientation of the public’s thinking about prostitution towards a critique of the ”pretty woman” and ”happy hooker” stereotype. Australian policymakers and community leaders mobilised against the tobacco industry in the past three decades, and we seek similar government action against the sex industry as a driver of social harm.

The criminalisation of pimps and sex industry customers is a necessary first step towards this goal, but we also call for public education about the reality of prostitution, as well as policy planning for programs and initiatives to assist women to leave the sex industry and build lives that reflect their worth as full citizens.

Dr Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the school of Global Studies, Social Science & Planning at RMIT University.

New Trafficking Trend in South Africa

Asia to Africa through the fishing industry…

South Africa, being a country with multiple port cities, sees the literal traffic of fishing vessels carrying men from places like Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia. These men often come from vulnerable regions of their homeland, and are then exploited and trafficked for labor. Recruiters in their own country deceive them with hopes of a decent job. Not For Sale South Africa is determined to be a role player in the assisting and problem solving of this issue in South Africa, as it has recently become a notable trend.

                                        

 

Read more via Not For Sale

International Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report released

via CNN Freedom Project (follow link for video responses)

“Victims are not statistics … They are people with hopes, with dreams, with courage … With names. Remember their names.” – Somaly Mam

The annual Trafficking in Persons Report – the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts – was published Tuesday by the U.S. State Department.

It identifies countries that the U.S. says meet minimum standards of anti-trafficking efforts, countries working towards them and countries that appear to be doing little to stop trafficking.

https://i2.wp.com/www.humanrights.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/JTIPreport_Live_405_1.jpg

Read Report in full – includes downloadable PDF files

File containing South African information (p.315-317)

The report is compiled with the help of U.S. embassies, non-governmental organizations, aid groups and individuals around the world.

It also counts known cases of human trafficking in more than 175 countries, whether for commercial sex, bonded labor, child labor, involuntary domestic servitude or child soldiers. And it tracks new legislation, prosecutions and convictions.

Each country is put into one of four grades – Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier Two Watch and Tier Three. Tier 1 is achieved by reaching minimum anti-trafficking standards and it does not highlight countries doing above and beyond the minimum.

For the first time in 11 years Myanmar has been promoted from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch. The report says Myanmar is primarily a source country for trafficking to other Asia countries, but there are still significant domestic trafficking problems and children can be conscripted into the national army.

It recommends Myanmar demobilizes child soldiers and focus more attention on domestic sex trafficking of women and children.

The Czech Republic -the only country last year to slip out of the top-rank – regained its Tier 1 status having introduced a series of anti-trafficking laws and securing successful trafficking convictions.

Iceland, Israel and Nicaragua were also promoted to Tier 1.

Portugal, however, was downgraded to Tier 2 because while new laws and initiatives were introduced, there was no evidence it was leading to prison sentences for the majority of convicted traffickers.

Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina also fell out of the top-ranked countries

Kenya was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch because it did not show evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking.

Syria – with its ongoing violent conflict – was the only country relegated into Tier 3. The report said the lack of security made it difficult to check anti-trafficking measures.

Before the unrest Syria was primarily a destination country for trafficked women and children. The report found the unrest had put more people at risk from traffickers, particularly vulnerable segments of the population like Iraqi refugees.

The Tip Report’s ranking system is largely dependent on the amount of work being done by the national government rather than non-government or international organizations.

Tier 1 ranking indicates a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, has made efforts to address the problem, and meets minimum standards.

Tier 2 is countries whose governments do not fully comply with minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

Tier 2 watch is countries where governments do not fully meet minimum standards, and although they may be making significant efforts the country has a particularly large number of victims, or is not providing evidence of its efforts

Tier 3 is countries that do not fully comply with minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. Tier 3 countries face the possibility of US sanctions because of their poor human trafficking record.

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Why I still love men

I came across this post a few days ago after I saw the theprostitutionexperience.com (The Prostitution Experience) website link on twitter. Through this website an Irish lady, who used to be prostituted, ‘finds her voice’ and acts as a voice for countless woman and young girls still trapped in the world of prostitution and slavery. This one particular post reminded me of a picture I found a while back and have recently posted as my facebook profile’s cover photo. It sums it all up so brilliantly – the run down house that seems as if it’s about to be demolished, its days are over, there is no hope for it to continue existing; and then those words: speak the truth, even when your voice shakes.

I was sitting in the passenger seat of my friend’s parked car recently while she ran into the shop to buy a few things. She was gone a good while and I sat there, watching the moving scene through the windscreen.

A man walked by with his little girl, who looked to be about three. She wanted to walk on a slightly raised area of cement beside some steps and a look of distress crossed his features before he steadied her with one hand and held her with the other one more tightly. He kept a firm grip of her as he carefully navigated her along the area of cement, not breaking his concentration for anything, until she was back down (about one foot lower than she had been) on solid ground beside him. Then he was able to relax again and she said something to him that I could not hear. That caused his face to break into the most beaming and adoring smile, as if he’d heard the most profoundly endearing comment ever uttered. The look on his face made my eyes fill with tears.

I’m not talking about the sort of misty barely-there tears we feel when we’ve just witnessed something moving. I’m talking about the sort of stormy tears that threaten to spill down your face immediately if you don’t choke them back; the sort of tears that signal a full-on emotional onslaught. It was so sudden, it shocked me.

I had to get myself together because, as my much as I love and trust the woman I was with that day (who is one of my closest friends) I just didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of her arriving back at the car with her diet coke and tea cakes and finding me a blubbering emotional mess. I think, more so, I didn’t feel comfortable with how I would explain myself, with how I would communicate what was wrong.

What was wrong had nothing to do with a man loving his little girl; what was wrong was what it, by contrast, called up for me, and that was just too big a conversation for that time and place.

Apart from being embarrassing it makes you feel very vulnerable, to have to explain the enormity of the distinction that is so often and so easily called to your mind; this understanding of the gentle pure love males have for the females close to them, their daughters, sisters, mothers, girlfriends and wives, juxtaposed with the contempt so often expressed for the females not close to them – the woman walking alone in public, or unaccompanied in a bar, or most potently of all, the malignant and abundant contempt for the woman in a brothel.

So when I see an example of male love for women and girls, along with uplifting me and moving me emotionally, and making me think how this is the way it should be, it also calls to mind that contrast, and it hurts me. It hurts me dreadfully.

I’ve had the same emotional response many times. Any time I see a man put his arm protectively around his girlfriend, or hand her a tissue for her snotty nose, or kiss the top of her head without giving a shite who’s looking, I feel the same way. I smile, and feel a warm gush of inner contentment. It provokes a feeling of love, this evidence of male love that exists in the world; but it is quickly and violently followed by a hammer in my heart. It is the brutal thud of its opposite – the understanding of male hatred.

Let me be clear about this: prostitution has to do with killing. It has to do with killing the human spirit, and beyond that, it has to do with getting off on it. It is evil, and when we see evil, when we live evil, I believe it is very important to name it. Evil can obscure itself very easily when we do not assign it its true name.

The evil of prostitution has been so thoroughly obscured that it is even taught in universities as a ‘sex positive’ autonomous choice. What a load of bollocks. I could put a gun in my mouth tomorrow and blow my own brains out; that is surely an autonomous choice – it doesn’t mean there’s anything positive about it. But I will leave the lies and the stupidities of ‘sex positive feminism’ to another day and get back to the subject at hand:

I was invited to attend the conference that launched the Turn Off The Red Light campaign in Buswell’s Hotel in Dublin last year. I had just been told that it was a conference, it hadn’t been mentioned that the press would be there, so I got a very big shock when I arrived to the scene of cameras rolling and flashing lights. It was a shock because something in me told me that I was supposed to speak, but how was I supposed to do that with every newspaper and TV station in the country present?

I was a little late and there was only one seat left in the back row. I sat down and felt a bit bad about grabbing the last seat when people, some much older than me, started filling up the standing room all the way out to the hall, but I was wearing ankle boots with a five inch heel so I decided I’d have to live with my own conscience.

The first thing I noticed about the panel was that they were all men. That kind of knocked the stuffing out of me. I was really surprised and listened very intently to hear what they’d say. As they introduced themselves it became clear that they were all men who were high-profile in one sense or another in Irish life; a poet and prose writer (Theo Dorgan), a playwright and theatre director (Peter Sheridan), the chair of the Board of Directors at the Immigrant Council of Ireland (John Cunningham), chairperson of Ruhama (Diarmaid O’Corrbui), CEO of Bernardos (Fergus Finlay), General Secretary of the largest craft union in Ireland, the TEEU (Eamon Devoy) and General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (David Begg).

Something happened which thoroughly moved me. They spoke, one after another, about why prostitution and trafficking should have no place in this country. Men, seven of them, high-profile men at that, talking one after another about what I’ve always thought, what I’ve always known. Probably because some of them were a good bit older than me I was reminded of the protective presence I used to feel when I was with my Dad, who died not long before I went on the game. More tears to struggle with. Another lump in the throat.

When they’d all done speaking the meeting was opened to questions and discussion and around a dozen people spoke. A woman stood near me with a microphone on a long extendable arm that she held up to anyone who’d talk, and when anyone did, the cameras pointed right at them.

The standing area behind me was filled with people, with politicians among them, all the way out and halfway down the hall and I had noticed that when anyone behind me spoke several people in front of me would turn around to look at them.

When the man chairing the meeting asked if there were any more questions before he wrapped the meeting up my heart gave a violent thump, but there was no way I could walk out of there if I didn’t do what needed to be done, which was to provide the voice of prostituted women, which was about the only relevant voice that was missing from the room.

I stood up and said I had something to say but asked the reporters to not photograph me and to point their cameras away. The first thing I said after that was that I was a former prostitute; it was at that point that every head in front of me, about a hundred of them, turned to look. I don’t know how I didn’t keel-over with the sense of vulnerability and exposure, and I was told afterwards that my voice shook audibly when I first spoke.

I went on to say I was glad that prostitution and trafficking were being dealt with together, and that I felt they should continue to be addressed together, as the routes into prostitution and trafficking are only two different routes that bring women to exactly the same place. I then explained that it had been family dysfunction followed by homelessness that had brought me to prostitution at fifteen years of age, and that there was no difference to be found in two groups of women selling their bodies because of sets of circumstances that were beyond their control, just because those circumstances were different. I felt a very great weight of relief when I sat back down, that I’d done what I had to do and that it was over.

Immediately after I sat down one male politician behind me seemed moved, frustrated, and there was angst in his voice when he said “we need to do something about this situation – now!” I was approached by another politician afterwards, and by the chairperson of the conference, who told me that I had made “the most significant contribution to the meeting”. Both were encouraging, both were respectful, and both were men.

After I left Buswell’s I walked to nearby Stephen’s Green and sat on a bench looking at the flowerbeds and popped the Xanax a friend had offered me the night before “for the sake of your nerves”. I was glad I had it, because my nerves were in shreds, although my anxiety was strangely mixed with a feeling of peace that day. I was anxious because of the deeply traumatic part of my past I had just visited so publicly, and I was at peace in another sense because I had been exposed to something I find wonderfully comforting: the gentle and sincere humanity of men.

When you have spent seven years being exposed to the worst of what men have to offer it will leave you dreadfully traumatised, and consequently hurt, embittered and angry. But we are multifaceted beings, thank God, and no one feeling remains constant and ever-present in our minds. A person might reasonably ask: why do you still love men? Because I can still see their humanity shining out of them, and I still draw comfort from it. That’s why.

– FreeIrishWoman

 

Original post: Why I still love men

Volunteers needed for schools training! – Portland High School, Mitchells Plain

Dear Friends and Colleges

The STOP team’s first mission for the year isPortland High School in Mitchell’s Plain. We will be doing anti-human trafficking awareness campaigns at this high school every Friday morning from 8:30-10:30.

The awareness campaign will be an informative 40 minute session with the high school scholars in which we inform them of human trafficking and where they are at risk. The aim is to leave them feeling empowered to know their rights and know how to protect themselves from becoming a victim of human trafficking.

The STOP team will be leaving Stellenbosch at 7am every Friday morning. We will be back in Stellenbosch at about 11.30 the latest.

We invite any young, passionate people to join us. We’re always in need of people to take photographs and help with the presentation. Also we encourage anyone who wants to present in other high schools in the future to also join us.

Please come with us this Friday and make a difference in the community of Mitchell’s Plain!

To get in touch, email Rebecca at igoggi@hotmail.com.

Please forward this email to anyone who would be interested.

Blessings!

Get Educated, Be an Educator – new resources available

We present you newly compiled resources through which you could educate yourself and keep those around you safe.

Feel free to print these out or share the links with others – an informed society is a better functioning and safer society.

image source
 
Explore our free resouces:

Fast Facts about Trafficking

How to Handle a Trafficked Victim Training Manual

Traffick-Proof-Manual

STOP Human Trafficking Educator’s Manual

Body Shop – STOP Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People

 

Please note that our banking details and some other information might be outdated on the educational resources provided above and should you wish to partner with us financially please follow this link for correct details.

How will you Celebrate Your Freedom?

Come and celebrate your freedom with me as we buy back theirs…

Millions of women and children are spending their days in captivity as we live in the age with more human slaves than any other time in history.

30 million people is simply too much to truly comprehend but if we fight with one individual in mind, we can see a person being set free from captivity.

Trafficking also occurs in South Africa but little is known about the reality of the situation as it is not always monitored and defined well enough by our law system and police force.

STOP – Stop Trafficking of People has as their goal to help change this situation by:

  • creating awareness around the reality of human trafficking among South Africans through educational sessions at schools, continual sharing of online information and the availability and spread of educational material
  • engaging with government concerning the regulation of trafficking within and across South African borders
  • partnering with like-minded organisations and groups to establish a safe environment through which people can exit slavery
  • More about STOP

I will celebrate my freedom through the STOP organisation by running 2 races in 2 days at the 2012 2oceans marathon event. My challenge to you is to match me kilometre for kilometre in your local currency as I run 43kms over the two days.

 

– Servaas Hofmeyr, STOP Web and Social Media Manager

Partner with us by contributing financially to help us buy back her freedom.

Donations could be made directly to STOP’s bank account:

FNB STELLENBOSCH

Account Name: STOP (cheque)

Account Number: 623 4543 2885

Branch Code: 200610

Ref.: ‘STOPrunning’

**STOP operates as a Non Profit Organisation (NPO).

NPO nr: 050482

SECTION 18A Tax nr: 930025698

If you require a tax certificate, please contact us.

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