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2022 Assembly

 

“For the longest time in my life, I have never felt this safe!” – Survivors tell their stories at Talitha Kum

 

Photo – The African Delegates at the Talitha Kum Assembly.

“I have never felt so safe as I do in this room”.

These heart-breaking words, spoken by a survivor, for me, and for many others have had a deep and significant impact. In one session at the Talitha Kum Assembly, we were spoken to by a number of survivors (indeed many prefer now to be referred to as thrivers) who spoke so movingly of their experiences whilst being trafficked and enslaved. The Final Assembly Declaration is reflective of their significant input where we can see that Talitha Kum (TK) is being called: “to be more intentionally survivor-centred, survivor-informed, and trauma-sensitive – listening to their stories, consulting them in decision-making processes and putting them at the heart of our networks.”

Amani, (not her real name) told us that despite being free, everywhere she goes can be a trigger. Amani was born into a “beautiful slum” in Nairobi that teaches a resilience that she says was a necessary strength to come through her experiences with a confidence and a resolve to work to ensure that others will not be treated as she has been. Amani, is clear, “to solve the problems of human trafficking in a better way we need hope, passion and lots of compassion.”

Amani explained that she had been gang raped by four men who told her that her school days were over and so she hid her intelligence. She told us: “I didn’t think that I deserved to be here (at the TK Assembly)”, “I was reminded that I too needed compassion.”  Amani, was married by 19 and lost her first child to violence and “yet I stayed”, she told us. “The violence never stops.” And of her attendance at the TK Assembly, she said, “I have never felt so safe in my whole life. I have never felt such hope.” Amani told us that “minds like mine never have silence” and from her heart she begged Talitha Kum to “keep this conversation going.” 

Amani told us that the reality for most survivors is that they are rarely believed, they are a growing number, but for the most part unfunded and unrecognised. They believe that they are a reminder of a country’s dirty secret and because of this, they are to be hushed and pushed back into a darkened corner. “They don’t find survivors work”, “they don’t see survivors work.” Amani confidently urged those attending delegates “not to forget the grassroots women” and reminded us with her powerful intervention that SURVIVORS can shift the conversation. 

When Amani had finished, the entire room was in tears and she sat down while we stood up in appreciation, in awe of her strength and confidence, in solidarity with her requests and out of respect, empathy and compassion. Amani was smiling at the appreciation and the standing ovation. Back in our groups we began our Synodal conversation in the Spirit where those in our group offered that we must “stand strong as a prophet”, “be unafraid” and that we are being called to “challenge and face the consequences, and that for love we must take the risk.” 

In one of the final sessions of the Talitha Kum Assembly, Amani was part of a panel to assess what exactly is Talitha Kum’s strength and to offer some reflection of her attendance at this Assembly. Once again, Amani spoke with confidence from her heart and her experience. “We are not starting from scratch.” “My voice is found in this final draft.” “I am affirmed.” “I will sit at that table at the UN and I will not be ashamed to be a survivor.” “One day Kenya will have a president who will be a survivor.” “Talitha Kum, has created a platform for survivors.” “Do not stop with me or with the next girl you meet.” “I will repeat what I have said before: For the longest time in my life, I have never felt so safe as I do now” – Talitha Kum – DO NOT STOP!

Once again, the delegates and attendees including the technical staff rose to their feet to appreciate Amani’s confident, insightful intervention and this time Amani sat in tears knowing that as a “Thriver” she will be the best example to those marked by Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery. 

(On Thursday morning we had been scheduled to meet with Pope Francis, and this was to be a quiet highlight for many of us and we were indeed disappointed when this visit was cancelled given that there were so many unwell attending the Assembly. But my disappointment was far outweighed by my encounters with the survivors. How privileged am I! I met Amani!) 

(Amani is not her real name and she is not in the photo above). 

Brian O’ Toole. 

RENATE Law Task Group. 

RENATE members to present at Webinar hosted by The Tablet International Catholic News: “Understanding the mission against human trafficking and new trends initiated to combat this crime”

 

Date + Time: Wednesday 19 June 2024, 6pm – 7pm BST

Price: €14,97 Tax included

Click here to purchase a ticket to attend

Join the Tablet team for this webinar as we bring to light the new threads of understanding emerging in the mission against human trafficking and new trends initiated to combat this crime

Your speakers for this event will be:

‘Sister Imelda Poole, IBVM is a British citizen on mission in Albania.  She was the former President of RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation) and continues to address the root causes of Human Trafficking in Albania and across Europe in the most vulnerable communities.’

Bill Woolf is a former federal task force officer and Director of Human Trafficking Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice. He has dedicated his personal and professional life to combatting trafficking in persons.

Dr Carole Murphy, is the Director of the Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse at St Mary’s University Twickenham. Her research focuses on survivor care and support, and training for practitioners.

RENATE at the Sisters Annual Trafficking Awards 2024

 

On 23 May 2024, the second annual SATA awards event (Sisters’ Anti–Trafficking Awards) took place at the Augustinianum, in Rome, following the conclusion of the 2nd General Assembly of Talitha Kum, which began 18 May last.

Sr. Mary Barron, OLA, newly appointed UISG President and Ms. Delia Gallagher, Vatican journalist and moderator of the ceremony, welcomed all present.

Sr. Nathalie Becquart, xmcj, Under-Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, delivered the keynote speech.

In her address, Sr. Nathalie highlighted the characteristics of sisters’ work, which reflect perfectly the synodal path.

The following three guest speakers briefly shared about their work to combat human trafficking: Mary Mugo, an Anti-Trafficking Youth Ambassador from Kenya; Nasreen Sheikh, a widely-respected advocate for survivors, and Kevin Hyland, the former first UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of awards to three religious sisters who have demonstrated exceptional courage, creativity, collaboration and achievement in the protection of their communities from human trafficking, namely:

  1. Sr. Grasy Luisa Rodrigues FDCC from India received the Common Good Award from the Arise Founding President, John Studzinski CBE.
  2. Sr Anne Victory HM from the USA & The Alliance to End Human Trafficking, received the Servant Leadership Award from the #UISG President, Sr. Mary Barron, OLA.
  3. Sr. Marie Claude Naddaf RGS from Lebanon received the Human Dignity Award, announced by Associate Vice President of Program Operations at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Sr. Jane Wakahiu, LSOSF, Ph.D.

As part of the ceremony, short video recordings gave glimpses of each recipient’s mission. And in the coming days, the UISG will share documentaries showcasing the important work of each laureate.

Photo credits: Stefano Dal Pozzolo

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Arise

#SATAs2024

RENATE MEMBER BRIAN O’TOOLE’S REFLECTIONS ON ATTENDING SATA AWARDS

On Thursday May 23rd last, I was privileged to attend the SATA  Awards in the Augustinianum in Rome with a gathered audience of approximately 200, and far more attending online. The names of the three laureates were being kept as a closely guarded secret. We had been informed that the three had been selected from a list of over 120 nominations from around the world. The event was organised by Arise Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the UISG and the prizes awarded were not insignificant either. Apart from the symbolic trophy and the beautifully crafted scarf, there was the matter of the $20,000 that was offered to each of the winners to put to their own work against Human Trafficking. 

Mary Mugo, an anti-trafficking youth ambassador, spoke first and told us that “you can order a woman quicker than you can order a pizza”, as she urged us all to become the change we want to see in the world.  Nasreen Sheikh, a widely respected advocate for survivors spoke from lived experience, offering a hope that, “survivors have a vision, a solution, for their most prized gift, the next generation.” Her strong words echoed and resonated loudly in this hallowed chamber, “This, (MSHT) is a genocide embedded in our economic system.  MSHT is a moral pain in every facet of our world.” She then implored all who gathered: “Let us ensure that in our collective future, that each child has the chance to emerge as a wonder for all.” 

Kevin Hyland, OBE and author of SDG 8.7, explained that many of the Sisters have been deeply involved in combating MSHT and indeed many have been involved for centuries. He articulated the work of the Sisters so well when he said that “lives can be changed, and dignity restored, when families are rescued.” Kevin, gave a uniquely practical example of the power of the networking capabilities of the Sisters when he was facing a court without a witness. The Sisters were able to solve this issue, where others would have definitely failed. “Their, (the Sisters) work on the ground and at the frontline is unmatched.” And Kevin left us with a very real final word, “When I get to go home I go to a place of safety but when the sisters go home it may well be to a place where there is no safety.” 

Sr. Grasy Luisa Rodrigues FDCC from India received the Common Good Award for her unstinting courage in the face of real threat when rescuing girls from the grips of criminals. Her work is described as “inspiring work of the Holy Spirit which is transformational.”  Like all the other recipients, Sr Grasy explained that “I cannot do it alone! I need God and others in my community. We are working together to reply to the call which God has given us. Friends, I am unworthy of the awards bestowed upon me, but it reflects the efforts of so many who collaborate in our Mission. We see and value the inherent dignity of all human beings. St. Josephine Bakhita, our universal Sister… it is your turn now to work for victims of human trafficking.”

The Servant Leadership Award was presented to Sr. Anne Victory HM from the USA.
Sr. Anne built networks with a vision, championing best resources with courage in abundance and reminded us that in our everyday lives we are touched by MSHT, but that we must be alert and notice this to be able to make a collective response to combat all forms of MSHT. 

The Human Dignity Award, went to Sr. Marie Claude Naddaf RGS from Lebanon and this got a really loud cheer (there was even a whistle!) from the auditorium as we at the Talitha Kum Assembly had the privilege of working during the week with Sr. Marie Claude who made regular interventions and comments during our gathering. Sr. Marie Claude is so small in stature that when she stood behind the podium to accept her award, she just couldn’t be seen. The irony was not lost on the audience either, who could recognise a huge contribution that was spearheaded by such a petite Sister. 

Sr. Grasy Luisa Rodrigues FDCC from India, Sr. Marie Claude Naddaf RGS from Lebanon, Sr Anne Victory HM from the USA with Sr. Jane Wakahiu, LSOSF, Ph.D Associate Vice President of Program Operations at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. (Credit UISG for this photo)

Each of the Sisters were shown a short video of their work, specially prepared for this event, which was shown to all who attended. The overriding message that came from these awards is that there are so many heroes and advocates who have shown us the power of being present with those furthest behind as they reminded us that in order to be of help we must reach those furthest behind first, underpinning the SDGs principle of leaving no one behind. 

At my own table, I heard a throwaway remark that I followed up later when a Sister explained that she was challenged by a criminal when she found that he had “stolen” a child to be trafficked into “sex work”. She searched him out and found him and demanded that he hand over the girl. She involved the police, who helped up to a point. Corruption allows the trafficker to continue with a certain degree of impunity. This trafficker threatened her life and the lives of her family, but she persisted and won out to save the girl from the most difficult of futures. This Sister still speaks occasionally to the Trafficker as such engagement can lead to change which is what she wants despite the fear he can and does from time to time still instil. I would have happily given her an award for this quiet but hugely important service but she shrugs it off. 

The SATA awards are a beacon, a light that shines on perhaps the most insidious of crimes taking the side of those most affected. For each victim of Human Trafficking there is a significant and impactful hurt that lives on in the next generation and the generation after that. We heard but a few stories of bravery, witness, accompaniment, presence, courage and resolve. There are so many, many more, thanks be to God.  

Brian O’ Toole

Sr. Marie Claude Naddaf RGS from Lebanon (Credit UISG for this photo)

MAY 25 – INTERNATIONAL MISSING CHILDREN‘S DAY 

 

 Anne Kelleher – RENATE Communications Team

 Every year on 25 May, Lithuania and around the world marks the International Day of Missing Children. The day was chosen because of a story that shocked the United States when, on 25 May 1979, six-year-old Ethan Patz disappeared without a trace on his way to school at a bus stop just a couple of blocks from his home. On the initiative of the Missing Persons Families Support Centre, the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania added this day to the list of commemorative days in 2006. It is a day not only to remember missing children, but also to remember families who have suffered the terrible loss of a child. The day focuses on the causes of child disappearances around the world, including sexual and physical violence, paedophilia and human trafficking. Lithuania, like 31 European countries, has an international 116 000 hotline for missing children, and was the first Nordic country where the Centre, together with the US Embassy, the Ministry of the Interior, the Lithuanian Police Department and Facebook, launched the Amber Alert Facebook child alert system in Lithuania in 2018. 

According to Missing Children Europe, there is a missing child report every two to three minutes in Europe. In Lithuania, according to the Missing Persons Register, about 2000-2500 cases of disappearance of minors are registered each year. In 2023, 2212 cases of disappearance of children were registered, and in the first quarter of 2024, 570 disappearances of children were registered. It is observed that the main cause of disappearance of children is running away from home or care institutions. Children often run away from problems at home – domestic violence, conflicts, neglect. Children who go missing or run away from home can become easy prey for criminals not only outside the home but also online. It is essential not only to identify the threats to children in good time, but also to provide ongoing prevention efforts involving minors of all ages. In 2023, the Centre organised 25 prevention events in educational establishments, reaching more than 1 200 children studying in Lithuania. From 2024, the Centre has introduced a chat function on www.116000.lt to ensure the widest possible access to help, not only for the relatives of missing children, but also for children who are thinking of running away from home or have already run away. 

On the International Day of Missing Children, we invite parents and their children to visit the sculpture of a lonely girl and touch her hands to bring home all missing children. This tradition of touching the sculpture’s hands started when Pope Francis rubbed the sculpture’s hands and prayed for every missing child to find their way home when he consecrated the sculpture in 2016. 

Brief information about the commemoration on 25 May 2024 is attached. 

Spend at least 5 minutes each day talking to your child, hugging them, feeling for them. By building a secure and trusting relationship, you can prevent your child from disappearing or running away from home. 

More information: 

http://www.116000.lt/institucijoms/ 

Missing persons’ families support centre https://www.missing.lt/ https://www.facebook.com/www.missing.lt 

Contact for enquiries: 

Arūnė Bernatonytė centras2@missing.lt arba +370 670 52 725. 

Director of the Missing Persons Family Support Centre Natalja Kurčinskaja 

An overview of the recent RENATE webinars, 14-16 May 2024 on the topic ‘’The effect/consequences of wars/war-situations on trafficking and exploitation – esp. for women and children.’’

 

In order to bring attention to the issue of “The effect/consequences of wars/war-situations on trafficking and exploitation – esp. for women and children”, the RENATE Europe network held three morning events/webinars online, each of three hours duration, 14-16 May, 2024.

The webinars helped raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking and exploitation specific to areas of conflicts and wars.  Thanks to the first-hand experiences of the presenters who work at grass-roots level in the UKRAINE; South Sudan and Kenya, participants were provided first-hand information about the realities of living and trying to function in areas of conflict, where traffickers ply their trade taking advantage of newly-vulnerable people.

Through the Zoom break-out rooms facility, participants considered the implications and impacts of what they heard each morning, for their own work in prevention, protection and awareness-raising in their own respective countries.  It was particularly helpful to explore possibilities for action on our parts to help & support colleagues at CARITAS Ukraine; the Catholic University, Lviv; HAART Kenya and Loreto Rumbek, South Sudan.  

The perils of conflict extend beyond the bullet & the bomb. There is the equally impactful rendering of vulnerability of people due to risks of confiscation or destruction of their identity documents; labour exploitation; detentions; forced begging; conscription; domestic servitude; forced involvement in criminal activities, to name just a few.

We also learned of the reintegration challenges for those displaced through conflict, who in many cases no longer have a house or employment to return to…finding themselves falling into the hands of traffickers ever-ready to take advantage of the plight of the most vulnerable.   There is also the consideration of the need to support those who source food, medicines, medical equipment and first-aid supplies to help sustain communities impacted by warfare, as explained to us by Olena Mosends (Kulygina) a Communications teacher at the Catholic University, Lviv & experienced journalist, who shared with us her ‘ministry of influence.’

‘’In a country where girls are seen as currency, a woman with four daughters & two sons is seen as ‘blessed.’’’ So said Sr. Orla Treacy, Principal Loreto Secondary School, Rumbek, South Sudan as she gave us in-depth insights into the tribal cultures in existence there and the issue of Child Marriage. Working within that milieu of cultural morés, gender issues and concerns etc., Orla has managed to successfully create an appreciation of the value of including girls access education and remain within the education sphere through to adulthood, securing gainful employment and thereby able to help financially support themselves and their families.

Culturally, the commodification of girls is not limited to south Sudan, and we considered both the similarities and differences across many parts of our world where girls are considered ‘less than’ and bartered for labour exploitation, child-marriages and more.  

It was powerful to hear the first-hand wisdom from Mercy, a human trafficking Survivor Advocate, who together with her colleague Njera, spoke about the importance of building upon those lived experiences. HAART Kenya provided us with a most informative and indeed heartening input, as Njera and Mercy spoke to the topic ‘’Holistic Care: Enabling Victim Transformation, Partnering with Survivors and developing Community Resilience.  Their input which focused on the voice of a survivor, proved to be most uplifting and heartening.  We learned about Survivor Advocates and their crucial role in the efforts to end human trafficking and exploitation. It was especially engaging to learn about the importance of creating employment opportunities  for survivor advocates in the anti-trafficking spaces and the recruitment of survivor advocates for positions in governmental, NGOs and the private sectors.

Areas such as survivor engagement; the ethical Storytelling and the principles of survivor support challenges & recommendations around economic empowerment approaches, were central components of an enlightening presentation.

Their abiding question Where do we find hope?  should be a road-marker for us as we move forward in our mission to end human trafficking and exploitation.

Recordings of the webinars are available on the RENATE YouTube channel:

Part 1: 14 May 2024
Part 2: 15 May 2024
Part 3: 16 May 2024

Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network Webinar: “Safe Birth 4 All: a Human Rights issue” – 29th May, 7pm GMT.

 

You are invited to join the AEFJN (Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network) Ireland at 19:00 (UK)/20:00 (CET) via Zoom for a webinar focused on ”Safe Birth 4 All: a Human Rights issue.”

This webinar will focus on expert insight from healthcare professionals and human rights advocates, the physiological and psychosocial impacts of obstetric fistula, the economic and cultural dimensions from a human rights perspective, and how you can take action.

Please visit the webpage mentioned in the flyer to register for the event.

RENATE Shelters Task Group In-Person Meeting, Eindhoven, April 2024.

 

Last month, the RENATE Shelters Task Group met in-person in Eindhoven, to discuss best practices, their shared experiences, and future planning for the task group.

Participants from Albania, Romania, Malta, the UK, Spain and Greece attend the session, both online and in-person, and the prospects for future collaboration are exciting and in full bloom.

Read what Rania, the Shelters Core Group representative, who attended the meeting on behalf of Dar Hosea, Greece, had to say after their meeting:

“We had a great time together, presenting our organizations in depth, discussing about best practices, and shining a light on our challenges as well as our finances. As a group, we were able to come up with some suggestions and solutions moving forward.

We also had the chance to connect with Maria Buckle (Malta) and Anna Ringler (UK) via Zoom.

Now it is time to put all of these things into practice!”

We look forward to the continued working together of the task group and the positive ripple effects it will have on the shelters and safe houses in each of our countries.

A shining example of the RENATE network at work!!

GRETA’s 2023 annual report highlights the need for strengthening trafficking victims’ access to justice and effective remedies:

 

The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) published its latest general report of activities on the 29th April 2024, highlighting the key achievements in 2023.

These include the publication of 11 new country evaluation reports (in respect of Azerbaijan, Estonia, Greece, Iceland, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) and the launch of the fourth evaluation round of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, with a thematic focus on vulnerabilities to human trafficking.

The report includes a stocktaking of the third evaluation round of the Convention, which focused on trafficking victims’ access to justice and effective remedies. With this round of evaluation being completed in respect of most of the State Parties to the Convention by the end of 2023, GRETA analyses trends emerging from its country reports, drawing attention to gaps in the implementation of the Convention, as well as promising practices.

GRETA alerts that information is not provided in a manner that takes into account the situation of victims of trafficking and is not always comprehensible to victims. This can be aggravated by the fact that a number of states have problems in ensuring access to qualified and independent interpreters for victims of trafficking.

To access the report, please click here: https://rm.coe.int/13th-general-report-on-greta-activities-covering-the-period-from-1-jan/1680af7268

To read more, click here: https://www.coe.int/en/web/anti-human-trafficking/-/greta-s-2023-annual-report-highlights-the-need-for-strengthening-trafficking-victims-access-to-justice-and-effective-remedies

RENATE Members “Different and Equal” participating in Europe Week 2024 in Shiroka, Albania.

 

During Europe Week 2024 in Shiroka Albania, representatives from Shkodra Municipality, NGOs, EU projects, and local artisans joined forces, emphasizing their commitment to progress and unity in Albania.

A significant project discussed was “Consolidation of Victim Empowerment Systems in Albania @ Shkodra (TVESA@Sh)” led by RENATE members within Different and Equal, along with Shkodra Municipality and KMOP – Center for Social Action and Innovation (Greece). This project, funded by the EU Program “Support for Social Inclusion in Albania,” aims to strengthen support for victims in the region.

These collaborative efforts demonstrate a dedication to improving communities, empowering individuals, and promoting social cohesion, aligning with the EU’s vision for an inclusive society. The successful execution of such initiatives represents progress toward social inclusion and sustainable development in Albania.

Congratulations to all involved on such a successful event!