Eight sister-led networks, representing sisters from Canada to the southern tip of Argentina, gathered in Cleveland, Ohio from October 24-27 to proclaim that “Borders are not Barriers” in working together to combat human trafficking.
All networks are members of Talitha Kum, the international network of consecrated life throughout the world. Sister Gabriella Bottani, International Coordinator of Talitha Kum in Rome, was present at the “Borders are not Barriers” meeting and encouraged cooperation between the member networks. Similar avenues of regional and continental cooperation are also occurring throughout other areas of the world.
Sisters from networks in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, the northern and Andean countries and Brazil in South America came to represent the work of over 1,000 sisters actively engaged in anti-trafficking work. They came together to build a strong foundation for future work together by:
- building solidarity with one another through strengthening our connections and communications;
- raising awareness of the systemic and victim-centered anti-trafficking work of sister-led networks throughout the hemisphere; and
- supporting and empowering one another to impact the larger systems within which we work to eradicate the crime of human trafficking, and to accompany survivors as they realize anew their dignity as daughters and sons of a loving God.
During the meeting, each network shared the reality of human trafficking in their countries. Several common systemic causes of this worldwide crime became evident. These include the connection between human trafficking and migration; the flow of undocumented migrants throughout the hemisphere (evident at the borders of all countries in the hemisphere, including the border between Venezuela and Brazil, and the countries of Central America, Mexico and the U.S.); poverty and the system of patriarchy/machismo throughout the hemisphere.
Human trafficking occurs not only between countries but within them, producing domestic victims of trafficking everywhere. Those most vulnerable to trafficking include women and girls, who make up approximately 70% of all victims of trafficking; men and boys, indigenous people, and LGBTQ people.
The participants in “Borders are not Barriers” noted that, in dealing with people being trafficked, a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach is most effective. In all phases of anti-trafficking work, survivor-informed strategies are important.
This gathering was a first step to working together in a transnational way. Participants will begin sharing information and best practices immediately. Several more joint actions are being considered for implementation in the near future.