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PORTRAITS OF HOPE
by My-Linh Kunst
the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments and benefits to achieve the consent of a person, having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
According to Stop the Traffik, modern-day slavery is “an umbrella term, which covers a number of human rights issues, of which human trafficking is one.” In other words, a person does not have to be trafficked (moved across a border) to be enslaved.
Women and girls are 71 percent of trafficked humans. The majority of countries have anti-trafficking laws; however, with the hidden nature of the crime, the problem is prosecution. In 2019, there were only 9,102 convictions worldwide for a $150 billion industry.
Since 2007, I have been engaged in awareness-raising and advocacy for this cause. However, in 2016, I had the honor to meet frontline changemakers and the survivors that they helped through my photography project Portraits of Hope. Spearheaded by FAWCO colleague Mary Adams (AWC The Hague), the photos were a visual accompaniment to FAWCO’s Symposium “STAND UP against Human Trafficking.” They were exhibited at the Symposium and published in the book Hope is the Thing with Feathers, along with essays by Robin Meloy Goldsby (AIWC Cologne).
We portrayed changemakers fighting against human trafficking in the Netherlands, women and men who work every day to combat these horrific crimes against human rights. Through them, we can say hope is more than optimism, it is also a powerful weapon against the darkness.
I also spent time with seven survivors who bravely showed up—some of them may not have shared their story, given their name, or shown their face, but they all talked about their hope. The women continue to face extraordinary challenges, but they are surviving with small steps forward, gaining strength through their hope.
I’d like to honor them here.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tunes without the words,
And never stops at all.
“I don’t know what hope means to me.
I am just living—living and trying to make myself happy.
I hope for the best. Hope gives you something when you have nothing.”
“We want to be independent women and show the world that
no matter what you pass through, you can fight to reinvent yourself.
Fight to be all that you can be. We are fighting this fight.”
“My son gives me hope. When I think of him, I feel good.
My work also gives me hope.
When I wake up in the morning and I know that I am going somewhere—
that makes me happy too.
To move forward gives me hope for the future . . . nothing special . . . to move.
Prayer gives me hope.”
“This program helps us physically . . . it gives us a reason to get out of the house and something to look forward to. The program helps us emotionally as well. Now, we do not think of the past as much. Even if we do think about it, it doesn’t weigh us down like before because we know that we have hope for the future.”
“The program gives us hope.
This is what I know.
They give us hope.
Oh yeah. Yeah!”
“We are helped in so many ways.
Helping us for the future, maybe—so that everything will be okay.
In the future, I want to work.
I would work anywhere—taking care of children, cleaning, anything.”
“Hope means everything.
When there is no hope, there is no light.
With hope you can fly anywhere.”
Call to Action
- Learn more about the issue by visiting Stop the Traffik, EPCAT (fighting child sexual exploitation), and reading the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report (June 2020).
- Engage in the issue by joining the FAWCO Human Rights Task Force and raise awareness worldwide among FAWCO clubs. Email email@example.com.
- Advocate for the issue by volunteering with, or donating to, local and global organizations. Email My-Linh for suggestions.
- Support The FAWCO Foundation and learn more about the issues with a purchase of the book Hope is the Thing with Feathers: Portraits of Human Trafficking Survivors and Change-Makers (Paperback, €15, ISBN: 978-3-00-054267-1) (100% proceeds go to The FAWCO Foundation). Only 7 copies left. For more information email My-Linh.