Posted by Christina Jedra June 19, 2013 10:20 AM
The following was submitted by Dianna Sawyer:
Medford resident, Dianna Sawyer, along with her sister, Lynnfield resident Angie Weyler, returned home late Tuesday evening from Washington D.C. after meetings with the Massachusetts Congressional delegation. Dianna was among 250 individuals from 40 states who took part in a day of advocacy organized by human rights agency International Justice Mission (IJM). Participants met with more than 210 Congressional offices to build support for strong U.S. policies to combat trafficking and slavery at home and abroad.
Sawyer and fellow advocates from Massachusetts advocated for passage of the “Human Trafficking Prioritization Act,” which elevates the authority of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office—a U.S. government agency dedicated to combating human trafficking. U.S. citizens’ interest in eradicating slavery has kept the issue high on the political agenda in Washington for the past decade. In recent years, the existence of proven anti-slavery models has equipped advocates with data and success stories to encourage Members of Congress and Senators from across the political spectrum to support increased investment in anti-trafficking programs.
“When I learned that there are 27 million people in slavery - more than any other time in history - I was shocked. Living in the Boston area, I’ve always been proud to be so near to the cradle of independence, a place where our forefathers fought tooth and nail for freedom. As a nation that prides itself on being ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave,’ we have a moral obligation to continue the fight against slavery, an issue that we believed we had overcome after the Civil War. The successful rescue operations of IJM prove that eradicating slavery in our lifetime is not only possible, but required of us as human beings,” said Sawyer.
All government agencies have faced budget cuts in the face of sequestration, making citizen support for US government programs to combat slavery more important than ever. “When it comes to fighting human trafficking, a relatively small amount of money goes an extremely long way,” said Holly Burkhalter, vice president of government relations at IJM. “The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons office makes grants that save lives and build international capacity to end human trafficking. The office should be made a full-fledged State Department Bureau, in order to best represent the interests of the most vulnerable people in the world – slaves and trafficking victims.”
Organizations like IJM are seeing significant improvements in public justice systems protecting the poor and preventing slavery, even over short periods of time. In just four years of collaboration with local authorities in Cebu, the Philippines, IJM has seen the number of minors available in the commercial sex trade reduced by 79 percent. Private investment by Google.org for IJM’s anti-slavery work in India has enabled a dramatic expansion of the organization’s work there from 9 to 50 states in the country, resulting in the freeing of nearly 1,000 bonded labors in just ten months.
“There is much work to be done, and this urgent, transformative work is worthy of U.S. government investment,” said Sawyer, who has been volunteering with local nonprofits as a writer, editor, and social media consultant since 2006. “Being on Capitol Hill was a way to demonstrate and exercise my own freedom, on behalf of those who have never known it. It’s time for Washington to not only reach across the aisle, but reach across the world, recognizing that the issue of slavery is neither liberal nor conservative, Republican nor Democrat. It’s simply human,” said Sawyer.
IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals secure justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. In the past year alone, IJM has brought rescue to more than 2,400 victims of violence and injustice. For more information about International Justice Mission visit www.ijm.org.