Each year, the Department of State honors individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking. These individuals are NGO workers, lawmakers, police officers, and concerned citizens who are committed to ending modern slavery. They are recognized for their tireless efforts – despite resistance, opposition, and threats to their lives – to protect victims, punish offenders, and raise awareness of ongoing criminal practices in their countries and abroad.
Leonel Dubon has shown unflagging dedication to providing high-quality services to victims of human trafficking, while simultaneously encouraging NGO-government partnerships and policy initiatives. In 2009, Mr. Dubon was the driving force behind the creation of the NGO Children’s Refuge House (El Refugio de la Ninez) to provide a safe residential setting for 26 underage female victims of sex trafficking. In 2010, the organization, now a model for Guatemala and the region, provided shelter and services to 51 girls. And when the building’s roof collapsed following a volcanic eruption in May and Tropical Storm Agatha, Mr. Dubon called on his friends in the NGO community to relocate the girls temporarily while he found money to repair the shelter. In January 2011, Mr. Dubon opened a second shelter for adolescents and young adults up to age 24. Not content to leave older victims without resources, he joined with other NGO leaders to engage with the Guatemalan government on the lack of services for adults. In March 2011, the president inaugurated a government shelter dedicated to serving adult victims of trafficking.
Mr. Dubon’s work extends to rural areas around Guatemala, where his organization identifies victims, provides them with mental health and legal counseling, and conducts outreach and education programs to prevent trafficking among vulnerable populations. In 2011, Mr. Dubon is working with the government’s Department of Social Welfare to train 30 foster families on how to provide a safe, loving environment to child trafficking victims who cannot access the shelters. Mr. Dubon also has partnered with international organizations, presented at numerous conferences, and been an active member of Guatemala’s anti-trafficking NGO network.
Esme Kisting, executive director of Namibian NGO The King’s Daughters Organization, works with passion and courage to confront a social taboo and give women exploited in commercial sex another chance at life. Founded in 2006 by Kisting with assistance from the Council of Churches of Namibia, The King’s Daughters Organization is devoted to lifting women exploited in commercial sex out of poverty and helping them leave the streets. During the rehabilitation process, Ms. Kisting helps the women, many of whom have suffered abuse and exploitation, understand that they are victims of trafficking. The organization offers the women – now more than 60 – groceries, bible study sessions, skills training, substance abuse programs, and counseling in an effort to meet their material, spiritual, and psychological needs. More than 80 percent of the women are HIV-positive, and most of them have young children.
Beyond assisting in their care, Ms. Kisting strives to teach the greater Namibian community from the experiences of these women. She leads the women in organizing public awareness campaigns around Namibia aimed at educating other exploited women, church and community leaders, and immigration officials about the lives of women in prostitution. Ms. Kisting encourages the women to tell their stories in hopes of sensitizing those who are in positions to protect others like them. The group’s activities have inspired some church leaders to support the formation of similar organizations in their own communities. The King’s Daughters Organization lacks a steady source of funding, relying mainly on contributions from the Pentecostal Protestant Church, the King’s Daughters Board and volunteers. Ms. Kisting has personally invested much of her own money to support the group.
Darlene Pajarito is an assistant city prosecutor in Zamboanga City and is known as one of the strongest anti-trafficking advocates in the Philippines. After joining the Department of Justice in 2004, Ms. Pajarito secured the Philippines’ first sex trafficking conviction in 2005 and the first labor trafficking conviction in 2011. With convictions against five traffickers in Zamboanga, she has secured more convictions than have been handed down in any other Philippine city. At any one time, Ms. Pajarito is prosecuting numerous trafficking cases. Ms. Pajarito has accomplished all this while juggling an average caseload of more than 300 other criminal cases in a country where criminal trials last an average of six years in the overburdened and backlogged judiciary.
Ms. Pajarito also encourages, supports, and trains law enforcement, social workers, specialized agents, and government entities on human trafficking issues, the Philippines’ anti-trafficking law, and methods to prosecute traffickers effectively. Her advocacy rejuvenated the Regional Interagency Committee Against Trafficking and led to the formation of Sea-Based and Air-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Forces. In 2010, the justice secretary also selected her to lead the Region IX Anti-Trafficking Task Force. Her successful record has shown other prosecutors the value of police-prosecutors cooperation in the development of strong cases against traffickers.
Dilcya Garcia is a pioneer in the Mexican justice system for her successful prosecution of human trafficking cases, her compassionate stance toward victims, and her tireless work to end both sex trafficking and labor trafficking. In 2009, Ms. Garcia, a deputy prosecutor in the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office, prosecuted a landmark case that resulted in the first trafficking sentence in Mexico. In 2009 and 2010, she worked with other authorities to raid the best-known trafficking district in Mexico’s capital repeatedly.
Under her leadership, the Office for Assistance for Victims, Human Trafficking, and Domestic Violence also worked with civil society to provide more than 250 rescued sex and labor trafficking victims with comprehensive services, including shelter, and psychological and medical treatment. Ms. Garcia then developed indictments against more than 100 alleged traffickers, which her unit continues to prosecute. She also oversaw a sentence for 17 years, the longest trafficking sentence to-date in Mexico. In response to her lobbying, the Mexico City Legislative Assembly allotted funding in March 2011 for a human trafficking and domestic violence shelter in Mexico City.
Ms. Garcia has demonstrated that human trafficking legislation in Latin America can be used effectively to prosecute trafficking in court and inspired many in the government and civil society to take bolder steps against human traffickers.
Antigua and Barbuda
Sheila Roseau is a longtime advocate for women’s rights and the executive director of Antigua and Barbuda’s Gender Affairs Directorate. In 2010, Ms. Roseau was a driving force behind the passage of the country’s first law that provides criminal penalties for human traffickers and extensive protections for victims. After steering the drafting of the legislation and lobbying for its passage, Ms. Roseau now champions its ongoing implementation. Ms. Roseau and her dedicated team have established a cross-departmental coalition to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts within the government, rolled out an information campaign tailored to the local context, and set up a public-private partnership for sheltering victims that specifically addresses the challenges of small-island privacy issues. Prior to 2010, she assisted trafficking victims, including one foreign child, who is now an adult integrated into Antiguan society thanks to Ms. Roseau’s help. This is one of the only reported long-term assistance programs granted to a foreign trafficking victim by a government in the region.
The strength of Ms. Roseau’s personality and the depth of her convictions have helped her projects succeed despite working in a challenging environment with serious limitations in resources. Yet she remains dedicated, energetic and enthusiastic. Because of her continued leadership, trafficking victims in Antigua and Barbuda now have legal protections.
In establishing the Finnish National Rapporteur, the Government of Finland had the courage to examine its trafficking problem in its unvarnished form. But the success of this independent institution depended on the strength of the Rapporteur herself. Eva Biaudet, an international leader on women’s rights and anti-trafficking efforts, has answered the challenge. The research and advocacy conducted by her and her team has motivated the country to take trafficking seriously and to work collaboratively to address systematic weaknesses in the government’s response. Her report examines trafficking from diverse perspectives, identifying vulnerabilities in all areas of the government’s anti-trafficking program and recommending policy changes. Her critique’s frank and in-depth review of the current state of human trafficking in Finland served as a wake-up call to prompt legislative dialogue on initiatives to combat the crime, including discourse among lawmakers regarding the need for a dedicated anti-trafficking law enforcement unit. Her proposals led to a recommendation by the Parliamentary Steering Group to revise the country’s penal code calling for enhanced victim identification efforts and this revision is expected to occur following the April 2011 elections.
Under Ms. Biaudet’s guidance, the rapporteur’s office has not only been a prolific reviewer of Finland’s trafficking situations, but has led efforts to train authorities on victim assistance. It has collaborated with the media to ensure that human trafficking remains a matter of public concern. Ms. Biaudet’s brave leadership of this independent institution sets the tone and raises the standard for countries’ self-monitoring of trafficking efforts.
Ms. Biaudet was the OSCE’s special representative for combating human trafficking in Vienna from 2006 to 2009. She is also active in a number of anti-trafficking and women’s rights NGOs.
Born into a poor family made poorer by the passing of her father, Charimaya Tamang was 16 when she was trafficked to India. She spent 22 months enslaved in a brothel before the Indian government rescued her and more than 200 other Nepali women in 1996. Upon her return to Nepal, Ms. Tamang faced social stigma and was outcast from her own community. But she courageously filed a case against her traffickers, becoming the first person to file personally a trafficking case with the district police. In 1997, the District Court – in a landmark decision – convicted and sentenced eight offenders involved in her case.
In 2000, Ms. Tamang and 15 other survivors established Shakti Sumaha, an anti-trafficking NGO. She received a national honor for her work in 2007 and is currently one of two trafficking survivors serving as members of the government-led National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, which was founded in 2009. In that role, Ms. Tamang raised the importance of including survivors in each district-level working group. There are now five trafficking survivors serving as members of district-level committees around the country.
Magistrate Swati Chauhan was appointed in 2008 to preside over Mumbai’s newly created special court for administering the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA). In that time, she has cleared hundreds of backlogged trafficking cases, issued rehabilitation orders for more than 1,200 rescued girls and women, and ensured that sex trafficking victims were not punished under anti-prostitution provisions of the ITPA Indian law. Under her leadership, the court has secured 81 convictions against traffickers and brothel owners in 2009 and 164 convictions in 2010 – a high percentage of all the cases in a country of more than 1.2 billion people. In 2009, as an instructor at the National Institute of Rural Developments in Hyderabad, Ms. Chauhan trained more than 150 senior police officials and district-level officers from across India on effective implementation of the ITPA. Her work, which has been recognized internationally, has raised awareness of the importance of prosecuting traffickers and the utility of dedicated anti-trafficking courts. The Government of India nominated her to represent the country at the Asia-Pacific Conference on Rule of Law in Kuala Lumpur in January 2011.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Amela Efendic has been a tireless and compassionate caregiver for trafficking victims and an advocate for victim-protection issues for more than 10 years. As head of office for the International Forum of Solidarity-Emmaus (IFS), Ms. Efendic manages one of Bosnia’s largest and most active shelters for trafficking victims and coordinates IFS’ trafficking awareness campaigns. Having developed close working relationships and trust with the State Coordinator’s Office and Bosnia’s law enforcement agencies, Ms. Efendic provides critical advice to the government in forming the country’s trafficking monitoring teams and in crafting effective and humane procedures for treatment of trafficking victims. Despite numerous threats from trafficking offenders against herself and IFS staff, Ms. Efendic continues to work at an operational level with police, prosecutors and other responsible officials to ensure the protection of victims’ rights.
Prior to her work with IFS, Ms. Efendic was an acting project manager at IOM for many years. She managed the implementation of more than $6 million in IOM anti-trafficking projects and was directly involved in developing two consecutive national action plans for Bosnia and procedures for foreign victims of trafficking.
At both IOM and IFS, Ms. Efendic has gone above and beyond her duties to be personally involved in rescuing and reintegrating trafficking victims. In 2011, because of her dedication and wealth of experience and knowledge in victim protection, Bosnia’s Anti-TIP Strike Force coordinator asked Ms. Efendic to join the Strike Force – a request never before posed to an NGO activist.
Bridget Lew Tan
For more than a decade, Bridget Lew Tan has been at the forefront of efforts to protect migrant laborers in Singapore, home to more than 800,000 migrants. Working in human resource management, Ms. Tan became familiar with local employment laws and the rights of workers. She was outraged to see that there were migrant workers who were suffering injustices at the hands of employers and employment agents. While volunteering with the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in 2002, Ms. Tan met a group of 30 Bangladeshi men assembled behind a coffee shop at midnight. After seeing their helplessness and fear, she set up two shelters to provide refuge for migrant workers – one for men and one for women.
In 2004, Ms. Tan founded the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) to respond to the specific needs of migrant workers. Since its inception, HOME has provided food, shelter, advocacy assistance and legal counsel to more than 50,000 migrants, many of whom are female domestic workers. HOME continues to operate and expand its assistance to migrant workers and trafficking victims despite limited funding. Ms. Tan works to increase public awareness of the hardships facing migrant workers and trafficking victims through the media. Despite threats and intimidation from employers and agents, Ms. Tan continues to lead HOME in challenging illegal employment practices and raising awareness on the plight of foreign workers in Singapore.