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.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Gilbert Munda is the coordinator of the Action Center for Youth and Vulnerable Children (CAJED), and as a former orphan himself and father of 12 children, Mr. Munda’s tremendous compassion drives his effective leadership. CAJED is an NGO created in 1992 in the Democratic Republic of Congo to provide temporary care and full support for vulnerable children, specifically those formerly associated with armed groups, before reunifying them with their families. Under Mr. Munda’s leadership, CAJED has been a UNICEF partner since 2004, and operates a shelter, which provides children with psychosocial support, recreation activities, non-formal education, and family reunification assistance.
In 2011, CAJED formed a consortium with other disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration-focused NGOs in North Kivu, and, through this extensive network, CAJED has assisted over 9,000 children who have been demobilized from armed groups. Mr. Munda engages directly with MONUSCO and UN teams of first responders in the release of children. Together with his team, Mr. Munda has risked his life to help free these children, but, in a country torn by conflict, the efforts of Mr. Munda put these children on the path to healing and help bring peace to the DRC.
Read more about Gilbert Munda.
Bhanuja Sharan Lal
As director of the Manav Sansadhan Evam Mahila Vikas Sansthan (MSEMVS), Bhanuja Sharan Lal leads more than 75 frontline anti-trafficking workers in northern India. MSEMVS has enabled communities to progressively dismantle entrenched systems of modern slavery at brick kilns, farms, and quarries. They have transformed hundreds of communities into no-go zones for traffickers, making modern slavery virtually nonexistent in more than 130 villages.
Led by Mr. Lal, MSEMVS helps trafficking victims establish Community Vigilance Committees, a process through which groups of survivors achieve freedom by exercising collective power through district-level networks and pressuring police to enforce anti-trafficking laws. MSEMVS assists in freeing approximately 65 men, women, and children every month, and provides survivors with follow-up reintegration support. MSEMVS has also launched and manages a shelter that provides rights-based assistance and recovery to sex trafficking survivors.
Additionally, Mr. Lal has focused intensely on eradicating child labor. Currently, 14 village-based schools enable more than 500 child trafficking survivors to catch up on their education, so they can successfully enter public schools within three years. These schools, which open and close as necessary, enable large numbers of children to come out of slavery and receive an education.
Read more about Bhanuja Sharan Lal.
Republic of Korea (ROK)
Myeongjin Ko is a tireless activist who directs the Dasihamkke Center for sex trafficking victims in South Korea. The Center conducts outreach and counseling for victims of sex trafficking, and assists them with legal and medical services. In response to the increasing number of runaway teenagers falling into prostitution and sex trafficking, Ms. Ko established a special division at the Center that offers services for juvenile victims 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Since its establishment in 2013, the juvenile care division has provided counseling for approximately 10,000 individual cases in person, over the phone, and online.
In addition to her work on the ground, Ms. Ko has published several manuals in multiple languages on helping and providing services to sex trafficking victims, and has distributed them to Korean embassies and consulates in the United States, Japan, and Australia, three primary destinations for Korean sex trafficking victims.
Ms. Ko also directs Eco-Gender, an advocacy network of Korean anti-trafficking organizations, and has led several civic groups with that network to raise public awareness. The Ministry of Justice named Ms. Ko a Guardian of Female and Children Victim’s Rights in 2013.
Elisabeth Sioufi, director of the Beirut Bar Association’s Institute for Human Rights, relentlessly advocates for and raises awareness about victims of human trafficking. She was a key leader in advocating the passage of Lebanon’s first anti-trafficking law in 2012, and she continues to make trafficking a top priority for the Lebanese government. Ms. Sioufi is an active member of various national steering committees working to protect local and foreign domestic workers, combat human trafficking, prevent torture, and promote child protection, and is the Secretary of the Human Rights Commission of the International Union of Lawyers.
Ms. Sioufi played an instrumental role in drafting the National Strategy to Combat Trafficking in Persons in Lebanon and the National Action Plan for Combating Trafficking in Persons, both of which were finalized in 2013 and await cabinet approval. She regularly holds training sessions on human trafficking for law enforcement, army, and community police personnel, as well as reporters to improve coverage of human trafficking stories in Lebanon.
Ms. Sioufi also led the effort to create a government manual that defined human trafficking and outlined ways to combat it, and held a roundtable with government representatives and NGOs to agree upon a set of indicators for identifying victims of trafficking.
Read more about Elisabeth Sioufi.
Tek Narayan Kunwar
Tek Narayan Kunwar, Lalitpur District Judge, has been at the forefront of efforts in Nepal to counter human trafficking by fully implementing the Human Trafficking and Transportation Control Act, while championing the rights of victims. Judge Kunwar’s victim-centered approach has provided a much needed ray of hope in the ongoing legal struggle against trafficking. During his previous tenure in District Court Makwanpur, he pioneered a “Fast Track Court System” to decrease the length of time survivors must wait to appear. Judge Kunwar also allows survivors to choose a court date (previously, they would receive little notice), and ensures that hearings proceed continually until a case is decided.
Judge Kunwar also takes a victim-centered approach to sentencing. In May 2013, recognizing the need for immediate compensation, he took the unprecedented step of ordering the government of Nepal to pay the equivalent of approximately $3,000 to a trafficking survivor. He also established new jurisprudence to impose appropriately severe penalties for this egregious crime.
The Judicial Council of Nepal, a national government agency, named Judge Kunwar the Best Performing Judge of 2013 for his aggressive approach to combating human trafficking. He has published extensively on human rights and international law, judicial independence, and gender equality and law.
Read more about Judge Tek Narayan Kunwar.
Beatrice Jedy-Agba was appointed Executive Secretary of Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other Related Matters (NAPTIP) in 2011. NAPTIP is responsible for enhancing the effectiveness of law enforcement, preventing root causes, and providing victim protection. The Agency has nine shelters across the country, and has assisted in providing assistance and rehabilitation to thousands of survivors.
Mrs. Jedy-Agba is transforming the Nigerian national landscape with respect to combating trafficking. Under her leadership, NAPTIP has become a model throughout Africa for coordination of government anti-trafficking efforts. Her work has resulted in the incorporation of human trafficking issues into national development discourse and planning. She has improved NAPTIP’s relationships with critical partners in Nigeria’s anti-trafficking response, such as local and international NGOs and foreign governments. Not focused solely on the South/North trafficking routes, she has made significant efforts to return and reintegrate Nigerian survivors of human trafficking from several West African countries, and has led collaboration to address the trade in the region. Mrs. Jedy-Agba also has initiated human trafficking public awareness campaigns to increase understanding and mobilize the general public.
Read more about Beatrice Jedy-Agba.
Survivor Jhinna Pinchi was the first trafficking victim in Peru to face her traffickers in court. Since her escape in 2009, she has taken extraordinary risks. She has faced threats of death and violence, surmounted repeated social and legal obstacles, and challenged the status quo.
In 2007, Ms. Pinchi was trafficked from her home in the Peruvian Amazon and exploited in the commercial sex trade at a strip club in northern Peru. For over two years, she was denied her basic rights. She was drugged, attacked, and exploited. Finally, she escaped and began her long struggle for justice.
Ms. Pinchi encountered countless hurdles in bringing her traffickers to court, including the suspicious deaths of two key witnesses. It took four years, but she never gave up. In December 2013, a Peruvian court convicted three of her abusers for trafficking in persons, and sentenced two of them to 15 and 12 years’ imprisonment, respectively. The lead defendant remains at large.
Ms. Pinchi has become a sought-after speaker and advocate, and her remarkable story has been developed into a documentary to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Read more about Jhinna Pinchi.
Monica Boseff is the executive director of the Open Door Foundation (Usa Deschisa) and driving force behind an emergency aftercare shelter specifically designed for female victims of human trafficking in Bucharest, Romania. In a country where government funding for survivor aftercare is limited, opening a shelter is a monumental undertaking. Yet, after surveying other organizations and speaking to government officials to properly understand the need, Ms. Boseff launched the emergency shelter, Open Door, in April 2013. The shelter provides residents with medical, psychological, and social support, helping them heal physically, mentally, and emotionally. As part of the recovery process, Ms. Boseff also designed and implemented a job skills training component to the program in coordination with the Starbucks Corporation, who agreed to hire Open Door graduates.
Whether in her capacity as the shelter supervisor, or working relentlessly to identify and secure new financial and in-kind assistance to keep the shelter open and running, Ms. Boseff is a tireless advocate for increasing resources to combat trafficking and assist survivors. What Ms. Boseff has been able to accomplish in a very short time is testament to her strong will, faith, and passion for helping survivors.
Read more about Monica Boseff.
Trinidad and Tobago
As the first-ever Director of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s Counter-Trafficking Unit at the Ministry of National Security, Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews fundamentally changed the way the government responds to the problem of human trafficking. Ms. Gandhi-Andrews was for several years a leading and outspoken advocate for trafficking in persons legislation, which the government ultimately implemented in January 2013. Largely due to her tireless efforts, Trinidad and Tobago has an infrastructure in place to recognize, identify, and support victims. In her first year she led over 20 investigations into suspected trafficking cases, resulting in charges filed against 12 alleged traffickers—including government officials—and uncovered a dangerous network of criminal gangs facilitating human trafficking in the Caribbean region.
In 2013, the Counter-Trafficking Unit hosted over 20 presentations and workshops designed to educate law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, the legal community, and students about human trafficking. This outreach broke down barriers by connecting and sensitizing resource providers, who have since opened their doors and wallets to support trafficking victims. In a short few years, Ms. Gandhi-Andrews, now the Deputy Chief Immigration Officer, has become the public face of anti-trafficking efforts in Trinidad and Tobago, shaping a national dialogue that embraces proactive efforts to combat trafficking in persons.
Read more about Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews.
Van Ngoc Ta
Van Ngoc Ta is the Chief Lawyer at Blue Dragon, an Australian charity based in Vietnam that has been involved in helping children and young adults secure their freedom from human trafficking since 2005. To date, Mr. Van has personally assisted over 300 trafficking victims of forced labor in Vietnam and sex trafficking in China. His approach involves undercover operations to locate victims, and his team works with Vietnamese authorities to arrange and conduct a plan to facilitate victims’ release.
With years of experience under his belt, Mr. Van has developed a comprehensive approach to assisting trafficking victims, including locating victims, providing services, assisting them in making formal statements to police, supporting their reintegration into their communities, and representing them in court against their traffickers. Mr. Van’s tireless efforts have earned him the trust of police and government officials, who often invite him to assist them in their anti-trafficking efforts.
In addition to direct services, Mr. Van has had a great impact on communities in Vietnam where he conducts awareness campaigns and meets with leaders and families to educate them on prevention. Truly making a difference both at the individual level and on a national scale, Mr. Van is influencing the way Vietnam thinks and acts about trafficking.
Read more about Van Ngoc Ta.
Irene Fernandez, Malaysia
In early 2014, the anti-trafficking community suffered the enormous loss of Irene Fernandez, the co-founder and director of Tenaganita, a legal and advocacy organization committed to defending the rights of migrant workers, refugees, and trafficking victims in Malaysia. Fernandez fought tirelessly to expose and correct injustices faced by vulnerable groups in the country, persevering in the face of threats and pressure. Her trailblazing efforts provided migrant worker trafficking victims with much needed legal assistance and advocacy. For this valuable work, Fernandez was recognized as a TIP Report Hero in the 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report.
Read more about Irene Fernandez.