2016 TIP Report Heroes
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. For more information about current and past Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes, including how to connect with them, please visit the Trafficking in Persons Report Heroes Global Network at www.tipheroes.org.
Karen G.I. Rigby
As the Under Secretary in the Ministry of National Security of The Bahamas, Karen Rigby assists in advising Bahamian defense and law enforcement agencies on policy and administrative matters, and chairs the government’s Trafficking in Persons Inter-Ministry Committee (TIP Committee).
Under Ms. Rigby’s leadership as Chair, The Bahamas’ TIP Committee has become a cohesive force in the battle against human trafficking. The TIP Committee developed victim protection protocols and a national action plan that have been showcased in the region as examples of best practices; and designed an innovative educational program for schools and conducted outreach activities in vulnerable communities as part of an extensive campaign to raise public awareness about human trafficking. Ms. Rigby also ensures that police, immigration officers, prosecutors, social workers, medical personnel, labor inspectors, and the TIP Committee’s civil society partners regularly receive training to identify and assist victims of human trafficking.
Ms. Rigby’s dedicated efforts have been instrumental in bringing together and energizing all sectors of the Bahamian government to achieve a coordinated strategy to combat trafficking in persons.
Priscilla Kedibone Israel
As the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions in Botswana, Priscilla Kedibone Israel has worked tirelessly to implement the Anti-Human Trafficking Act after its passage in 2014. She began conducting regular anti-trafficking training at the Botswana Police College in an effort to increase frontline law enforcement awareness of the indicators of human trafficking and the importance of the victim-centered approach to prosecutions. She also participated in a public awareness campaign about modern slavery by giving lectures and radio talks.
Ms. Israel has dedicated herself to ensuring that cases of human trafficking in Botswana are treated seriously, and she has spent countless hours working with members of the judicial system to ensure that they thoroughly understand the nature and complexity of human trafficking cases.
After the passage of the 2014 Anti-Human Trafficking Act, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions looked to her to build trafficking prosecutions. She secured eight indictments for trafficking and trafficking-related offenses and is currently prosecuting the cases through the court system. She has worked to support victims who testify against their traffickers and helped established a precedent for mutual legal assistance between countries addressing international trafficking cases in the region.
As head of the police anti-trafficking unit in the Republic of Cyprus, Rita Superman has dedicated herself to the fight against human trafficking for the past 10 years. Under her leadership, the anti-trafficking unit has grown exponentially. In addition, the scope of its activity has expanded from primarily desk work to training law enforcement, planning and carrying out police operations and investigations, identifying victims of trafficking and supporting them during trials, and working closely with public prosecutors to ensure successful prosecutions.
A trafficking survivor’s story highlights Ms. Superman’s extraordinary devotion to her work. In 2007, a young Moldovan woman landed in Cyprus believing she had received a scholarship to study accounting. Upon arrival, she was forced into sex trafficking at a cabaret, and was only freed five months later during a police raid. The young woman wanted to testify against her former traffickers, but was intimidated by death threats. She credits Ms. Superman for giving her the courage to testify. During the 20-month-long trial, Ms. Superman personally made sure she was safe, frequently escorting her from one location to another.
Due to her tireless efforts, Ms. Superman has gained the trust of NGOs in Cyprus fighting against human trafficking, and of individual victims who regularly reach out to her even after a case has concluded.
Superintendent of Police Kiran Bajracharya, District Chief of the Bhaktapur District Police Office in Nepal, has worked persistently to investigate crimes against women and children, including human trafficking. SP Bajracharya has led efforts to identify trafficking victims at local hotels and restaurants; developed a training manual for junior officers on investigating crimes against women and children; and worked to ensure that human rights standards, police ethics, and gender equality are integrated into all police curricula and training programs.
Between 2013 and 2015, SP Bajracharya served as Superintendent in the Central Investigation Bureau, where she focused on investigating organized transnational crime and initiated at least 14 human trafficking cases, an increase from just one case in prior years. These cases resulted in numerous arrests, prosecutions, and convictions, including the arrest of 10 criminal gang members.
In her current role as District Police Chief, SP Bajracharya continues to lead on human trafficking. She gives orientation and awareness training to women working in local brick kilns on the risks of modern slavery; has set up checkpoints to inspect buses carrying individuals who may be trafficking victims; and has received the Prabal Jansewa Shree’ medal for outstanding performance as a District Police Chief of Bhaktapur District by the President of Nepal.
Biram Dah Abeid and Brahim Bilal Ramdhane
The partnership between two dynamic activists, Biram Abeid and Brahim Ramdhane, has been critical in reducing human trafficking in Mauritania, a country where slavery was not formally outlawed until 1981. Mr. Abeid, a lawyer, researcher, human rights activist, writer, translator (French-Arabic), and President of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), and Mr. Ramdhane, a professor of philosophy and Arabic language, and Vice President of IRA, are both the children of slaves, who have chosen careers focused on confronting injustice in Mauritania.
Mr. Abeid and Mr. Ramdhane have successfully mounted provocative and high-profile anti-trafficking campaigns that have significantly contributed to new government institutions, laws, and specialized courts designed to combat human trafficking. These advances facilitated the first indictment in Mauritania for slave-holding and the first prison sentence in 2011 under the 2007 anti-slavery law, and the 2012 constitutional reform that made slavery a crime against humanity.
In November 2014, Mr. Abeid and Mr. Ramdhane were arrested together for their leading roles in a protest against the continued practice of slavery in Mauritania as well as discriminatory land use policies and related abuses suffered by non-Arab, sub-Saharan minorities. Both the Haratine (slave descendants) and sub-Saharan communities are grossly underrepresented in government, military, and economic leadership positions due to systematic discrimination in favor of the Beydane (white Moor) minority. The men shared a cell until their release in May 2016.
The organization they established, IRA, and its leaders have been recognized internationally on numerous occasions, including: the 2016 James Lawson Award from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, the 2015 Human Rights Tulip awarded by the Dutch government, the 2013 Front Line Defenders Award, and the 2013 United Nations Human Rights prize, among others.
Syeda Ghulam Fatima
Syeda Ghulam Fatima is the General Secretary of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan (BLLF) and a courageous human rights activist. She has long campaigned for workers’ rights in Pakistan and, in particular, for the end of bonded labor in brick kilns and factories. Alongside her husband, Ms. Ghulam Fatima founded and runs the Freedom Campus for Bonded Labour, a center in Lahore that provides care and legal services to victims of forced labor.
Ms. Ghulam Fatima has helped free more than 80,000 bonded laborers in Pakistan, including those working in brick kilns, agriculture, and the carpet industry, often by personally organizing and carrying out their release. Under her leadership, BLLF provides legal aid, shelter, protection, and a way back into society for survivors of forced labor. Ms. Ghulam Fatima has helped train hundreds of women to enable them to find new livelihoods for themselves and their families, and has been a tireless advocate for legislation and government action to protect victims of human trafficking.
Ms. Ghulam Fatima serves as a voice for the estimated 2.6 million Pakistanis, who work in debt bondage, bringing national and international attention to their plight. She has persisted in her activism despite being threatened and attacked by those who oppose her work.
Oluremi Banwo Kehinde
Oluremi Banwo Kehinde is a tireless anti-trafficking activist in Russia who works to assist and protect Nigerian and other African victims of sex trafficking. Mr. Kehinde currently leads Help Services for Nigerians in Russia, a relief organization he created to provide protective services to African victims of human trafficking; the group represents a substantial portion of those individuals who are recruited to Russia and forced into prostitution.
In 2015, Mr. Kehinde worked with law enforcement, religious service providers, and the international community in Moscow to provide assistance to scores of sex trafficking victims. He has personally helped repatriate victims to Nigeria. At his own expense, Mr. Kehinde provided lodging for victims, referred them for medical treatment, and coordinated efforts to secure documentation, as most victims had lost possession of their passports during the course of their exploitation. Overall, he has helped more than 240 Nigerian women escape conditions of modern slavery in Russia.
Despite personal threats to his life, Mr. Kehinde intervened on numerous occasions to secure the release of victims of human trafficking from criminal networks. Several international organizations, anti-trafficking NGOs, and survivors of human trafficking have lauded Mr. Kehinde’s enormous contribution to efforts to combat human trafficking in Russia.
Issa Kouyate is the Founder and Director of Maison de la Gare, a shelter in Senegal for hundreds of street children, often called talibe, and other at-risk youth. Talibes are children, some as young as 4 years old, who are sent to Islamic schools across Senegal to become scholars of the Quran. In many cases, these children are also forced to beg for up to eight hours each day and are often beaten and left alone in the streets if they do not earn enough. As a former talibe himself, Mr. Kouyate is committed to improving the lives of such street children. He became a chef, and first began by cooking for the children. From there, his small operation grew into a shelter, where as many as 200 talibes now visit daily seeking basic services such as food, medicine, and shelter.
Mr. Kouyate has created strong partnerships with local government agencies, religious communities, and other organizations working to combat human trafficking. Local authorities consider him a key partner not only for providing shelter for runaway talibes, but also for gathering data, following up on cases within the legal system, and facilitating the safe return of talibes to their families.
Mr. Kouyate has been incredibly successful in raising awareness about the conditions of and risks to children, who live and beg on the streets, and has helped build support from local officials to prevent human trafficking.
Dr. Krisztina Berta
Dr. Krisztina Berta, Deputy State Secretary for EU and International Relations in Hungary’s Ministry of Interior, and National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator since 2010, passed away unexpectedly at age 62 in November 2015. Dr. Berta was dedicated to the fight against trafficking in persons, and initiated several important programs, including the first multilateral referral and law enforcement project in Europe focused on anti-trafficking cooperation. The project linked Hungary’s Ministry of Interior, the Netherlands’ Ministry of Security and Justice, and a Belgian victim service provider.