One of the world's most dedicated groups of women will be holding one of the nation's largest gatherings of people dedicated to fighting human trafficking from Jan. 14 to 16 at the Oregon Convention Center.
The Soroptimist International Northwest Region will bring some of the nation's most prominent voices to the Northwest Conference Against Trafficking, a three-day event featuring actress Daryl Hannah, KOIN 6 reporter Alexis Del Cid, Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, authors Anne Garrett and Nancy Goodell, as well as many more.
The conference marks the third year that the Soroptimists have focused their attention on the issue of human trafficking, a term that includes forced labor and sexual servitude. According to Sue Riney, governor of Soroptimist Northwest Region, the group rarely puts itself in the middle of a political issue.
"We took this issue on because our mission is improving the lives of women and girls," she told The Skanner News.
Because the visible aspect of human trafficking is the forced or coerced prostitution of women and girls, Soroptimist felt it was necessary to become a conduit of information to help fight the illegal practice. In the past, Soroptomist has long been a prominent opponent of domestic violence and have established victim assistant clubs, education grants and other programs to assist victims reestablish their lives.
Riney says the conference – with about 85 percent of attendees being first-timers – is a good way to educate people about human trafficking and what they can do to help victims in their own communities.
Although numbers are hard to pin down, estimates of the number of people who are trafficked in the United States range from 10,000 to several hundred thousand. The forced servitude of these people can range from forced labor to sexual slavery and includes migrants, minors and other vulnerable people.
Conference organizer Michelle Bart says the lack of shelter for victims of forced prostitution in major cities such as Portland is a big motivator for the group. While they stress that the conference is not a fund-raiser, they do hope that participants return to their communities with a "fire lit under them" and help get the job done.
"We need to see the doors of a shelter open," she said.
Soroptimist International is not in the position to be able to provide direct services to women and girls.
"If we had property and a building, it would be a different situation," Bart said. "If another agency opens a proven model, we'll step up and support them."
By bringing together a number of different activists, writers and a group of survivors lead by Jeri Williams, a survivor and advocate for victims, Riney and Bart hope the conference will allow people to understand the complexity of the problem and find some possible solutions.
Bart says the fact that the conference is being held adjacent to Martin Luther King Jr. Day and The Skanner's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast is fitting. Much like other legislative advocacy the group undertook for the Equal Rights Amendment, the Soroptimists believe the issue surrounding human trafficking is largely a civil rights issue that can be solved with education, policy changes and vigilance.
The conference also coincides with Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Jan. 11. In Washington, lawmakers there celebrated the fact that the state was one of the first to pass "human trafficking" legislation in 2003. Slavery and involuntary servitude were already prohibited by the 13th Amendment, which was adopted in 1865. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 expanded the federal laws against involuntary servitude to include cases of psychological coercion.
Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011 (Free Public Event)
Washington Anti Trafficking Engagement Day at The State Capitol
Including participation from Polaris Project, Washington State Attorney General's office, International Justice Mission, Soroptimist International, NWCAT and many others!
3:30 p.m. Columbia Room at the Washington State Capitol – see website for more information: www.WAengage.com.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Red Lion Hotel-Convention Center
10 a.m. - Registration / Check-in for INTERVENE
11 a.m.– 3 p.m. - INTERVENE Training by Shared Hope International, Red Lion Hotel, Grand Ballroom
3:30-4:30 p.m.- Washington State Legislation & Policy Workshop, presented by Rose Gundersen and Seattle Against Slavery
3:30-4:30 p.m.- United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Federal civil right, laws and monetary relief for victim of trafficking including sexual assault and other discrimination in the workplace
5:30-7:30 p.m.- VIP Reception & Silent Auction at the Westin Hotel-Portland (invitation only) Music by: Dennia Costi Trio
6:30-9 p.m. - Conference Reception (all registered conference guests), Hosted by Red Lion Hotel in Windows Lounge (top floor of hotel)
Saturday, January 15, 2011
At Convention Center (Entertainment by Mirrors w/Lorena Ferry & Jeff Icovino and Youth for Human Rights)
6:30 a.m. - Exhibitor & Survivor Art Gallery set-up
7:30 a.m.- Registration/Check-in for conference opens
8 a.m. - Coffee Networking Social & Exhibit Resource Expo and Silent Auction Opens
8:30 a.m. - Opening Remarks
9:30-11:45 a.m. – Workshops
12-4:30 p.m. - Luncheon / Keynote Speakers (Convention Center Ballroom)
4:30-5 p.m. - Live Auction – Stephanie Smith, Wells Fargo
5-6 p.m. - Meet the Author Book Signing
Jane Velez-Mitchell; Ann Garrett & Nancy Goodell; Dawn Schiller; and Linda Smith.
6-7 p.m. - Vigil For Hope (a vigil with families of missing loved ones, survivors, and victims of kidnappings, trafficking, rape, domestic violence). Music and Spoken Word
8-9:30 p.m. - Dan Rather Presents "Pornland" Screening and Q & A
Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
At the Red Lion Hotel – Windows Restaurant
9 a.m. to Noon - Brunch & Brothels with Daryl Hannah & Friends
Music By: the DREAM Quartet