Survivors Walk. Raising awareness and empowering survivor leaders
It was Friday, the 18th of October 2019, the European Day against Trafficking in Human Beings. Many organizations working in the front line against trafficking in the Netherlands gathered around the documentary ‘Samen tegen Mensenhandel‘ (Together against Human Trafficking). The documentary was part of a human trafficking supplement published in the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw.
The Q&A that followed the documentary, provided perspectives of two strong women: Malaika Maria Oringo and Edith-Bernadette Poot. They addressed the public with a characteristic tone of voice and posture that commands respect and attentive listening. Their perspectives made an impression of the challenges that are faced by survivors of human trafficking and how they have overcome tremendous challenges in their fight against it.
One take-home-message from that night was that there is a growing lack of engagement due to the fear of violating privacy laws. “Non-detection agencies such as care coordinators, and shelters report far fewer offenders because the law says that explicit permission is required to share personal data. At the coordination center against trafficking in human beings, the number of reports has been decreasing for five years in a row. While sexual exploitation is no less prevalent” (Documentary).
Their interventions called for action to recognize that each person who is a victim of modern-day slavery wants, is to someone to see them and someone to hear them.
These two women work now as entrepreneurs. Malaika leads Footprint to freedom a survivor-led foundation that believes the way to eradicate human trafficking is by giving survivors a voice and the opportunity to lead. Edith-Bernadette is a life/business coach, and an independent consultant for Human (sex) trafficking. She is a speaker in the areas of self-development and personal success.
After a few weeks from that event, we got the chance to share with Malaika the CRISALIS project who invited us to participate as ambassadors in an initiative she started to work together with Edith: The Survivors Walk.
The Survivors Walk Initiative’s goal is not only to raise awareness about human trafficking but also to encourage victims and survivors who are still hiding in the shadows to join the frontline to fight it. The intention to motivate victims and survivors to step out from the invisibilized chains of human trafficking could become the most powerful tool in combating it, because “an empowered survivor makes traffickers vulnerable” (Malaika Oringo).
And so it happened. On the 7th of December 2019, the CRISALIS team joined a group of ambassadors and with Malaika and Edith, we walked the streets of Arnhem, a municipality situated in the eastern part of the Netherlands and capital of the Gelderland province. During the walk, curious people got in touch with all of us and engaged in talks that ranged from general trafficking statistics in the Netherlands to in-depth conversations about particular anecdotes about the subject. One behavior caught our attention during the entire time we were walking: People who did not engage in conversation with us, did a pause to at least recognize what it was written in our signs. It seemed that there were reflections about this issue in their mind. For us, the goal was achieved. Indeed The Survivors Walk was a -raising awareness- event on the making.
Standing up for victims of human trafficking needs to have dedicated people that work beyond commitment to not only share their stories but the stories of so many women, children, and men who suffer daily from modern slavery. In the Netherlands, we count on these two front runners, Malaika and Edith, who were able to build resilience and speak up on behalf of victims and survivors. They believe that to fight human trafficking, a movement bigger than one single institution is needed.
The responsibility that we have as citizens cannot be overlooked by our daily life activities. We need to learn to identify the signs of trafficking and be able to report it.
From the 18th of October 2020, on The European Day against Trafficking in Human Beings and onwards we are curious to see what kinds of synergies will emerge and help fulfill the mission of creating an army of empowered survivor leaders, alerted communities and well-informed service providers that the Survivors Walk Initiative is envisioning.
Maria Malaika Oringo
CEO /Founder Footprint to freedom
+31 6 555 36 522
Consultancy human sex trafficking