ECPAT-USA was proud to present to the Hotel Association of New York City’s Security/ Safety Seminar on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. The seminar, which was attended by over 80 travel professionals highlighted the important role of hotels employees in identify and reporting human trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
Where Is Dylan? is an innovative new tool for preventing the sex trafficking of children in the form of an educational comic book. It was launched last week in New York City by ECPAT-USA in partnership with the Administration for Children’s Services, CauseVision and JCCA. Fifteen thousand copies will be distributed to at-risk youth throughout the City.
ECPAT-USA Partner, Vision Hospitality, Featured in Human Trafficking Awareness Video
By: Nicole Walker
Tennessee Valley PBS recently released the human trafficking awareness video Close To You that displays strong partnerships across all sectors in Tennessee that are banning together to fight against trafficking in their state. Vision Hospitality was featured because of the role that Vision’s DoubleTree by Hilton Chattanooga/Downtown hotel has played in raising awareness and acting in the community. Vision Hospitality is a valued partner of ECPAT-USA and has been a Code Member since 2013.
This is part of a series of blog posts about individuals, families and corporations who use their time and talents to benefit of ECPAT-USA and to raise awareness about the issue of child sex trafficking. These people have taken it upon themselves to educate others in their own ways and have allowed us to grow our network more than we could on our own. We do not take credit for their actions, but we are endlessly thankful for their support.
After a break from a life that used to include cycling regularly, Dorothea Calabrese is hopping back on the bike as a member of the ECPAT-USA Charity Team in this year’s Five Boro Bike Tour. A travel buyer for Maritz Travel – A Maritz Global Events Company, who is also sponsoring her slot on the team, Calabrese is slightly nervous (but excited) about the 40-mile ride, and she has an unrivaled cheering section in her two kids.
We talked to Calabrese about her 25 years in the travel and tourism industry, how she’s seen the awareness of sex trafficking increase over time and why her training is a family affair.
Business and Child Sex Trafficking, Where to Next?
ECPAT-USA’s Comments on the U.S. National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct
By: Dr. Camelia Tepelus and Michelle Guelbart
On December 2016, as the country was initiating a transition between administrations, Keith Avila, an Uber driver in California saved a 16 year old teen runaway from becoming a victim of sex trafficking. Rescues like these are made possible because of growing awareness around the issue coupled with increased employee and contractor training to identify the signs of human trafficking by companies. Keith was trained, empowered and supported by Uber management to alert the appropriate authorities. Uber, Delta Air Lines, and many other American-based global companies are members of the internationally recognized Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct (TheCode.org), an initiative managed in the United States by ECPAT-USA, joining advocates and businesses committed to prevent and actively combat trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.
With over twenty years experience advocating for responsible business and child rights, we at ECPAT-USA know that businesses are in a critical strategic position to ensure that child rights are respected and protected. When the US government announced that it would develop the first U.S. National Action Plan on Responsible Business Conduct (NAP) we were eager to provide input to the federal government in early 2016 on how the strategy could address grave violations of child rights including sexual exploitation and trafficking. The strategy was released among the final initiatives of the Obama administration in December 2016 and describes governmental expectations and federal policies regarding the conduct of US corporations. The NAP aimed to be consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and is the outcome of a year-long multi-agency and multi-stakeholder national consultation.
Drawing from decades of partnership with businesses to prevent child sex trafficking, ECPAT-USA provided input into the NAP process from a business and child rights perspective. Our main recommendations for the NAP were – first, to make an explicit priority of protecting child rights in all business operations, both domestic and abroad; second — to continue soliciting business input in the process; third – to recognize and award good practices; and finally, to continue to evaluate and monitor progress of the NAP itself. Dr. Tepelus and Ms. Guelbart compared the NAP to their earlier recommendations and provided input and feedback on where the US government can go from where we are today.
On Tuesday March 21st, ECPAT-USA hosted our 3rd Annual Youth Panel as a side event to the United Nations’ 61st Commission on the Status of Women. Close to one hundred people came out to support our young people as they shared the stories of their involvement in the movement to end child sex trafficking.
In fulfillment of the panel’s title, Youth Action to End Sexual Violence, students from two schools showcased their projects. The audience was nothing less than impressed. Our youngest panelist Awa Haidara, a middle schooler from the Academy of Future Leaders, created a Public Service Announcement with her peers. The PSA was directed, filmed, and edited by youth and demonstrated that victims of child sex trafficking are often silenced. The first part of the 2-minute piece showed students with tape over their mouths, asking for help, while the second part showed young people raising awareness about the issue demonstrating that while children can be the most vulnerable to child sex trafficking, they can also be the leaders in the movement to end it. Awa hopes to to start a girls’ group at her school which will provide a safe space for young women to come and talk about their experiences with these issues.
Our high school students, Julia Zeng and Rumana Khan from Brooklyn Technical High School, shared their experiences as co-Secretaries of the Youth Against Child Trafficking (Y-ACT) Club. They emphasized the importance of providing diverse platforms for youth to use to raise awareness about the issue. Their Y-ACT club created a website that provides facts about child sex trafficking, resources for victims, and updates on what members are doing to help end this human rights abuse. In addition, they participated in an international art exhibit through a non-profit organization in India named Guria who garnered beautiful artwork from the Brooklyn Tech students. These artists were both members and non-members who used their talent to create powerful works of art with the message: people are not for sale.
Iryna Makuruk, courageously shared her story of being lured into domestic sex trafficking by her former boyfriend and the pain and /challenges she endured during that time. She challenged the audience to rethink what “victims” look like and to provide a judgement-free space for people to share their experiences because one never knows what’s going on with others. She passionately told the audience–especially the young women–that they are beautiful and do not need to depend on anyone to let them know it. Iryna’s message is that our youth can and will make a difference if they truly want to.
Cruise Ventures, Inc. (CI Azumano Travel) joined the fight against human trafficking by signing ECPAT-USA‘s Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (The Code). The Code is an industry-driven responsible tourism initiative with a mission to provide awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry in order to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.
Thirty eight U.S. companies having joined the Code to demonstrate their commitment to protecting children from sexual exploitation. Around the world more than 300 companies are members of the Code.
The annual Code meeting is an opportunity for companies and ECPAT groups from around the world to share best practices, discuss their mutual work to implement the Code and decide how to move forward together.
These are some of the highlights:
A new policy on “voluntourism” was approved. Voluntourism is a form of travel which gives tourists the ability to work on projects helping local charities.
It was noted that the UN World Tourism Organization is debating a new international convention on sustainable tourism.
ECPAT’s Global Study on Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism has been rolled out around the world. The extensive recommendations have implications for how the Code should be expanded and implemented. The report includes separate publications focusing on each region of the world including North America. ECPAT continues to promote these recommendations.
There may be changes to the international structure of the Code. For the past year it has been housed at and supported by ECPAT International in Bangkok. ECPAT has been the driving force behind the Code for many years. ECPAT national groups around the world work in partnership with companies and facilitate their implement of the Code through technical assistance, training assistance and advice on best practices.
On February 23, 2017, ECPAT-USA will be partnering with the END IT Movement in order to shine a light on modern day slavery. Organizations, individuals and companies around the world will join in an awareness campaign on Twitter and Facebook to join together to fight for freedom.
Here’s how you can be part of the movement:
Step 1: On February 23rd, draw red ❌’s on your hands.
Step 2: Take a photo. Continue reading
By Faiza Mathon-Matheiu, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations
For the past 16 years, Backpage.com has been the leading website in the online sex trafficking of children. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 73% of all reports of child sex trafficking occur on Backpage.com. Thanks in large part to a newly launched effort, advocates, survivors, and lawmakers are fighting back and joining together to force the company to be held accountable for facilitating the sexual abuse of children. A new documentary, I Am Jane Doe, which opens in 6 cities, including New York City, today, is mobilizing stakeholders across the country.The powerful film focuses on the battle being waged by American mothers on behalf of their middle-school age daughters who were victims of sex trafficking on Backpage.com. The film follows their gut-wrenching fight as these families attempt to hold Backpage.com responsible through the legal system for its part in this horrific form of abuse.
The film is already generating conversation among lawmakers. At a screening in D.C., members of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) discussed the Committee’s groundbreaking investigation that uncovered the extent to which Backpage.com has engaged in the online sex trafficking of children. The following day, ECPAT-USA, Shared Hope International, and My Life My Choice in coordination with and Congressman Ted Poe held a Congressional briefing where panelists included two powerful mothers whose daughters were sold for sex on Backpage. They shared their stories about the impact it has had on their girls and their families. Now the two are at a forefront of the movement, turning their anger into activism and speaking out across the country about what needs to be done to prevent other families from experiencing the tragedies they have experienced. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Ann Wagner, and Representative Chris Smith also gave remarks about the need to amend the federal Communications Decency Act so that companies like Backpage cannot continue to make millions of dollars a year from the abuse of young children.
The week started with the Second Annual Human Trafficking Symposium hosted by the McCain Institute. The Institute is a leader in convening multiple power sectors to brainstorm on policies and program to end trafficking. ECPAT-USA’s Executive Director moderated the Legislative Road Ahead panel with federal legislators in the fight against human trafficking – Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX). Each member of Congress discussed their recent success and accomplishments as well as the legislative path forward. As we look forward to the reauthorization of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act this year, strong partnerships with members of Congress will ensure that the package will strengthen the U.S. commitment to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation.