By Holly Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Communities Digital News
CALI, Colombia, September 20, 2014 – On July 30th, 2014, advocates across the globe united in observance of the first annual World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. In honor of this day, Marcela Loaiza, Survivor and Founder of the Marcela Loaiza Foundation, planned an international meeting for survivors of human trafficking, titled “Breaking the Silence”. With support from the Minister of Interior of Colombia, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the International Organization of Migration (IOM), this event was held in Cali, Colombia with over 280 people in attendance.
Participants included Juan Camilo Restrepo, Deputy Minister of Interior; Mauricio Castro, Delegate of the Government of Valle; Felipe Montoya, Peace Advisor to the Mayor; David Alamos, Officer in Charge of the UNODC; Carolina Lopez, Program Coordinator, Trafficking and Gender, IOM; and eight survivors of human trafficking, including Beth Jacobs, Founder of Willow Way; Evelyn Chumbow, Survivor Consultant at Humanity United; Holly Austin Smith, Author of Walking Prey; Ima Matul, Survivor Organizer for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST); Norma Bastidas, Author of Running Home: A Journey to End Violence; Rani Hong, UN Special Advisor for Victims Survivors; Shamere McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Sun Gate Foundation; and Trong Hong, Co-Founder of the Tronie Foundation.
We survivor speakers were honored to be invited to share our personal testimonies and journeys toward healing, empowerment, and leadership. We also took the opportunity to offer words of encouragement to those victims and survivors of human trafficking living within Colombian borders, as well as words of advice to Colombian government leaders. Such advice included the need for a comprehensive approach to victim services and the need to support victims and survivors in such a way that enables them to become local, national, and international leaders.