This is Kevin Makins. My husband and I were honoured to have him as a groomsman at our wedding and think he is one of the coolest people around.
Recently Kevin was at a barber shop and overheard some guys talking about snuff films, which contain rape, torture and murder of women. One of the men started to describe the one he had watched, saying that he didn’t care about the women because he didn’t know them.
Kevin confronted him and told him that it was disgusting, dehumanizing and awful. When the man responded by saying that “it only happens far away overseas,” Kevin clarified some of the realities of the sex trade industry, pointing out that there had been rings busted in Toronto and Hamilton. The guys seemed embarrassed and didn’t know what to say.
As a woman, I can raise awareness all I want, but when men step up and say that exploitation, paid sex, and human trafficking are not acceptable, that is when change really begins to happen. Someone needs to tell johns like this one that women are human beings with value and worth, and are not products to be sold and consumed.
Kevin, thank you for being willing to get uncomfortable by speaking up. Men, I hope this serves as an inspiration for you to not stay silent when an opportunity presents itself. I am so deeply grateful to those of you who are trying to live a life that does not exploit vulnerability, and I encourage you to keep at it, day by day!
Never stop dreaming.
Never stop standing up for what is right.
Never stop seeing the blessing in the midst of heartache.
Never stop being a voice for the exploited.
Never settle for status quo. Never let critics determine the course of your life.
Instead be devoted to mercy. Love justice. Pursue compassion. Have courage.
Do hard things.
Take a leap of faith.Be different. And change the world. Michelle Brock
What happens when passionate abolitionists join together with top stars and dancers from London’s West End musicals? A flash mob in Trafalgar Square! Rachel Tucker, the star of Wicked, leads this performance, bringing awareness about exploited children that go unnoticed and what Love 146 is doing to help.
This goes to show that raising awareness about serious issues does not have to be gloomy. Let’s remember that there is HOPE!! These dancers and singers gave it their all and made people smile, inspiring thought and action.
Zirahuen, Mexico. This small, sleepy town of about 2,500 was my home for a month as my husband and I backpacked through Central America. As we wandered the adobe brick streets one afternoon in search for a restaurant, we discovered an open kitchen with tables out front. A delightful woman (pictured here) made us a delicious home-cooked meal of burritos. Her young daughter came and served us. She was 15, at most. And pregnant. Her mother told us she was going to be a grandmother. The girl avoided our gaze.
We ate there a few times, and often saw the girl looking out the window at girls her age playing on the streets. She did not go to school. Her eyes were sad even when she smiled. And despite her missed opportunities, this one at least had a mother with a small business. Many girls find themselves neck-deep in poverty, with no one to turn to. Missed opportunities for these girls are more than just an inconvenience, they are a recipe for exploitation.
My husband and I support young women through Kiva micro credit loans in our attempt to empower those who want to rise above poverty. Giving girls and women opportunities is a key component of reducing systemic vulnerability. The Girl Effect seeks to equip us who have opportunity to empower those who would like to dream. Like Anita from India.
To learn more check out The Girl Effect website. It is through movements like this that we can address the supply side of sex trafficking and spread some hope!
I received the coolest gift in the mail recently. Inside the envelope was a picture of a group of friends celebrating a birthday, and a cheque to to support what I do at Hope for the Sold. I was intrigued. What was this all about?
On the back of the picture was a note from Bec Goodman, the birthday girl. She is part of Birthday Wishes 2010, an initiative started by a group of friends to make a difference in the world. On each person’s birthday, instead of going out for a meal or spending money on a group activity, they pool their money together and give it to an organization that is chosen by the person whose birthday is being celebrated.
Bec explained that while living in Turkey she learned of the plight of trafficked women, and now is passionate about addressing this social injustice. This led her to choose Hope for the Sold on her birthday! I contacted Ben Pavey, who played a key role in starting Birthday Wishes 2010, and asked him some questions about what they are doing.
How did you get this idea and how did you convince 50 friends to come on board?
Last year around Christmas, a group of friends went out to a restaurant for a birthday party after dinner time, but we each still spent about $20 on a meal that we didn’t really need. I looked around and thought, ‘we are supposed to be students with little disposable money, but we clearly aren’t.’ So maybe we could be putting this money to better use. And that’s how the idea of sharing our birthdays with different charities and organizations came about.
How has it changed the way you view and celebrate birthdays a a group?
It’s been really neat to see the guests at the parties grow larger and larger as we’ve gone through the year. We’ve celebrated almost 20 birthdays so far, and have had from 10 to 40 people join in. It’s been great to hear people’s excitement and eagerness to be part of something like this; redirecting our focus onto others rather than ourselves.
Is this something you would recommend to other groups who want to make a difference?
There are so many great ideas out there. People just need to learn how to escape from their own comfort and complacency, and this is how we’ve decided to do that. It’s sometimes unnerving to change things up in your life – afraid of what others might think of you, or whether it will catch on and people will want to follow that movement. But regardless, if you feel in your heart that you should make this change in your life, then do it.
What has been the most rewarding part of this for you guys? Any cool lessons you have learned or stories that have come out of this?
We’ve got a facebook group page for Birthday Wishes which has 50 members, ranging from all different ages and social circles. And this initiative has really brought a lot of these people together. It’s helped to build new friendships and a stronger community.
We always get together at somebody’s house whether for games, a barbecue or a beach party. These things bring people together so much closer than any big dinner party at a restaurant. There is time to dig deeper in conversation, get to know one another on a more personal level, and put whatever money we might have to a much better use! Overall, it’s just been a huge blessing to see this little seed of an idea build into so much more, where 50 young adults are actively giving away their money to charities throughout the entire year (over $4000 to date for the 2010 year), and in doing so building community with one another. It’s pretty awesome.
Wow. I am blown away. What a creative way to make the world a better place. Thanks so much Bec for thinking of Hope for the Sold on your birthday, it is such an honour!
Though buying sex is generally frowned upon in Canada, most of the time men who use massage parlours or escort services receive a slap on the wrist or nothing at all. But if MP Joy Smith had it her way, Canada would be addressing demand for paid sex in a much more vigorous manner. Why? Because demand creates supply. In a sense, targeting demand is like repairing a hole in your sinking raft instead of merely trying to get the water out.
Addressing demand is just one of the brilliant initiativesMP Joy Smith is proposing in her fresh-off-the-press proposal for a national action plan called Connecting the Dots: A Proposal for a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. I had the privilege of attending a round table meeting in Toronto last week with a bunch of stakeholders in Ontario to discuss what our part should be as a province, and was happy to see that many of the ideas in our conversation are reflected in MP Joy Smith’s proposal. As I read the proposal I was literally squirming in my seat from excitement because a National Action Plan is most certainly the next necessary step for our country.
MP Joy Smith’s recommendations are bang on, and I found the document itself to be written in a way that is easy to understand. She has record of getting things done in Parliament, and I am thrilled to have someone like her lead us in this next phase.
Over the next little while I would like to discuss the different sections of this proposal and hear what your thoughts are. I believe that conversation is what sparks ideas and I am anxious to know yours! Maybe this will give you some ideas about how you can use your strengths to get involved. You can read the full document here.
The first section I wish to highlight is what Canada has already done (pp.9-11 of the report), because unfortunately many Canadians are unaware that our country has been making some serious efforts in the past nine years. On the global stage, Canada has signed and ratified a number of international agreements related to human trafficking, and nationally it has done the following:
2001: introduced the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) which addresses human trafficking and provides serious penalties with fines of up to $1 million or up to life imprisonment.
May 2006: the first National Human Trafficking Coordination Centre was staffed with RCMP officers and a civilian analyst.
May 2006: the Canadian government announced Temporary Residence Permits (TRPs) would be available to international victims of human trafficking. A permit would allow a victim to stay in Canada for up to 120 days and provided access to healthcare and social assistance. Victims would not be required to participate in legal proceedings or testify to receive a TRP.
February 2007: the House of Commons unanimously adopted Motion M-153, which recommended that a comprehensive strategy to combat the trafficking of persons be adopted. This received support from all parties.
March 2007: the federal Finance Minister announced $6 million annually for law enforcement to assist in protecting children from online sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
May 2007: the federal goverment announced amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to end a loophole where vulnerable foreign workers were being brought to Canada for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
June 2007: New measures to protect victims where announced by the government, including the extension of the TRP from 120 days to 180 days, and letting international victims to apply for work and resident permits without the regular fees.
September 2009: the Canadian government supported the passage of Bill C-268, minimum sentence of child traffickers. (Thanks to those of you who made your voice heard by writing to your MPs and Senators!)
September 2010: Canadian government joined the RCMP to launch the Crime Stoppers Blue Blindfold Campaign to bring awareness about human trafficking to Canadian citizens and provide opportunities for Canadians to help combat human trafficking.
Wow. Good work Canada. It’s nice to know that this issue is gaining priority in our government. But as MP Joy Smith says, “there remains an urgent need for a collaborative, federally-led approach to combat human trafficking that would connect the dots among federal/provincial/territorial agencies and NGOs.” Let’s all be a part of how that happens, and start by reading the proposal.
For more on this, check out the official release and an article by Montreal Gazette.