With six other girls, Meghan attended the Not For Sale Global Forum on Human Trafficking in California in mid-October, and I had the opportunity to sit down with her to get the details of her experience.
How did you find out about this event?
Last year my room mate went to see Saskia Wishart from Not For Sale South Africa, and we decided to put together a benefit concert. We then heard about the Global Forum and wanted to attend.
Who did you go to the event with and how did you get down there?
I actually only knew two of the girls, my room mate and a girl we met at camp. The rest ended up being other connections, which was interesting to explain at the border when they asked us how we knew each other! We took I-5 from Canada all the way down, and drove through the night. We would rotate – we had two people at the front so the driver would stay awake, and the rest slept in the back.
How was the event set up?
There was an abolitionist concert on Wednesday night, and on Thursday and Friday we had keynote and breakout sessions. The conference had about 600 people, which is a good size. I had no idea what to expect, I didn’t even know what exactly a conference entailed! I love that they set it up in a way that you had a lot of time to discuss things with other people, not just listen to the speakers. We cheered whenever Canada was mentioned!
What breakout sessions did you attend?
We made sure that at least one person in our group attended each session, and later swapped notes. The first session I attended was on law enforcement, where they talked about what Southern California’s task force is doing to combat trafficking. One thing I noticed is that they at least have a task force, while many places do not. Not For Sale has an Investigator Academy that you can attend that teaches the average Joe how to identify victims of trafficking. The biggest thing I took away is: how could we start a task force back in Canada?
The second breakout was on social media. It was mediated by the woman who created the Causes App on facebook, Jason Russell of Invisible Children, Not For Sale’s media guy, and Jack Dorsey, who started Twitter. I thought it was going to be about how we can use it to raise awareness about causes, but it was actually more about the issues of social media. Sometimes using social media for social change can be an excuse for not going further. It should not be a substitute for face-to-face interaction or head-to-head combat. But it’s a good tool. In a world of social media, people are craving face-to-face, so we should plan events too. I went to other sessions as well, one on supporting survivors and one on India.
Was there a speaker that stood out to you?
Kru Nam works with ‘stateless children’ on the Burmese/Thailand border. These kids are not officially from either country, and are very vulnerable to traffickers. She has worked hard and now has 120 of them attending school.
Awesome. We are all very passionate about the cause and the girls were a lot of fun to hang out with. We went to a hockey game and Disney, the roadtrip was great!
How do you feel coming home after a conference like that?
Though I want to become a lawyer, I have learned that I can do things now to fight this as well. I am helping out at a church in Lake Cowichan, in a really troubled community. Even in my own areas there are things I can do. At the conference people were asked to finish the sentence: “I commit to…” For me, it is bringing what I learned back to Canada and learning more.
I wish I had been a bit more educated before I went. Most people who went to the conference were very educated on the topic, and the purpose of the event was more of a think tank than general awareness. So I would tell people to educate themselves before going.
Thanks Meghan for sharing your experience with us! I wish you and all the girls you went with – Jacqueline, Allana, Kathryn, Robyn, Britney, and Ange – the best as you continue to learn and do more!
For those of you who want to attend Not For Sale’s Law Enforcement or Healthcare Academy, you can find the information here.