Y-ACT

Wonder Women—The Women's Group of the Greens

While I have yet to watch the summer blockbuster, Wonder Woman, I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of wonder women on July 14, 2017. Armed with a passion for education, dedication to children’s rights, and commitment to justice, The Women’s Group of the Greens stood against child slavery by supporting Y-ACT.

Just like the warriors of Themyscira, The Women’s Group of the Greens is a community of empowering women that have continuously devoted themselves to the welfare of communities and philanthropy. When Janai Smith, the Outreach Manager of ECPAT invited me to talk about my Y-ACT experience, I was not sure what to expect. The excited conversations between friends and a fuzzy warmth courtesy of the genuine exchange of “hellos” and “how are yous”, vanquished my nerves.

Being a proud and lucky graduate of an all women’s high school, I know what sisterhood and community look like, and the Women of the Greens definitely epitomized girl power.  I discussed how the Y-ACT program aims to educate young people and provide them the information and skills they need to become effective advocates in their communities. The women listened with rapt attention as I proceeded to explain how Y-ACT debunks myths that often surround human trafficking, while also giving teens the tools they need to ensure their safety in both the real and virtual world. Their commitment to ECPAT’s mission, specifically the Y-ACT program was evident, as members asked insightful questions and brainstormed ways to expand youth awareness, engagement, and leadership.

Surrounded by Wonder Woman themed centerpieces, I realized that despite the amazing reviews the film has gotten, I doubt that the movie experience will come close to the memorable opportunity of being surrounded by real-life wonder women. The help of The Women’s Group of the Greens will enable ECPAT to continue fostering awareness and leadership, as we aspire to educate, train, and support more young superheroes.

Youth Action to End Sexual Violence

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.

Join ECPAT-USA in Stopping Sex Trafficking Before It Starts This #GivingTuesday

In the past year, cases of sex trafficking have been reported in all 50 states in the U.S. So, for our #GivingTuesday campaign this year at ECPAT-USA, we wanted to focus on how we can stop these cases of sex trafficking from happening before they even start.

Our Youth Against Child Trafficking (Y-ACT) program is our largest prevention program. We believe that through empowering our primary stakeholders, America’s children, we will be able to stop child sex trafficking before it starts. Our youth program trains students to be the foremost advocates in their communities, educating them on the facts, misconceptions and risks of trafficking. Where there is education, there is prevention, and through Y-ACT, youth are able to use their voice and knowledge to educate and empower others about the issue.

“I don’t know if I can stress how lucky I feel to have been a part of the Y-ACT program,” said Ryan Onodera, a Teaching Fellow at a New York school who implemented the Y-ACT program in his classroom last year.  “I feel more aware and more appreciative of what I have.”

At the end of the 10-week program, Onodera’s students spent a few hours in a local park educating the public about the risks of sex trafficking in their community. He said that when the students approached an individual who didn’t speak English, they started translating what they had learned into Spanish.

“Some of my students, in class you see them and they can have shy tendencies: they don’t want to talk to people, they don’t want to engage,” he said. “But then you get them out in the real world in real situations, and they really shine in unexpected ways.”

All of the donations received by ECPAT-USA on #GivingTuesday will be used to expand and improve our Y-ACT program. We’re hoping to raise $7500-enough to educate and empower 100 more students.

To donate to the campaign, click here.

To learn more about the Y-ACT program, including how to bring it to your school, click here.