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We were trafficked. Hear our voices.

[United Nations, New York, 19 October 2009] As the General Assembly considers international collective action to end human trafficking, four survivors explain why the voices of victims must be heard.
Charlotte Awino, Buddhi Gurung, Kikka Cerpa and Rachel Lloyd will explain why the human rights of victims must be at the center of action to combat trafficking. They will speak at a special event to be held at United Nations headquarters in New York on Thursday 22 October starting at 1:15pm in the Economic and Social Council Chamber.
Each of the four speakers has their own unique story. Some are telling it publicly for the first time. Others have a record of activism in the campaign to stop human trafficking or have established organizations to help other victims. Charlotte Awino was abducted at age 14 by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and kept as a sex slave for 8 years; Buddhi Gurung from Nepal, was trafficked for labor to Iraq to work on a US military base; Kika Cerpa from Venezuela was forced into prostitution by a man she thought of as her boyfriend; Rachel Lloyd, an activist who survived commercial sexual exploitation as a teenager, started an organization in New York to help girls victimized by sex traffickers.
To be opened by Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, this event, “Giving voice to victims and survivors of human trafficking” will be moderated by special guest Ruchira Gupta, founder and President of a grassroots organization in India working for women’s rights, especially the ending of sex trafficking. Ms. Gupta is an Emmy award winning journalist and recipient of a 2009 Clinton Global Citizen Award for her tireless efforts to end human trafficking and violence against women.
Also at the special event will be Charlotte Awino’s mother, Angelina Atyam, who, when her daughter was abducted, became an advocate on behalf of the thousands of kidnapped children in Uganda. Ms. Atyam was awarded the UN Human Rights Prize in 1998 for her remarkable efforts to free the children enslaved in the armed conflict. The UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, will also speak at the event. Ms. Ezeilo, an independent expert and human rights lawyer, is well known for her advocacy for women’s rights in Nigeria.
Hosted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, this event is part of an on-going effort by the High Commissioner to ensure that the human rights and needs of victims are at the centre of any international action to end human trafficking. It is being held at a time when the UN General Assembly will be considering how to strengthen collective action to combat human trafficking. The High Commissioner hopes that by hearing from the victims and survivors themselves, the General Assembly's discussion will be informed by their perspective.
Human trafficking is a global scourge that generates billions of dollars profit at the expense of millions of victims. It is the fastest growing source of profit for organized criminal enterprises worldwide. Every country in the world is affected whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims. Trafficking involves the acquisition of people by force, fraud, deception or other coercive means with the aim of exploiting them. Human trafficking involves practices prohibited in every country, including slavery, debt bondage, forced labour and sexual exploitation. The majority of victims are women and girls. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are at least 12.3 million adults and children in forced labour, bonded labour, and commercial sexual servitude at any given time.
The current world economic downturn is fostering increased trafficking, according to the latest report of the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons to be presented to the UN General Assembly on 23 October. This is because among the root causes of trafficking are poverty and high youth unemployment, along with a demand for cheap labour, all factors exacerbated by an economic recession. “Trafficking thrives when potential victims are more desperate to escape their unfavourable situation,” says the Special Rapporteur in her report.
Currently 133 countries have ratified the treaty banning human trafficking, the Optional Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, known as the Palermo Protocol to the UN Convention against Organized Transnational Crime. The full list can be found at: http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XVIII-12-a&chapter=18&lang=en
The event will be live webcast at: www.un.org/webcast
Requests for interviews and general media information: Susan Markham, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, New York tel: 1-917-367-3292 markham@un.org
The High Commissioner for Human Rights report on human trafficking, document A/HRC/10/64, presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2009, can be found at:
The report of the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children, to be presented to the General Assembly on 23 October 2009, document A/64/290, can be found at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/GA/64documents.htm