Today I had the pleasure of being able to sit in on the NWCAT, or Northwest Coalition Against Trafficking conference. This is a yearly conference that brings together organizations from the Pacific Northwest of America and beyond to network, speak about trafficking, attend workshops, and listen to keynote speakers.
The keynote speaker today was Anuradha Koirala, the founder and director of Maiti Nepal and winner of the 2010 CNN Heroes Award.
I can remember when Ms. Koirala was up for the award. I was living in Nepal at the time and people had distributed fliers in the internet cafes of Kathmandu reminding people to vote for Ms. Koirala every day. I voted for her and her organization, and like many, although I was deeply inspired by all of the nominees for the award, I was proud to see Ms. Koirala receive the award, thereby spreading awareness of Nepal's trafficking problem internationally.
CNN Freedom project has also been able to spread awareness of modern day slavery throughout the year with their "Freedom Project", which dedicates a certain amount of airtime on CNN to the topic of modern day slavery.
So, what did I learn today?
-I learned that Maiti Nepal has only been able to succeed because the survivors who live and work with Maiti Nepal work as a team together to help their didi-baihini (sisters) who are also trapped in similar situations as what the survivors have been through. It's only through those survivor's strength and motivation to help other girls and women that Maiti Nepal is able to function at all.
-I learned of a few great books relating to foreign that criticize how it has been handle and may help highlight ideas for a brighter future in development.
The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, by William Easterly
Dead aid: why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa, by Nambisa Moyo
-I spoke with a US survivor about her use of poetry and song as a way to heal and spread a message of hope to other women that have been through similar situations.
-I learned about the phrase "Not a survivor, but a thriver." I really love this phrase!
I'm very lucky to have attended this conference, and I was only able to due to the kindness of an organization I've been volunteering with. I worked at the exhibit booth in the morning and they helped me to attend the keynote presentation and a workshop in the afternoon. To attend the conference on my own would have been too expensive. I'd like to see a conference like this that is made more affordable to students, young professionals, and survivors, rather than being more geared toward wealthy donors and people who already work for NGOs and non-profits.
Overall it was an eye-opening experience. Thank you, Ms. Koirala, Friends of Maiti Nepal, and Soroptomists International for putting this event on!