Anti Human Trafficking in the Irish Province: Three events in March 2016
March 2016 was a busy and interesting month from the point of view of Anti Human trafficking. Three evens took place which were of significance for our work as RSCs committed to Care of the Earth and the Abolition of Human Trafficking :
5th March, a one-day conference on Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development, Moran’s Hotel, the Red Cow, Dublin
The RENATE Board Meeting in Mater Salvatoris Retreat and Conference Centre, Budapest
The CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) at the United Nations, New York.
Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development Day in Moran’s Hotel
On 5th March, over 140 groups from around Ireland gathered in Moran’s Hotel to participate in the conference organised by Julieanne Moran of the Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development Office, Maynooth. His Excellency, Archbishop Charles J Brown, Papal Nuncio, addressed the gathering and expressed his joy at seeing so many lay people involved in the various ecclesial movements, new and old, coming forward to share their work.
Sr. Eilis was there with Ms Ruth Kilcullen, representing APT (Act to Prevent Trafficking) and MECPATHS (Mercy Efforts to Combat Prostitution and Trafficking in the Hospitality Sector). We displayed our banners, handed out information leaflets and promotional shopping bags and engaged in conversation with attendees at the conference. Ruth took advantage of the occasion to meet the manager of the hotel, making sure that Moran’s is an establishment which is aware of and vigilant about traffickers using hotels as venues for child abuse and/or trafficking and has a policy reflecting this.
Professor Michael Conway of the Department of Faith and Culture, St Patrick’s, Maynooth College, spoke about the “vending machine culture” where everything, including human beings and their services, is for sale. As followers of Jesus, we are asked to love one another, not to buy or sell one another. Human beings are not commodities.
For information and photos of the day, please see www.catholicnews.ie/openingthedoor
RENATE Board Meeting and Training in Budapest 6th to 11th March
Sr. Eilis as a member of the Board of RENATE (Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation), was invited to attend the Board meeting and training in Budapest, Hungary, 6th to 11th March .
Delegates had come from all across Europe, from Ireland to Albania. Sr Patricia Kenny RSC was there as a member of TRAC, UK. Mrs Ivonne Van de Kar from the Netherlands, gave us a very interesting workshop with a ten-step approach. We found many issues were shared right across the continent. Among the interesting points Ivonne made was that if we do our awareness-raising properly, the politicians will come to us, rather than having us trying to gain access to them.
It is interesting to note that any Religious in Europe, or any lay colleague, can become a member of RENATE, as long as they support the work of combatting human trafficking. Application is made directly to RENATE on their website. There is then a consultation with the board member in the country of the Religious who is applying, who can recommend the applicant and on receiving the information from the board member, the application is processed. From then on, RENATE gatherings throughout Europe are open to successful applicants for membership.
The RENATE website, www.renate-europe.net, is well worth a visit.
The task now is to share the information gathered in Budapest and to implement the strategies through APT and other groups.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)
A Brief word on the background of CSW
“The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), is a global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to promoting gender equality and empowerment of women.
This year’s gathering marks 60 years of the life of CSW and is called CSW60. The priority theme of the gathering this year, 2016 was “Women’s Empowerment and its link to Sustainable Development”. In addition, the Commission evaluated progress in the implementation of the agreed conclusions from the fifty-seventh session (2013) on “the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”.
RSCS at CSW60
Attending the CSW at the United Nations was an unforgettable experience. The energy of so many committed women gathered together in one place was incredible. Among the crowds of women gathered in New York in March 2016 were four RSCs, Srs Suzette Clark, Eilís Coe, Kathleen Bryant and Patricia Byrne.
The topics included all aspects of women’s lives and the challenges they face in their various countries: gender-based violence; forced or child marriages; FGM; poverty; lack of access to education and training; discrimination in the workplace; no access to clean water and medical facilities; trafficking; forced prostitution and many other features of women’s lives.
Among the Irish attendees were Sarah Benson, CEO of Ruhama, Rachel Moran, well-known author and campaigner, Mary Hession of Soroptomists Ireland and Sr Angela Dolan PBVM of APT. There were probably many more Irish women and men there, but in such crowds, it would not have been possible to meet them.
The Zambian delegation included the Zambian Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr Kasese Bota, Minister for Gender and Child Development, Prof Nkanda Luo, Chief Nyamphande of the Nsenga people from the Eastern Province, a man who is doing very practical things to support women and girls, like supplying bicycles to enable girls to go to school and computers to enable better learning, together with measures to end child marriage and discrimination against widows and promoting mechanised farming and the provision of water.
The Syrian Women presented a very moving workshop. Their bravery and determination in the face of war and destruction inspired all who attended the session. A group of students from the West Midlands, UK, presented the findings of their research into factors which can either enable or discourage the girls in their choice of career. Parents, friends and school all exert powerful influence at different stages of the girls’ development. The crucial time seems to be early teens, when girls lower their sights and begin to lose the dreams they had of high achievement. Choice of subjects in school is crucial at this point.
A session on pornography revealed that there is a direct link between pornography and sexual exploitation. Pornography affects the mind and heart. A group of very young girls, one of them 11 years old, presented a workshop on leadership. The girls came from different cultural backgrounds and showed extraordinary wisdom and maturity about girls’ roles and boys’ roles. They all seemed to share the experience of doing the washing- up in the kitchen while their fathers and brothers watched TV in the sitting-room!
Nigeria was extremely well represented. One of the Nigerian women told me that she had taught Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, (Purple Hibiscus and Half a Yellow Sun) in Primary School. Next to her was Chief Lolo Dr Kate Uzomaka Ezeofor, Foundress and President of Umuada Igbo Nigeria and in Diaspora, a very unassuming but effective woman. This Nigerian group presented an event on Women’s Empowerment and its Link to Mechanised Farming.
This account only touches on the activities of CSW60 There was so much to see and take in it was hard to choose where to go. The whole atmosphere was of very high energy and enthusiasm.
More information can be obtained on the CSW website. Altogether, it was a great privilege to be there. It puts our local work in a global context and highlights the interconnectedness of all our efforts on behalf of women and girls. I have the handbook and a guide to NGOs and Women’s Rights Activists at the UN and CSW and will gladly share them with anyone who is interested.