I have been invited to be a speaker at a service club in my community. The following is what I will include in my ppt presentation. This is the little bit that I know about human trafficking in Central Asia. First though, I’ll give a background about how I fell into this tough topic that has been a slow burn for me for some years.
Back in the late 1990s when I lived in Kyiv, Ukraine, I knew about the dangers to my students about being trafficked for sex exploitation. Some were very beautiful girls, others dressed rather provocatively. There’s a good reason for dress codes in schools. Also, on the streets were homeless Ukrainian children who probably got snapped up by lying traffickers. In the mid-2000s, I had heard a story about one particularly bright Ukrainian student who fell into something awful but was smart or fiesty enough to escape. She wouldn’t talk about it once she returned to her friends at the university, but to this day I wonder how Ivana is doing.
When I went to Almaty, Kazakhstan fall of 2007, I had the book “Two Kyrgyz Women” that was just published the same year fall into my hands. I didn’t read it for another year or so. Thus, I can understand when I give Marinka’s book to someone and they don’t read it right away. It can be so offputting because it is such a tragedy to read about slavery in Central Asia while living freely in our land of the American Dream. Sadly, so many in the world live the opposite of the American Dream.
When I suggested that we read it as a book club group when we moved to Astana in January of 2010, the other women of the expat community eagerly agreed. I had little indication that the hostess of the book club actually KNEW the author, Marinka Franulovic. That is where I met Marinka and asked for 10 copies of the book so I could give to my Kazakh students who were teachers in the public schools. After they read it, we invited Marinka to come and talk about this book asking what we could do to help. When I left Kazakhstan, I was happy to leave about 5-6 big Chinese plastic bags full of my husband and my clothes for the shelters.
Turns out one of my former students DID go to a trafficking shelter recently to find out what it was like. Here’s what she wrote:
“Since you left many things have happened. You know, I wasn`t sure I could be a change agent. Now I feel like I ought to be. A week ago I went to the shelter in Astana; our dearest Marinka has invited me. What I learnt during the trip was shocking, though I knew the problem.
Unfortunately, the issue of human trafficking is not primary in our country, it is not even discussed as a problem. People see in news that some group of illegal migrants were caught on some construction site, for example, and were sent out of country, but nobody thinks of these people as victims of human trafficking and victims at all. It`s very sad.
The shelter is one storage house in the village near the city, nearly 20 people can be located there. When we went, there were 9 women 20-40 year- olds, one of them was rescued from 15 years long slavery on a farm. The shelter has a psychologist, a doctor and some kind of manager.
Anna is guiding and organizing the whole activity at shelter. Today, I texted to Anna, she wants us to come again! May be I will bring some good movies, they need good films. Also, I am starting the English course for girls from the shelter next week. At least I could help these people continue education. Thank you for making me think about it and desire to change the situation.”
Of course I was happy to read that my former student took this initiative but I plied her with MORE questions. I want her to be my eyes and ears about what is being done to help these poor people caught in a horrible trap. Here is another quote that I found on the Not For Sale website:
“Modern-day traders in human property know their business inside out and respond to changes in the market with a speed unmatched by even the most competitive corporations. Their expertise and ability to exploit the market are surpassed only by their disregard for human life. Women are bought, sold and hired out like any other product. The bottom line is profit.”