Inside the elegant Chantilly Ballroom at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, more than 1600 people (mostly women) attended the Dallas Women's Foundation's 28th Annual Luncheon today.
The room was loud with the hustle and bustle of people coming in, waiters serving lunch, and attendees sharing conversations and laughter. But when keynote speaker, Mira Sorvino, appeared on stage and started talking, almost everyone was mesmerized as Sorvino spoke about human trafficking in Texas, nationwide, and globally. Indeed, if the Dallas Women's Foundation's supporters came today to have fun, they would probably be disappointed. Instead, what they got was a heart-breaking presentation of a horrific reality hitting our North Texas communities. However, the talk did enlighten and educate the audience about a bitter social reality, thereby offering ways to act and support the anti-human trafficking initiative.
Mira Sorvino is an award winning actress as well as the official ambassador for the worldwide human rights organization Amnesty International’s “Stop Violence Against Women” program. While addressing the Dallas audience today, she pointed out that so many of the Dallas women attending had expensive purses and clothes on: she wondered whether they checked the makers of their clothes before they bought them to make sure that those companies did not use human slave laborers in their apparel production. This, she called, is our “slavery footprint.”
As for the Dallas Women’s Foundation, when it realized that there is a serious human trafficking problem involving North Texas women and children, the Foundation committed itself since 2010 to take leadership in fighting this social disease by raising funds for research, solutions, advocacy, and help for those women and children. In 2011, the Dallas Women’s Foundation published a study, Adolescent Girls in Texas Sex Trade, that resulted in a lead gift of $1 million to Letot Girls’ Residential Treatment Center, to serve girls ages 13-17 who have been abused and exploited in human trafficking.
The Foundation continues to fight against human trafficking by funding local organizations like Children at Rish, New Friends New Life, and Human Rights Initiative. And most importantly, the Foundation is determined to keep human trafficking in the public conscience through activism, grants, advocacy, and research. Today’s luncheon with keynote speaker Mira Sorvino did just that: it raised over $1 million and spread the word about human trafficking to at least 1600 North Texans.
Among the supporters of the Dallas Women’s Foundation were Hind Jarrah, PhD and the women from Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation which Jarrah serves as Executive Director. For these women, Sorvino’s speech touched the roots of their advocacy against all forms of violence, especially domestic abuse. For the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation, peace in the world, and in society, starts at home. As supporters of human rights within communities, the reality about human trafficking in Texas only increases their dedication to work harder for human dignity for all.
How can you help?
Mira Sorvino highlighted several inexpensive ways for normal people to act against human trafficking:
• Program the National Human Trafficking Hotline in your phones – 1888-373-7888 – so you can report suspicious situations or circumstances
• Text the word HELP to BeFree (233733) if you suspect any form of human slavery or trafficking
• Go to Slaveryfootprint.org and take the online survey to determine your “slavery footprint”
• Go to work, church, synagogue, mosque, etc.. and spend an hour going through the Polaris Training to help make our community better and aware of trafficking
As people of faith, we cannot ignore any injustices occurring amongst us or on our planet. Our duty is to educate ourselves about human suffering and then do whatever we can to stand against it. As I like to use this term, we need to be “society’s transformers” and be ready to leave our comfort zones to comfort those who suffer in silence. This is what Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad would do. This is how Muslims understand the concept of stewardship on earth.