Exchange Matters / September 21, 2021

Global Ties Network Reflects on Hosting IVLP TIP Heroes

The TIP Heroes meet virtually with the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force. Photo provided by Global Ties Miami

Each year, the U.S. Department of State recognizes individuals around the world for their commitment to combat human trafficking. These Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Heroes come from a variety of professions including social work, law enforcement, and justice, and are honored annually during the release of the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report), which analyzes foreign governments’ efforts to combat human trafficking. The TIP Heroes then participate in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), where they are hosted by Global Ties Network members. The 2021 TIP Heroes IVLP took place virtually, and was organized by Meridian International Center, Global Minnesota, and Global Ties Miami. See more below about the IVLP and our members’ reflections of the virtual visits.

Meridian International Center

We were honored to be an implementing partner for the 2021 Trafficking in Person Report Heroes (TIP Heroes) with the Office of International Visitors (OIV), the Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking, Global Minnesota, and Global Ties Miami.  

While this year’s program had to be virtual, we had an excellent team of interpreters and liaisons that worked to ensure the Heroes fostered relationships with their U.S. counterparts and each other. It was a pleasure to accompany the Heroes to each of their sessions and hear about their inspiring work to end human trafficking in their respective countries. They were an engaged group that we look forward to meeting one day in person. 

– Rachel Craddolph, Program Officer

On August 3, the 2021 TIP Heroes met with representatives from the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC). Photo provided by Global Minnesota

Global Minnesota  

Global Minnesota recently had the privilege and honor to host the 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Heroes in partnership with Meridian International Center and the U.S. Department of State. The Heroes met with representatives from the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC):   

  • Nicole Matthews, Executive Director 
  • Rebecca Balog, Program Coordinator of Training and Technical Assistance on Human Trafficking in Indian Country and Alaska  
  • Jolene Engelking, Project Beacon National Program Coordinator  
  • Guadalupe Lopez, Elevate – Uplift National Program Coordinator  

MIWSAC’s mission is to create the social change required to eliminate sexual violence and reclaim the traditional values that honor the sovereignty of Indian women and children. They primarily work in Minnesota but are also involved in other cities around the United States. The Heroes had a chance to ask questions and share their own stories. There was a resounding sense of solidarity from all participants – they face similar challenges across countries and cultures.

MIWSAC staff and TIP Report Heroes alike stressed the importance of a global societal shift to end sex trafficking by eliminating the demand and asking, how can we create a culture where people don’t pay for sex? They also discussed the importance of holding perpetrators accountable within criminal justice and mental health systems, as well as working collaboratively across countries. Josiane Lina Bemaka-Soui from Central African Republic (CAR) brought up some of the difficult challenges of trying to protect victims and survivors amidst dangerous armed conflict, a point which was received by the group with strong support and sympathy. In solidarity, Rebecca Balog from MIWSAC mentioned that activists in all countries deal with “our own versions of armed conflict,” which include working against armed gangs and organized underground criminal operations.

It was powerful to be able to host this meeting virtually, as the platform allowed Heroes and MIWSAC representatives to collaborate safely amidst the global pandemic. The meeting ended with calls for continued international collaboration to end human trafficking, including ways to more frequently share reporting from different parts of the world and opportunities to brainstorm funding models for this work. International dialogue and collaboration are very important when working on an issue such as human trafficking. Criminal networks work internationally, and victims may travel between countries, making professional exchanges necessary to better understand the issue and respond on a global level.

After the meeting Rebecca wrote, “What a wonderful experience. We are happy to have participated and look forward to other opportunities to link arms with folks doing this work far and wide.”

– Sasha Shahidi, Interim Professional Exchanges Manager 

Group photo of the 2021 TIP Heroes. Photo provided by Global Ties Miami

Global Ties Miami

Our Miami program included three different sessions, two of them being professional virtual exchanges with the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The third session included a virtual action planning meeting with a local expert, Sandy Skelaney. After being virtual for over a year and a half, our team is more comfortable coordinating and facilitating online exchanges. The interpretation and technology team made the entire experience seamless, even with having four different languages spoken on the project.

The experience of the TIP Report Heroes was inspiring. After reading their bios, our action planning session facilitator, Sandy, was excited to meet with the visitors and hear about their experiences. Additionally, she found that they shared inspiring thoughts and ideas with her as well. Listening to their experiences reminded us that even though this is an international issue, each community has different important stories to share.

The TIP Heroes enjoyed our Miami meetings, with many of them particularly interested in how organizations are supporting survivors of labor trafficking. Meeting with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers was particularly eye opening for the Heroes. They shared how they thought of many new ideas to support their own communities based on the strategies the Coalition had developed.

Exchanges help us realize that the world is not as big as we imagine it. We are many small communities that want to ensure our citizens are safe, happy, and successful. Exchanges remind us to learn from each other’s experiences, offer advice, and listen to one another.

– Alexandra Ruiz, Program Manager