by Maggie Pawsey
“Desperation, poverty is a breeding ground where human trafficking survives,” said Diana Mao, President and Co-Founder of Nomi Network. The solution, then, is to combat those forces by providing victims opportunities for a better life.
In the panel discussion, “Overcoming Human Trafficking,” Mao explained that trafficking exists because of “poverty, lack of rule of law… systematic violence against women and children, and uninformed consumers buying slave-made products.” She reported an estimated 68% of raw materials are produced by some sort of slavery and said the corrupted economic system is deep and complex.
That’s where Nomi Network comes in. The organization’s vision is: “A world without slavery where every woman can be known and know her full potential.” The organization serves many people in danger of slavery, from women in sex trafficking, to survivors of domestic violence, to the poor and disabled.
Nomi Network seeks to train and enable these people to produce and sell items for fair wages. Mao said the organization also aims to rebuild the communities that foster dangerous situations because of caste systems or societal violence. She explained the network’s name invites people to “Know me. Know my story,” and to take action against trafficking.
To learn more and to shop the beautiful creations of these women, visit https://www.buyherbagnotherbody.com and nominetwork.org.
Kathleen Spinnenweber, professor of Spanish at Franciscan University of Steubenville, continued the discussion by examining a literary side of trafficking. Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, was a victim of trafficking. Spinnenweber explained that Cervantes was kidnapped and held for ransom for five years, and this horrible experience made its way into Cervantes’s writings, especially the play The Trade of Algiers. Cervantes was able to escape his situation and use his voice to provoke change; change is still deeply needed in modern times, and we must hear the cries of those calling for it today.
Ilaria Schnyder von Wartensee elaborated on the change we need to see. She quoted Pope Francis by saying, “What we need is a cultural transformation that restores the human person at the center.” She identified a few elements needed to make transformation possible:
Encounter - Schnyder von Wartensee explained that many people are able to say, “I changed because I met [a human being].” Personal encounter with others, especially victims, is the first step to bringing about recovery.
Risk - “Risk something of yourself… to walk with this person,” Schnyder von Wartensee challenged. To change the culture, we as Christians have to give of ourselves.
Commitment - “We need time to change,” she said. To commit ourselves to our fellow human beings is to restore human dignity.
The fight to overcome human trafficking must be a cultural and a personal one. We must claim our inheritance as a Church of servants to rebuild a culture of love and respect, “with the human person at the center,” where he or she belongs.