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Conference In The Media

Conference At A Glance

In the Carolina Women's Center's ongoing efforts to educate about and fight against sexual trafficking in North Carolina, we hosted our second biennial conference on April 3-4 at the Friday Center for Continuing Education. This conference continues the important conversations begun at our first sexual trafficking conference in April 2006, while facilitating coalition building across the state.

"Combating Sex Trafficking" was designed to create action. We brought together an impressive array of international, national, and local experts to talk about a wide variety of subjects-child exploitation, shutting down the demand for commercial sexual exploitation, government and corporate prevention models. The program began with a call to action in the account of a survivor of sex trafficking-a brave and strong woman who has since become an anti-trafficking advocate. She movingly related the painful details of her experiences, and talked about the critical role she played in the passage of New York State's comprehensive and model anti-trafficking legislation. Her account framed the entire conference, providing attendees with a sense of urgency.

The plenary and concurrent sessions gave participants the key foundations necessary to develop concrete agendas for fighting trafficking. The two days culminated in breakout working groups, organized according to interest: Law Enforcement & Legal Profession; First Responders, Health Professionals and Victims Services; Educators & Students; Private Sector & Media; and Non-Profit Sector and Faith-Based Groups. Each working group designed specific and implementable items to be presented to policy makers. We will share these items with RIPPLE: The North Carolina Anti-Trafficking Task Force.

In addition to inspiring attendees to action, we offered formal training. Participants could receive Continuing Education Credits through the Friday Center and ANCC Nursing Contact Hours. We also provided resources for journalists and members of the media interested in learning how to cover the sensitive issue of sex trafficking in a thoughtful, respectful and accurate manner.

Carolina alumna and actor Sharon Lawrence helped bring additional attention to our conference and the issue of sex trafficking through her participation. The Emmy-nominated and Screen Actors Guild award-winner co-moderated a panel on the commercial sexual exploitation of children. She also spoke at our networking lunch about the intersection of art and activism.

Lawrence was not the only to talk about how art can be used to combat trafficking. The Thursday night of the conference we featured many performances that explored this theme. We celebrated female strength and empowerment by providing counter-images to the many stories of commercial sexual exploitation. The Devoted, a local collective of tribal belly dancers, performed a stirring and powerful dance at our reception. Their movements championed female solidarity, encouraging women to adopt healthy self-images. Interactive Theater Carolina, under the direction of Ben Saypol, performed a reading from portions of Deborah Lake Fortson's Body and Sold, a play about child exploitation based on social workers' interviews with children. We also featured the photography of Megan Hamilton, our APPLES intern. In December 2007, Meg traveled to Nepal to work with women in a safe house. She chronicled her experiences through her camera lens but, aware that she was constrained by her Western eyes, she provided digital cameras to the women and girls of the house. Their vibrant photos told their stories through their own eyes. And we proudly provided Freeset conference bags, complete with our conference logo and website, made by rescued prostitutes in North Calcutta, India. These fair-trade bags became a symbol of what we as individuals can do to make a difference-to keep women out of poverty and provide them with real choices and opportunities.

With generous support from campus partners, university contributors, and individual CWC donors, this conference proved to be a vital contribution to the local and international fight against trafficking.

- Dr. Pam Lach, Conference Coordinator


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