By Lydia O’Kane
Over the last few years, the younger generation has been making its voice heard in the fight against climate change. Just recently, young people met in Milan to pressure world leaders to take action on this issue ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit due to start in Glasgow at the end of October.
But it’s not just on this issue in which young people are coming to the fore; they are also proving to be agents of change in the fight against modern slavery, which is why a Symposium was held in Rome this week focusing on teaching and empowering the next generation about human trafficking.
The event entitled “Empowering a New Generation to Fight Modern Slavery,” was organized by the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), together with the Irish and US embassies to the Holy See.
Participating at the Symposium was Talitha Kum International Coordinator, Sister Gabriella Bottani.
Founded in 2009 by the International Union of Superiors Generals (UISG), Talitha Kum International coordinates 50 networks in over 90 countries.
Last year alone, “Talitha Kum networks worldwide cared for 17,000 survivors of human trafficking, providing safe housing, education and job opportunities, support to access justice and compensation, and healthcare and psychosocial assistance. During the same period, almost 170,000 people benefited from prevention and awareness-raising activities organized by Talitha Kum,” a statement revealed.
Speaking to Vatican Radio at the Symposium, Sr Bottani emphasized the importance of getting younger people on board in the fight against this heinous crime.
“The theme of the Symposium is really important because human trafficking is growing and is something not concluding, so we need really to improve our commitment involving more and more the younger generation,” she said.
One of Talitha Kum’s priorities is to train religious sisters as leaders in the fight against human trafficking. To date, they have trained more than 1,500 people throughout the world. Sr Bottoni noted that they are receiving more and more requests from people who want to get involved.
“Then we have the younger generation asking to join us, bringing with them ‘the fresh air’ of the younger generation.” She added that a group of 26 youth ambassadors has been created who are involved in anti-trafficking initiatives in 11 countries in South and South-East Asia.
Speaking about the dynamism of this new generation, she said it was important to listen to them and work with them. “The idea of exploitation of the environment and of people is something we can combat and really fight together.”
The pandemic and trafficking
Asked if the pandemic has led to a rise in types of exploitation, including human trafficking, Sr Bottani replied saying that COVID-19 exacerbated something that already existed, noting that there has been an increase in those most vulnerable being exploited by traffickers as well as an increase in social injustice.
Despite statistics showing that between 20 and 40 million people are estimated to be trapped in modern slavery today, Sr Bottani remains optimistic.
“I have a lot of hope; I could touch with my hand. The evidence may be different because the problems are increasing, the difficult situations are increasing, but when we are together we can really change the reality. We need to believe it and we need to overcome everything that is dividing us.”