The SOLD Project’s President, Rachel Goble, recently had the opportunity to speak at The Justice Conference Asia, in Hong Kong. We’ve asked her to share about the conference and her experience here.
Photo by Roy Goble
Can you tell us a little bit about the conference and how you got involved?
The Justice Conference is a place for people to gather who care about issues of injustice around our world. The core premise of it is that as Christians, justice is a necessary part of our faith. I first got involved in 2013 when our film, The SOLD Project:Cat, was accepted into their film festival. I met the founder of the conference, Ken Wytsma, at a Red Letter Christians gathering around that same time. We became quick friends and he and his wife joined me in Thailand. Ken now sits on our board of directors. The Justice Conference Asia focuses on issues primarily in Asia, although there is a global feel to the conference.
What was your role?
I was asked to share as a ‘Voice of Justice’ and spoke about our preconceived notions of human trafficking but how those preconceived notions, or the boxes we put things in to, can often times be misleading, if not wrong. Human trafficking, especially child sexual trafficking, is much more messy and layered and nuanced. I told the story of one of our students who was trafficked and tried to share some of the more raw elements of her story to bring people into the messy with me. Things like understanding the mother-daughter cycle of prostitution, or her desire to get out of her ‘boring’ village, and the harm that caused her even though her curiosities, in other circumstances, would have been seen as spunky or adventurous, in this case were seen as irrational and irresponsible.
What did you talk about?
In addition to being asked to share as a Voice of Justice I also hosted a workshop, “The Benefits and Metrics of Prevention” as well as participated in a panel on anti-trafficking work. The workshop highlighted a brief history of anti-trafficking work starting at its definition in 2000 to its current TIP Report Status. Additionally, we talked about the global picture of human trafficking and how reporting structures have strengthened, resulting in what appears to be an increase in trafficking but is actually evidence that countries are getting better at reporting. Finally, the workshop addressed how to put metrics to prevention starting with how to create a system that recognizes risk factors and how to track those risk factors to show whether or not the programs are working.
What is the one thing you wish more people knew about child trafficking in Asia?
I wish that people would hear the stories that aren’t flashy or ‘sexy’ enough to make it to mainstream media. We have become so desensitized that media is having to find more shocking and horrifying stories just to keep our attention. But let me tell you. These stories are the minority. The majority of stories about child trafficking include child prostitution, poverty as the trafficker, hormones causing confusion for young women, boyfriends pimping their girlfriends, etc. To fight child trafficking in Asia we need to listen to all of the stories and become aware of our own desensitization.
What do you think was the most important/inspiring/interesting thing to come out of it?
I was really encouraged by the response during the workshop. The room was packed – it was one of the most well-attended workshops if not the most well attended. I had no idea that people were so passionate about prevention, which was really encouraging. I engaged with three young men on separate occasions who all shared that the workshop helped them realize how their teaching skills, counseling skills, and media skills could be used to fight trafficking from the prevention side. They hadn’t realized before what, exactly, prevention entailed. I could think of nothing better to hear than of young people discovering that what they are passionate about, what their education is, can link to preventing child exploitation. Additionally, many anti-trafficking representatives from various organizations focused on rescue and recovery were in attendance. Their questions were meaningful, engaging, and showed me that we are all collectively looking for strategic ways to cut the problem at the source – not necessarily after it’s happened.
What role do you think conferences like these play in the fight to disrupt trafficking?
I think the role they play depends largely on the individual’s own goals in attending the conference. For me, I find these to be times where I am able to step away from the micro, tunneled focus that I often have when working in the day to day to the macro, big picture of the prevention work that we are doing. It’s a time for me to share what we’ve learned, where we are, and where we’re going with other like-minded individuals and organizations. This, then, naturally creates a conversation around partnership, sharing of resources, supporting one another, etc. It’s also a time to connect with other organizations doing similar work in other parts of the world to broaden my own understanding as well as provide additional resources to strengthen our work, whether this is learning from one another’s research models or sharing counseling tips or reporting structures. The non-profit world is known for being underfunded and overworked, so to have the gift of a conference – where we all gather together around collective issues – and share these resources – is invaluable. Together, we are stronger.
And there will be a Justice Conference in Chicago?
The Justice Conference has grown exponentially over the last four years – starting in Oregon it’s grown to other cities in America, Asia, and Australia. The SOLD Project is sponsoring the anti-trafficking portion of the film festival this year in Chicago and I will be joining their panel of judges for the films as well. Since SOLD began as a documentary and a primary part of our mission is engaging the power of story to provide awareness of the importance of prevention as well as the healing power that comes when we tell our stories, it’s an honor to be able to continue to engage the justice world by encouraging that dignified films and stories be told.
Thanks Rachel! For anyone interested, The Justice Conference in Chicago will be held from June 5-6. For more details, check out their website here.