OHIO Communication Studies senior organizes End Slavery Week Nov. 4-7
By Kerry Tuttle
ATHENS, Ohio (Oct. 29, 2013)—According to the International Labour Association, a specialized agency of the United Nations, there are an estimated 27 million people in slavery today, meaning that there are more enslaved persons in 2013 than at any other point in human history. The issue of human trafficking is prevalent around the world, as well as in America. Enter Megan Gallagher, a Scripps College senior who is trying to do something about it.
Gallagher, a communication studies major, has recently launched the End Slavery Movement (ESM) on Ohio University's Athens campus to raise awareness about this endeavor of organized crime after learning about modern slavery at a youth conference she attended.
"I was shocked to learn about human trafficking especially about how common it is in the United States. I had no idea that was going on. It stayed on my heart," she said. "At the conference, they challenged all 60,000 of us to do something and to start a movement. So I did."
ESM is exactly that – a movement. Gallagher is adamant that it is not an organization recognized by Ohio University, but a social movement she hopes to spread around the region and continue to work on after graduation. END IT, the parent organization for seven anti-human trafficking non-profits, is also a well-known force for change in regard to modern day slavery. However, ESM is not a chapter or partner of END IT, but its own movement targeting college students.
"I decided to create a movement from the bottom up. College students are an untapped gap in human trafficking activism. We have the body of people and the manpower that these non-profits don't have," said Gallagher.
The Athens County Child Advocacy Center is a local partner for the movement. Director Rebecca Miller reinforces the claim that non-profits need manpower. "We need the people power to help us get the word out and raise awareness. Megan has been incredible in gaining momentum for the movement at an epic rate."
ESM's need for a local community partner and the Child Advocacy Center's need for invested volunteers made the two a perfect match. Miller explained that human trafficking has always been considered an international issue, but now the focus is changing to make people aware that there is domestic human trafficking as well.
"There are cases statewide, regionally and locally. Human trafficking and sexual abuse has a taboo in society so people don't want to talk about it. We want to make people aware that it's happening right here," said Miller.
To raise this awareness, ESM will be sponsoring an End Slavery Week Nov. 4-7. The week's activities will include a documentary screening, a lunch and learn, an art show, an expo showing a day in the life of a slave, a guest speaker who is a human trafficking survivor, and a panel discussion of human trafficking experts. Panelists for End Slavery Week include:
- Rebecca Miller, director, Athens County Child Advocacy Center,
- Elizabeth Ranade Janis, Ohio's anti-trafficking coordinator and Governor's representative
- Michelle Hannan, coalition manager of Central Ohio Rescue and Restore
- Claire Childers, legislative aide of Teresa Fedor
- Keller Blackburn, Athens County prosecutor
- John Deak, family violence investigator for the Athens County Sheriff's Department
- Molly Burchfield, survivor advocate for the Athens City Police Department
- Robert Stewart, probate/juvenile court judge
"We're empowering future leaders. Our goal is to have college students aware that human trafficking exists and to be knowledgeable about it before they leave Athens," said Gallagher. "If we can reach out to almost 20,000 students and make them aware of this, then we are reaching our future leaders who will be knowledgeable about the importance of this issue."
A list of End Slavery Week events can be found on the group's Facebook page. The group meets every Wednesday in Bentley 306 at 6 p.m. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.