Elena, a 19-year-old girl from Moldovan, was thrilled when she was promised a good job as a receptionist in the United Kingdom. She packed her bags in hopes of a better future, but upon arrival she quickly became aware of the gruesome reality that laid ahead. When she entered the country her passport was taken away and she was forced into the sex trade.
Elena’s story is not unique. According to the International Labor Organization, there are about 2.5 million people forced to work in human trafficking at any one time, but so few of us know the grime reality of what it means to be bought and sold.
That is, until now.
Oscar winning actor and human rights campaigner Emma Thompson’s latest project, an exhibit called “The Journey,” gives visitors an in-depth look into the “journey” of a woman being trafficked into the sex industry. Presented by Thompson, New York Mayor Bloomberg, and other special guest artists and curators, the art installation walks you through seven shipping containers depicting the seven stages women who are trafficked experience: Hope, Journey, Uniform, Bedroom, Customer, Stigma, Resurrection.
“Journey’s” week-long stop in Manhattan on its world tour against the trafficking of sexual slavery is an important stop as New York is a major entry and transit hub for trafficked people. The project is just one face of the Helen Bamber Foundation, an international human rights charity based in the UK that works with survivors of genocide, torture, trafficking and rape who seek safety and refuge. The exhibit opened in New York on Washington Place East, off Washington Square Park, on Monday, November 9th and runs through Sunday November 15th.
My sister and I went to check it out last night and I have to say it was a very moving experience. Depicting the horrors of human trafficking is a tall order – not only because of the complexity of the issue, but because of the stigma and silence that surrounds women sold into sex slavery. “Journey,” gives voice to these women’s stories and allows visitors a glimpse into their reality. Walking through I was shocked, saddened, sickened, and awed. Every day women like you and me are tricked with promises of a brighter future only to end up sold and bought into sexual slavery.
“People just don’t want to know about this issue – it’s hidden, it’s criminal, it’s perverse and yes, it’s happening on our own doorstep,” said Thompson. “Journey is a remarkable piece of collaborative, creative and confrontational art that profoundly challenges people’s perspective. Come and see for yourself and tell us if you agree.”
What: “Journey” exhibit
Where: New York City (Washington Park East, off Washington Square Park)
When: November 9-15, 2009
Why: Because you care about women who are sold into the sex trade.
Can’t make the trip?
Picture taken by Ximena R. inside exhibit.
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