Ending human trafficking is a shared responsibility

About 30 people gathered in Texas State University’s Comal building to hear Texas State history professor, Dr. Jessica Pliley; John Nehme, CEO of Austin-based Allies Against Slavery; and James Kofi Annan, founder of Ghana-based Challenging Heights, conduct a Philosophy Dialogue panel discussion as part of the 3-day university lecture series: “Ending Child Trafficking through Education and Economic Empowerment.”

Annan gave a presentation Tuesday about how he became passionate in his work and in beginning Challenging Heights in 2003. Since the organization started, 1,200 children have been rescued, Annan reiterated during Wednesday’s conversation.

While Pliley began the discussion Wednesday with a brief history of slavery – both internationally and domestically – , most of the discussion revolved around Annan’s anti-slavery work in Ghana and Nehme’s work in Central Texas.

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Photo by Holly Wise/VoiceBox Media

Allies Against Slavery was founded in 2010 and while some of the founders were experts in the field, Nehme acknowledged some were not.

“We just cared,” he said, and recognized they had a piece of responsibility in eradicating human trafficking in Central Texas. The focus of Allies Against Slavery is to create slave-free cities. Along with being named a Walkable City and a No-Kill city, “we think {Austin} should be a slave-free city too,” said Nehme.

From both Annan and Nehme’s perspectives, the act of erasing slavery and human trafficking is going to be a joint effort and is a shared responsibility among all of us.

“The only way to address this problem is to work together,” said Nehme to the group.

Annan said poverty is the No. 1 reason children in Ghana are trafficked. He himself a trafficking survivor, Annan said he was one of 12 children in household where poverty and illiteracy existed.

Not only does Challenging Heights provide rescue and rehabilitation to trafficked children, the organization also gives business training for mothers of families. Annan said they are given the tools to manage a small business and are connected with banks for micro finance. Challenging Heights has supported 100 women in business.

There was interest among some of the students present to begin an anti-slavery student organization at Texas State University.

Annan said raising awareness is a key component in fighting slavery and trafficking.

For more information about Challenging Heights and to learn how to support the organization in Ghana, visit their website.

For more information about Allies Against Slavery and to find out more about human trafficking in Central Texas, click here.

Annan’s final presentation at Texas State University is Thursday from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Health Professions Building, Room 145. The presentation is sponsored by the School of Social Work and Center for Children and Families.

Follow #HearThemOut and @VoiceBoxMedia_ as we bring you continued live coverage of Annan’s visit to Texas State.

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