Admittedly, in the busy world we live in I am often caught up in my own little world of duties and focuses. Within that world I am so proud of Dallas Uncorked and our ability to give to various charitable organizations that benefit from our dinners, like The June Jones Foundation, Charity:Water and The Stewpot.
Yesterday, however, I was invited by my friend, the incredibly generous and giving Ashlee Kleinert to attend the 28th annual luncheon for The Dallas Women’s Foundation, an organization that Ashlee currently serves as Chair of their dynamic Board of Trustees. I arrived at venue of the luncheon about 20 minutes until it started and proceeded to wait in a long, long line of SUVs and luxury vehicles filled with women dressed to the hilt for this annual event, 1600 of them in total.
Started in 1985 the Dallas Women’s Foundation has been dedicated to improving opportunities and quality of life for women and girls. With the belief that if you invest in a woman there is a ripple effect that will benefit her family, community and her world. Working locally, nationally and around the world the Dallas Women’s Foundation has granted over $21 million to help create opportunities and solve issues for women and girls, ultimately improving lives and creating leaders for our future. Today the foundation grants an average of $2.5 million a year to benefit women and girls, empowering them to be the best they can be.
The focus for this year’s luncheon pulled at specific heartstrings following the path of how to improve the life of young women and girls, specifically those that are victims of both labor trafficking and sex trafficking. The Polaris Project website defines human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. The factors that each of these situations have in common are elements of force, fraud, or coercion that are used to control people. Then, that control is tied to inducing someone into commercial sex acts, or labor or services. And traffickers generate billions of dollars in profit each year by victimizing people around the world.
With special guest, Academy award-winning actress, mother, advocate and ambassador to Amnesty International’s “Stop Violence Against Women” program. An impressive and outspoken champion of women and their rights. Through her fact filled and passionate speech Sorvino repeatedly noted that if a girl is under the age of 18 and sold into sex trade, slave labor, human slavery, made to work in inhumane circumstances or in brothels all too often for no money, she is a victim, even if she doesn’t understand that she is.
Traveling both world wide and at home, as this happens more than we want to admit right in our own neighborhoods, Sorvino has encountered girls, some as young as 3 or 4, who have been forced to sell themselves to pedophiles. She has met girls who have been sold by their parents either into slave labor or into sex trafficking. She has met young women who have been threatened by their pimp or their trafficker promising that if they do not do as they are told they will come after and kill her family, creating this idea in the minds of children that they have to continue living their lifeless existence to save their family….the family that may have sold them.
It is an awful and ugly reality that we don’t talk about in polite conversation, but the only way to ensure change is to talk about it and act to stop it. There are simple steps that you can do to help end human trafficking – the National Human Trafficking hotline is 888-373-7888, program it into your phone so you can call immediately if you see any sign of something that could be suspicious. Also program in BeFree (233733) to your phone and be prepared to text the word HELP to that number if you suspect human slavery or trafficking. Visit the Polaris Project website to learn more about how you can become more aware of circumstances in your own neighborhoods, and how to spread the message to others. Ask your congressman to pass the Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act (H.R. 1732). Research where the goods you buy come from and how they are made.
And, donate as donations to organizations like the Dallas Women’s Foundation and the Polaris Project funds groups that create safe houses and provide social services for human trafficking survivors, adds resources to stopping human trafficking and sex trade, provides counseling to young girls to help them realize that what has happened to them is not their fault…nor is it alright. It is a heartbreaking reality, but it doesn’t have to be as each one of us can make a difference.
Based on the news throughout the luncheon the 1600 Dallas women (and a few men) attendees, along with the foundation’s generous sponsors, raised close to $1 million to help end human trafficking. Bravo ladies!