Yale UNICEF holds conference on child trafficking

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Yale UNICEF, an undergraduate organization committed to raising awareness for international children’s issues, hosted its annual spring conference on Saturday, April 7th, focusing on the issue of child trafficking.

The event ran from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm, and it featured a number of distinguished speakers and panelists addressing a number of aspects related to child trafficking, such as enforcement of trafficking laws and discussions of child labor.

The Law Enforcement and Child Trafficking panel consisted of Zoe Root, a senior policy counsel at the Justice Programs Office, Sarala V. Nagala, a visiting clinical lecturer at Yale Law School and deputy chief of the United States Attorney’s Office, and Wendy Bowersox, a special agent of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Squad. The panelists explained the various legal challenges in the fight against child trafficking. Special Agent Wendy Bowersox described, for example, how FBI-affiliated workers are technically not allowed to provide victims of child trafficking with clothes or food unless the situation was extreme. Some victims, she said, misunderstood the role of FBI agents who had helped them, often asking for more help than one agent can provide. These pressures are the results of unfortunate misunderstandings, but the panelists argued that they highlight the need for a kind of peer mentorship program led by college students who can provide far more advice and assistance than government workers.

Jever Mariwala, who ran the panel along with Ayla Khan, expressed interest in the idea of a peer mentorship program for victims of child trafficking, at least in the New Haven area. One major point that Mariwala and Khan emphasized was that many of these victims simply don’t have any stable friendships or role models to talk to, since they’d been in and out of foster homes and other temporary living arrangements.

Explaining the motivation behind the organization of the conference, Mariwala said that “it’s really important that college students realize that people our age are getting trafficked.” Students who attended the conference were enthusiastic and were “learning a lot about how present the issue of child trafficking is in our own community,” she said.

The Yale UNICEF conference ended with a panel focused on human trafficking in New Haven, with support from Love146, a local nonprofit whose mission is to combat human trafficking in the city and provide a stable source of support to victims.

Yale UNICEF is a member group of the United Nations International Children’s Fund Campus Initiative.