Things That Matter

She Spent 37 Years As A Sex Slave And Is Now Fighting To Free All People From That Life

This past week was the week that the world brought attention to an issue that affects an estimated 40.3 million people around the globe, human trafficking. For Uruguayan Sandra Ferrini, 58, it was exposing a past that had followed her for most of her entire life. Ferrini was “sold” by her mother as a teenager into the world of street prostitution and after 37 years on the city streets of Chile, Paraguay, Argentina and in Europe, her story is now ready to be told. 

According to a report from the International Labour Organization, there are around 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world, with 1 in 4 victims being children. 

Credit: @imrebeccabender / Twitter

On Tuesday, Uruguay participated in its first anti-human trafficking march, with Ferrini joining countless of others who like her had to endure sex trafficking for years. Campaigners took to the streets of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, where in the country of 3.5 million people, the most common form of human trafficking involves women and girls where they are forced into sex work.

For Ferrnini, the march was something that was on her mind all the years she had no voice on the issue and couldn’t speak up about the horrendous conditions she was placed in. She says many people choose to ignore the issue or just not address it all together.

“It’s a march that I thought about when I was held captive,” Ferrini told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Human trafficking happens every day, but people don’t want to see it. We are seen as numbers. We want to be seen as people. We will march as people.”

The details of Ferrnini past experience is just one example of the countless lives that face these situations on a daily basis. She says that she was sexually exploited for 37 years and was even forced to have sex with up to 30 men a day.

“I am a survivor of trafficking. It was my mother who sold me at the beginning,” Ferrini told Subrayado. “I was able to get rid at 45 because I had a traffic accident in which I was paralyzed. They were going to kill me, they threw me in a field, and a person rescued me.”

Human trafficking remains a global issue and the United Nations has set out to bring awareness and combat this growing issue. 

Credit: @peacerec1 / Twitter

Uruguay is one of the biggest epicenters when it comes to human trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons report, Uruguay was placed in its Tier 2 Watch List, which is the second-lowest ranking. This was done as the country has not meet many of the minimum standards when it comes to efforts in eliminating human trafficking.

“Most detected victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation; victims are also trafficked for forced labor, recruitment as child soldiers and other forms of exploitation and abuse,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told the United Nations on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. “Thousands of people have died at sea, in deserts and in detention centres, at the hands of traffickers and migrant smugglers plying their monstrous, merciless trades.”

For Uruguay, this is hopefully just the start of acknowledging and bringing to light the global issue of human trafficking. 

Credit: @sabre_comp / Twitter

There has been some progress in recent years when it comes to decreasing the number of sex trafficking victims. In 2017, Uruguay’s National Institute for Women assisted 172 women trafficking victims which was an increase from the previous year at 131, the U.S. State Department said.

There has also been legislative work put in place as last year Uruguay updated its anti-human trafficking law and action plan. The country also just recently created a new national committee to help combat it’s anti-trafficking efforts. 

Ferrini now also heads “Yes to Life, No to Trafficking,” a survivors support group. It’s these types of groups and organizations that play a big role in getting women off the streets and rebuilding their lives and most importantly, rebuilding their broken self-esteem. 

“I naturalized this as a child – for me it was something that I thought I had to live,” Ferrini said. “There’s a lot of work to do in education, training and prevention.”

READ: A City Is On Edge After One Of The World’s Most Wanted Men Escapes From A Prison In Central Uruguay

Students Hold Sit-In To Protest Teacher Who Told Their Classmate To ‘Go Back To Your Country’

Things That Matter

Students Hold Sit-In To Protest Teacher Who Told Their Classmate To ‘Go Back To Your Country’

A group of students at Nicholas Senn High School in Chicago held a sit-in this week to protest a racist comment made by a gym teacher. According to students, a group of students stayed seated during the national anthem and a gym teacher told a Latina student to “go back to your country” in response.

Nicholas Senn High School students in Chicago held a sit-in to protest a teacher’s offensive comment.

According to NBC News, 17-year-old Yésica Salazar said she was at a Hispanic Heritage Month assembly when the Pledge of Allegiance was performed. She and other students remained seated as a form of protest against the anti-immigration rhetoric and policies in the country.

The incident allegedly occurred as the students were leaving the assembly for not standing. When they left, a teacher stopped the student and told her that she should “go back to your country.”

A video on Twitter shows the principal addressing the protesting students.

“I notified everybody within three hours of receiving the report. It is all in writing,” Principal Mary Beck told the students. “It is all time-stamped. I did my job. I continue to follow through based on the guidelines and policies that we have in place. Every time.”

Despite the answer, the students chanted back at her saying, “So, why is he still here?”

The school is predominately Latino and Black.

Senn High School is predominantly Latino and black. According to data, Nicholas Senn High School is 25.8 percent Black, 42.3 percent Latino, 11.2 percent white, and 17.5 percent Asian.

The “go back to your country” comment has grown in popularity since President Trump took office. There have been examples of comment shared all over social media and is directed to Black, brown, and Asian people. There have even been instances when people have used this phrase against Native American people. To be clear, it has nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with racism.

People on social media are celebrating the students for holding people in power at their school accountable.

What do you think about the protest and response?

READ: Another Sexist Man Has Mocked The Feminist Protest Movement Sweeping Latin America By Dressing Up As A Victim

The Colombian Government Has Neglected The Indigenous Community And They Are Mobilizing To Demand Action

Things That Matter

The Colombian Government Has Neglected The Indigenous Community And They Are Mobilizing To Demand Action

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Indigenous Colombians have given far-right President Iván Duque notice that they will “take” the presidential palace if he doesn’t take time to meet with indigenous leaders. Indigenous Colombians are calling for the government to recommit to decades-old government agreements with indigenous nations. Indigenous representative Herney Flor said that more than 30,000 indigenous peoples are prepared to travel to Bogotá in a caravan to ‘take’ the palace by Saturday, according to Colombia Reports. The pressure against Duque has been mounting as the indigenous people continuously witness the government breach their agreements to protect the native nations. This latest wave of mass anti-government protests against Duque has been catalyzed by the violent murder of Cristina Bautista, the indigenous governor of Cauca in October.

“This is the last warning,” Flor alerted President Duque, according to Colombia Reports.

Credit: @UNDERGROUND_RT / TWITTER

Herney Flor is on the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, which represents a collection of Indigenous nations in the Cauca region, which has experienced spikes in violence from rebel groups during the last few months. The Nasa people have endured the assassination of their governor, Cristina Bautista, along with four other Nasa members who were guarding their community. The guard is made up of volunteers who consider themselves more as peace officers than a police force. They are not armed. During a routine security check, the peace officers stopped a car as it was entering the community. They would learn that the leader of a rebel group and two other rebels were armed and prepared to wreak havoc. The guards raised an alarm that alerted the entire community, which is when, presumably, governor Cristina Bautista arrived to see what was the matter. The rebel group opened fire and killed Bautista and four of the Nasa peace officers, along with injuring six others. Two months prior, two more Nasa peace officers were assassinated when rebel groups opened fire on their bus.

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) faction rebel groups are believed to be behind the attacks. The FARC paramilitary rose to power during the Cold War period to physically force a Marxist agenda. The United Nations estimates that FARC was responsible for 12 percent of all civilian deaths during that period. In 2016, FARC leaders signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government and agreed to lay down arms. However, not every FARC rebel agreed and some broke off to form factions that would go on to violently clash with indigenous people as they try to expand their territory.

The United Nations has urged Duque to do more to protect indigenous nations.

Credit: @ANTICONQUISTA / TWITTER

During his 16 months in office, Duque’s approval rating has dropped to 24 percent, the worst in Colombia’s history. The bulk of Colombians are protesting Duque’s “paquetazo” or “the package” that would create a tax reform not dissimilar from Trump’s–lessen taxes on the rich, and limit government benefits to the middle and lower class, effectively widening the wealth gap in Colombia. After Bautista’s death, indigenous people joined the protests in early November. As folks joined protests in the streets with their own frustrations, ranging from the government’s legalization of shark hunting to its weakened stance on climate change, everyone became unified in the singular experience of Duque’s violent response to their peaceful protests. 

Many indigenous people marched in or just outside their own communities, but nothing like what they are threatening now: a full mobilization of indigenous peoples to take over the capital. “We ask you to fulfill the commitments, the agreements that have been signed many years ago, because if not we will leave in a caravan next week,” Flor said, according to Colombia Reports, adding, “This is the last warning and the last demand we make.”

Over the last two years, more than 750 indigenous leaders and activists have been killed, according to INDEPAZ.

Credit: @ESCOBARMORA3 / TWITTER

The indigenous peace officers have been regularly attending the protests that have drawn hundreds of thousands of Colombians into the streets, to counter the violence of militarized police with their unarmed intentions for peace. As they arrived, recognizable by their large wooden staffs painted with the colors that represent their nation, thousands applauded them. Others happily threw makeshift white confetti from their high-story windows to rain down on them.”They’re killing indigenous leaders – we want peace,” Indigenous Guard member Jose Asemeo Capiz told Al Jazeera during the country’s third mass protest last week.

Jamileth Mulcueguege was marching with an enormous indigenous flag when she told Al Jazeera, “We came to march for our rights to education, health and the environment that the government is destroying. If we unite and stay strong, the government will listen. It’s all about the strength of the people.”

READ: Dilan Cruz Becomes A Symbol Of Colombia’s Protest Movement After He Was Shot Dead By Police