Members of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking ended their two-year term of service this afternoon with a plea to Ivanka Trump’s trafficking adviser to get their successors appointed, and provide stipends so they can serve without struggling financially.
The panel of 11 slavery survivors advises the president and federal agencies on ways to strengthen America’s response to human trafficking. The council was created by Congress in 2015, its members are appointed by the president. The first council concluded its work with a formal presentation of its 2017 annual report.
“It is commendable to see the United States taking the lead among nations around the world, and continuing to place survivors in key positions,” the report says. Council member Bukola Love Oriola said her work has ensured that survivor voices count. “We see you, we hear you, and we are here to represent you,” she said.
Council members noted both successes and shortcomings in presenting their 2017 assessment of American efforts to include survivor voices in shaping and implementing federal trafficking activities. One of the most important achievements, they said, was getting government officials to listen.
“They were interested, they wanted to learn, they wanted to know,” said council member Evelyn Chumbow, who also serves on the Free the Slaves board of directors. However, Chumbow noted that federal officials have been slow to implement the council’s advice. “Less talk, more action,” she implored. The council has now issued two annual reports, “so now let’s do the work,” she said.
The 2017 report lists a number of calls to action to improve federal programs:
- We recommend federal agencies encourage state task forces and other multidisciplinary teams to engage with local survivors and increase collaboration among law enforcement partners with survivors to deliver training for criminal justice professionals.
- The voices of survivors are often missing, and materials may focus on only one type of trafficking or one type of survivor background.
- The council also recommends increased monitoring and investigation on child labor exploitation that occurs in informal marketplaces with respect to begging, selling candy on the street, in family businesses, restaurants and stores.
- We also continue to encourage all federal agencies to explore ways to ensure equal service provision to certain vulnerable victim populations, especially elderly survivors of human trafficking and survivors with disabilities.
Council members noted that a lack of stipends made their service difficult. One member said she was almost fired from her job for taking time off work to attend White House meetings.
Another council member, Tina Frundt (a recipient of a Free the Slaves Freedom Award), conceded that members of other presidential advisory councils aren’t compensated. But they are well-off corporate executives, she noted, not everyday wage earners like many trafficking survivors. “Picking your brain means consulting,” Frundt said, noting that federal consultants are paid for their expertise.
She said council members provide more than a “storytelling role” about the brutal experience of human bondage. She says survivors know how illicit trafficking networks operate and how to shut them down.
Council member Ima Matul Maisaroh ender her presentation with words of advice to future council members about the need to balance work and life and unpaid public service: “We kind of work as a slave here,” she said.