President Obama addressing the CGI
Cherie with Maria, Ima and Sheila
Cherie with GEMS Rachel Lloyd
Human trafficking "is not a business model. It's a crime, and we're going to stop it." President Obama
As a patron of STOP THE TRAFFIK, a global movement fighting to prevent human trafficking around the world, Cherie was delighted to be present for President Obama's speech to the Clinton Global Initiative in New York this week and to hear him announce a partnership with CGI to combat what he calls, "modern day slavery."
President Obama's address was a passionate plea for a crack down on this abusive practice both at home and abroad. He pointed out that more than 20 million people worldwide are victims of this illegal trade, including children forced to work at sweatshops and women pushed into the sex industry. Obama acknowledged that the US was not immune from this criminal practice, as he pledged to help stop the abuse of migrant workers and young women who are forced "to walk the streets" of America.
"We cannot ask other nations to do what we are not doing ourselves," he said, adding that he plans a number of steps to "go after traffickers,including better work with outside investigators, coordination with transportation companies and other measures"
Human trafficking "is barbaric and it is evil and it has no place in civilized world." Obama told the audience at the Sheraton New York Hotel, noting that some girls sold off by poor families are no older than his two daughters.
"Nations must speak with one voice: our people and our children are not for sale," he said. "Our message today is:we see you, we hear you. We insist on your dignity."
Human trafficking "is not a business model. It's a crime, and we're going to stop it. We are our brothers' keepers and our sisters' keepers."
In one of the most harrowing sections of the speech, the President shared the stories of some victims who had escaped trafficking, describing the abuses they had endured. "Think about Marie's story. She was kidnapped by rebels, turned into a slave. She was abused -- physically and sexually. They got her pregnant five times. In one awful battle, her children were killed, all five of them. Miraculously, she survived and escaped.
Or ask Ima Matul. She grew up in Indonesia, and at 17 was given the opportunity to work as a nanny here in the United States. But when she arrived, it turned out to be a nightmare. Cooking, cleaning -- 18-hour days, seven days a week. One beating was so bad it sent her to the emergency room. And finally, she escaped. And with the help from a group that cared, today Ima has a stable job. She's an advocate -- she's even testified before Congress.
Or ask Sheila White, who grew up in the Bronx. Fleeing an abusive home, she fell in with a guy who said he'd protect her. Instead, he sold her -- just 15 years old -- 15 -- to men who raped her and beat her, and burned her with irons. And finally, after years -- with the help of a non-profit led by other survivors -- she found the courage to break free and get the services she needed. Today she is a powerful, fierce advocate who helped to pass a new anti-trafficking law right here in New York."
Following the talk Cherie had the pleasure of meeting Maria, Ima and Sheila in person along with Rachel Lloyd, a young British woman who founded the Girls Educational and Mentoring Service (GEMS) which has worked hard to help female victims of traffiking.
Cherie and the girls were all very encouraged to see this issue being addressed on such a high profile occasion and applauded the determination and resolve shown by the President of the United States in his speech.