When I travel, I often wonder what life is like for the women that live there. I know that with my pasty white skin and our roamancing red boots, I stand out and am not seen as one of them ~ treated with the grace and tenderness of a lady, but given the respect of a man in many cultures, in addition to being seen with a great deal of humour (often thanks to the red boots). You see, I won the lottery of birth. I was born into a Canadian home of two educated parents that treated each other as equals. It was me that my Dad tried to get to pursue medicine, not my brother. We were taught to believe that with hardwork and gumption, we could achieve whatever we set our minds to, and we have, although not necessarily quite in the manner we initially envisioned. I mean really, how few people get to live their lives the way I am? Don’t get me wrong I have fought hard to do what I do, and am still not making what I should (and as a single gal, I know I need to start planning for retirement), but had I been dealt a different hand in birth, none of this may have been possible. Heck, the fact alone that I worry about retirement tells you just how lucky I am. I myself may have grown up to be a very different person with none of the confidence and bull dog spirit I posses.
I was tenderly and heart-wrenchingly reminded of this when I attended a Vancouver Fringe Festival Play the other night at the Firehall Arts Centre ~ She Has A Name by Andrew Kooman presented by Burnt Thicket Theatre and RaiseTheirVoice. This was the story a young girl who at the tender age of 15 had seen more than I ever wish to see in a Bangkok brothel, repeatedly raped and forced into sexual acts from the tender age of 10, when she went into the city in Burma to work at a factory to help her single Mom support the family, or so she thought, before she was smuggled out of the country and forced into a life of sex slavery. This is also the story of the dangers and inner turmoil of the men and women from around the world that try to help victims of human trafficking, told from the perspective of Jason, a lawyer who has left his family in Canada to try and navigate his way through a Bangkok brothel in an attempt to gather evidence and build a legal case against them for trafficking girls into Bangkok. A particularly strong perspective if you ask me, as it reminded me of the turmoils that the men who try to help go through too.
In leaving this play, it left me wanting to do something to help, beyond telling all my friends to go see the play (which you all should do or if it’s not currently playing in in your area, get one of your local theatres to invite them). This is a story we all should hear and think about for these women, children (and men) often have no voice of their own and no one to hear their screams. How very scary is that. Here I live a life where I can speak my mind on politics, religion and all sorts of other contentious topics, without fear. A life where I was able to choose when to share my body with another and with whom, and I can assure you that was not at the tender age of 10 or 15, but when I was an adult, ready and at least thought I was in love. Thinking of having such acts forced upon me sickens me and further terrifies me to think that for these women, children, (and men), they have no one to seek help from. But what does one do to help? This is after all a very dangerous issue. A couple of things that occur to me more superficially in my own life:
- Don’t laugh or accept that ever so disgusting mantra of “What happens in Vegas (or Whistler or any number of other places) stays in Vegas.” The things we do when on the road do affect others, and very real people, like the women, children (and men) in brothels and your lovers back home, can be hurt by them. If you wouldn’t do something at home for moral reasons or fear of what others would think if they saw, then you probably shouldn’t do them on the road. And while many of us are not guilty of such things, we likely have laughed at the line of “what happens on the road, stays on the road.” Stop laughing and start telling people it’s not cool.
- Ladies (and men) – be careful and aware of your surroundings and how you are being perceived within them. Traveling is a wonderful thing, but don’t put yourself into danger. Just like with men, some women see traveling as an opportunity to be more promiscuous. Be careful, as you don’t want to put yourself or others in danger for ‘a bit of fun’.
On a broader scale, the play She Has A Name has given us some ideas on how we can help the victims of human trafficking and sex slavery, as from Play It Forward and encouraging others to see it. Here are their suggestions:
1. Write your MP and sign a petition
It’s not glamorous, but it’s effective. Let your MP know that as your representative you want them to be a strong voice against human trafficking. Visit www.shehasaname.net/respond/write-and-petition to find out your MP’s address and to learn about petitions you can print and share with others and send to Parliament, urging government to change the way we address the crime of trafficking in Canada.
2. Give to our partner project in Thailand
Home of New Beginnings is a safe-house in Bangkok that helps children and women leave the sex trade and begin new lives. You can read more at www.homeofnewbeginnings.com and donate online at www.a-better-world.ca – click on the Canada Helps “Donate Now” button, then select Fund/Designation as “Specify Project in Message Box” and then enter “She Has A Name” in the message field. You may also telephone A Better World Canada at 403.782.1140.
3. Fuel the Tour
If this story impacted you, help us ensure we make it across the country so more Canadians can engage the issue. You can donate mileage or fuel the tour vehicle between cities at www.shehasaname.net/fuel-the-tour.
4. Connect with Organizations Combatting Trafficking
Learn more about the issue and then volunteer your time and resources to bring change in a way that utilizes your unique gifts. Your life is so valuable, and we firmly believe you will experience great meaning as you use your gifts to change real stories of despair into real stories of hope! View a list of great organizations at www.shehasaname.net/organizations.
5. Report warning signs of human trafficking
- in your community, at work, when traveling to: Crime Stoppers 1.800.222.8477 (1.800.222.TIPS)
- online child sexual abuse imagery, child sex tourism, child trafficking, and child luring to: The Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
If you are in Vancouver, I encourage you to catch the final production of She Has A Name tonight at 9:30 pm at the Firehall Arts Centre. The next stops on their Canadian Tour are Kelowna (September 18th-21st), Edmonton (September 25th-30th) and Red Deer (October 2nd-6th).
Remember She Has A Name. Help give these women, children (and men) a voice and combat sex tourism.