Good People Doing Great Things – "Save Our Sisters"

Yesterday, I was privileged to attend a luncheon program jointly sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and law firm Jenner and Block to raise awareness of the issue of trafficking in women and children.  Chicago based PwC partner Mona Clayton, had connected Hagar  International, an NGO serving women and children in Cambodia, to Jenner and Block’s Martina Vandenberg and the Women’s Forum at the law firm.

In 2005, PwC’s Clayton, a partner in the Forensic Accounting and Corporate Investigations practice,  spent eight weeks in Cambodia with Hagar International as part of a PwC sponsored program called Project Ulysses. This is a corporate philanthropy project developed by PwC to give back to the global community and to provide high potential partners like Clayton with the opportunity for global leadership experiences.
Martina Vandenberg is another amazing woman who spoke knowledgeably and passionately about her work as a human rights advocate around the world. Ms. Vandenberg maintains a diverse practice at Jenner and Block, focusing primarily on white-collar criminal matters, internal corporate investigations, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement work, and Small Business Administration matters. But she has also established an active pro bono practice, representing victims of human trafficking and providing legal advice to institutions seeking to combat this human rights scourge. She has spoken nationally and internationally on trafficking in persons, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on the issue in 2004 and presenting at several NATO conferences. 

Prior to joining Jenner and Block in February of 2003, Ms. Vandenberg served as the Europe Researcher for Human Rights Watch’s Women’s Rights Division, where she documented the trafficking of women for forced prostitution, war crimes and other violence against women. Ms. Vandenberg was honored with the 2005 Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Pro Bono Award for her work representing human trafficking victims and for her advocacy efforts in calling for more stringent policies and laws to combat human trafficking.

Mona Clayton brought Jane Tafel, Executive Director of Hagar USA to speak about this organizations work in Cambodia and plans to expand to India and Laos, among other countries needing their advocacy for women and children.  
From the US State Department in 2004:

“…Approximately 18,000-20,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States each year. The United States is both a transit and a destination country, but not a source country. Worldwide, the annual number of victims is closer to one million. Many of these individuals are trafficked into the sex trade, often by force, fraud, or coercion. Consequently, commercial sexual exploitation has rapidly expanded over the past several decades. But trafficking is not limited to such commercial sexual exploitation — it also includes forced labor and involves significant violations of human rights and public health and safety standards worldwide.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act takes into account that traffickers primarily target women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by poverty, the lack of access to education, chronic unemployment, discrimination, and the lack of economic opportunities in their countries of origin. Traffickers frequently lure women and girls into their networks through false promises of decent working conditions at relatively good pay as nannies, maids, dancers, factory workers, restaurant workers, sales clerks, or models. Their victims are often young girls in the prime of their lives who aspire to a better life, or who perhaps want to earn money to support their families back home — only to be forced into utter misery by wicked, degenerate criminals.”

For more information about the efforts of the US Government and the Department of State in this area and what you can do to help, go here.
For more information about Hagar International’s efforts and to donate to their expansion plans go here.
For more information about PwC’s Ulysses Project contact their new Corporate Responsibility Leader based in Chicago, Shannon Schuyler
For more information about Jenner and Block’s Women’s Forum programs, go here.