Panel discusses human trafficking

Andrea Powell was in Germany about 10 years ago working at a domestic violence shelter. She befriended one of the victims in the clinic but was surprised when her new friend vanished one day.

After searching in Eastern Europe and Bosnia, Powell became worried her friend had been victimized again.

“I never found her and was upset about the lack of attention given to her,” Powell said Saturday night at a panel discussion about human trafficking in Duqu?s Hall.

“People were buying people,” she said.

Powell teamed up in 2003 with fellow human rights activists to create FAIR Fund, an organization that she said “gives space back to younger women to create programs that provide empowering models to engage younger women.”

About 70 people attended a viewing of a movie called “The Natashas” accompanied by a panel discussion about human trafficking afterwards.

A global issue, human trafficking occurs when adults and children are recruited, coerced or abducted into situations of forced labor and prostitution.

The production was organized by GW senior Natalie Gontcharova and included a panel discussion about how to reduce human trafficking around the world.

“Combining theater with human rights activism seemed like a really effective way to make it relevant to people,” Gontcharova said. “This is more educational, it’s important to get the general public involved.”

Gontcharova hopes to encourage more student involvement with the Campus Coalition Against Trafficking, a nationwide project arm of FAIR Fund.

After writing a political science class paper on the third-most profitable crime in the world, Gontcharova became interested in researching human trafficking.

“I thought about completely innocent girls who might have been economically impacted by this,” she said.

Gontcharova now works as an intern with FAIR Fund, where she helped to organize Saturday’s event, which was co-sponsored by GW’s departments of American studies, anthropology, history, philosophy, and the School of Media and Public Affairs.

The narration-led performance included three performers playing Eastern European female victims of human trafficking, including one who didn’t know what she was getting involved with and another desperate for money.

Vanessa Vinsant, a legal assistant at Arnold & Porter, a D.C. law firm, said she found the presentation “fascinating.”

“There is a united effort from the panel,” she said. “People don’t really know about the issue but when they do they want to get involved.”

Powell said not enough people know about human trafficking and she hopes that events like Saturday’s will educate the public.

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