United We Stand – An International Panel for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2020

United we stand - an international panel on world day against trafficking in persons 2020

Check out one of our favourite events of 2020 (over 9000 views on Facebook!) with our colleagues around the globe working to end human trafficking and advance equity in different ways. Thank you to all our co-panelists and tireless activists fighting for the eradication of human trafficking and exploitation in different corners of the world. Big thanks to Ushoshi Sangupta, New Light Kolkata and Urmi Basu!
 
Check out the full video below or watch it on YouTube.

‘Reclaiming Power’ – A Webinar on Human Trafficking and Violence Against Indigenous Women in Canada

reclaiming power - a conversation on human trafficking
and violence Against indigenous women in canada

In July 2020, Aura Freedom participated in the ‘Reclaiming Power’ forum for a conversation on human trafficking and violence against Indigenous women in Canada hosted by She Leads from Ontario Tech University. 

Our Executive Director Marissa Kokkoros provided a (very) crash course on what human trafficking looks like in Ontario and spoke alongside our good friend Melissa Compton, a Mi’kmaq Nation social worker, trauma counsellor and Indigenous educator, who spoke about the historical contexts of violence against Indigenous women.
 
Thank you to She Leads for hosting this important conversation!

The Peer Prevention Project

the peer prevention project

When addressing gender-based violence sexual exploitation and human trafficking, Aura Freedom’s HTPPP goes deep to the root of the issue: inequality. Patriarchy, gender inequality, systemic racism, colonialism, homo/transphobia, ableism, classism, and capitalism are all actively contributing to gender-based violence and human trafficking.

Aura Freedom, we know and understand these root causes.

We also know that it is very difficult to traffic and exploit an empowered person. 

Through this project, Aura Freedom has trained, mentored and coached a team of young women from different marginalized communities to facilitate gender-based violence prevention workshops in schools, shelters, and other youth spaces in the city. These youth facilitators come from diverse backgrounds and some have various lived experience including human trafficking and violence, which gives them unique insight to address human trafficking in their communities. 

 “Being a young, Black Muslim woman and being in a position to educate young folks has been truly life-changing. My main mission is to highlight to youth that when we are empowered, we can do anything.” Asha Dahir, Youth Facilitator and HTPPP Project Coordinator.

Youth who are ready to contribute to society must be empowered to do so. It is crucial to provide them with the opportunity to make a difference. Not only does it benefit them and their families, but programs for youth are much more powerful when delivered by youth themselves. Viewing young people as agents of change can shift the course of an entire nation.

By entering youth spaces and providing education developed “for youth by youth”, Aura Freedom’s youth team creates an environment where students learn from people who look like them and sometimes, when our facilitators feel comfortable, might even hear stories of personal experience, ensuring the greatest possible impact. In a word: prevention. 

Due to the powerful nature of the Peer Prevention Project’s awareness, the different lived experiences of the facilitators and the unique safe space created, we often have disclosure of sexual violence and human trafficking from youth, who are provided with immediate access to crucial services. The youth team travels with a trained trauma counsellor who is there to receive disclosures and provide the appropriate support. 

We have partnered with the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre and other freelance counsellors to provide this service, which has proved to be essential to the project. The counsellors are also there to support the project staff themselves.

In 2019 alone, the Peer Prevention Project operated in over 36 youth spaces across Toronto with 2,000+ participants. From those 36 presentations, 19 survivors of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and sexual violence came forward and were referred to crucial services. 

Grassroots, youth power.

The project’s disclosure rate shows the prevalence of the problem and the power of youth-led programming that focuses on addressing the root causes of violence, as opposed to focusing on the crime of human trafficking itself. 

More importantly, gender-based violence and human trafficking is prevented through empowerment, increased self-esteem, and increased knowledge of equality, colonization, racism, consent, and healthy relationships. This impact cannot fully be measured as these changes are internal, but the result in time will be a massive generational shift.

Let us not forget about the impact the project has had on our youth facilitators, who increased their knowledge and capabilities, while changing the trajectory of their lives. Some used their lived experience, things which normally stigmatized them, to become true agents of change; while all of them improved their skill sets, increased their self-worth, and empowered their communities.

“The Peer Prevention Project has opened even my eyes to just how many girls are affected by human trafficking,“ says Marlena Hendry, one of the project’s Youth Facilitators. “Working on this team and empowering younger girls makes me feel more empowered, too. And it helps to know that, as a survivor of human trafficking myself, what happened to me wasn’t my fault.”

The ripple effects of this work will be seen for years to come. When women and girls know their worth, they are empowered to make their own decisions. When youth are able to recognize what a healthy relationship is, they understand what their own relationship may be lacking. When young men understand the meaning of consent, they act more responsibly. When Indigenous youth understand how their ancestors’ history has impacted them today, they demand better. When LGBTQ2S+ youth feel a sense of community, they can lead vibrant lives free from violence.

To book a presentation at your school, shelter or any other community space, contact asha@aurafreedom.org

See our 2018-2019 Project Impact Report: Aura Freedom’s Peer Prevention Project

Standing up for Survivors Wartime Sexual Violence

standing up for survivors of wartime sexual violence

In August 2019, we stood in solidarity with the Sudanese women’s group Kandaka International for Women’s Rights to support Sudan’s survivors of wartime sexual violence.

Our Executive Director gave a talk on sexual violence in conflict and presented an interview she had with survivor Vasfije Krasniqi-Goodman (photo below), a survivor of the war in Kosovo and winner of the 2019 Kim Bok-dong Prize.

The sisterhood was alive and well and after all the tears, we even managed to laugh and sing during the ‘photoshoot’.

‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes’ – An Aura Freedom Special Event

walk a mile in my shoes - an aura freedom special event

In May 2019 we hosted the experiential learning event “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” that raised awareness of the root causes of sexual exploitation and human trafficking and honoured survivors and their family members. Supported by the Department of Justice Canada and Lush Cosmetics North America, the event explored how marginalized communities in Toronto (women and girls; Indigenous, Black and LGBTQ2S+ youth; Newcomers, etc.) are more vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation and how communities can empower each other to break the cycle. Guests also learned how Aura Freedom’s Peer Prevention Project is currently addressing these issues.

Through art and music by local Toronto artists, this interactive event communicated powerful messages to over 100 attendees. Survivors of violence and trafficking were honoured at the event by their peers, raising awareness and creating community solidarity. Attendees learned what services are available to them in Toronto through our community partners and where/how they can safely seek help for situations of sexual violence/exploitation.

We even had an impromptu drumming performance by Indigenous musician and Juno winner Brenda Macintyre.

What a night!

Ontario Human Trafficking Awareness Day – 2019

ontario human trafficking awareness day - Feb 22, 2019

On February 22, 2019, our Youth Team participated in the Provincial Human Trafficking Awareness Day, organized by the Toronto Counter Human Trafficking Network. With other community partners including FCJ Refugee Centre, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto and the Rise Initiative, we spoke on a panel discussing human trafficking on Toronto and how to better support survivors and prevent trafficking before it happens.

Humber College – International Development Week

humber college international development week -guest lecture, photo exhibit & more

In 2015 and 2016, Aura Freedom International was invited to attend International Development Week hosted by Humber College in Toronto where we interacted with a network of organizations, students, and individuals who are just as passionate as we are in contributing to positive change in the world.

We showcased our work and projects at the NGO Marketplace, hosted a photo exhibit and our Executive Director took to the lecture hall as part of a series of speakers where she delivered a lecture entitled “Putting Power Back Into the Hands of Girls: Gender Equality and Development”.

Take a look at some videos of our team at International Development Week below!