By: Shauna Devitt, Senior Communications Manager
In March we celebrate Women’s History Month, a time to commemorate and celebrate women; women in history, women in the workforce, women who are breaking barriers, women working to eradicate sex trafficking. Women like Shared Hope International’s Founder and President, Linda Smith, who has been a pioneer legislator and anti-trafficking advocate, empowering others to join her in the fight to eradicate domestic minor sex trafficking.
Shared Hope’s earliest ventures were carried out on the international front with strong women who were fiercely protecting the vulnerable and exploited in their own communities. Soon thereafter partnerships were forged with strong women who had spent years fighting to end trafficking in the United States as well. Linda’s book Invading the Darkness highlights Amy O’Neil Richard’s story:
“My heart broke and I felt powerless… What was I doing? Would a single report make a difference?… But all I could do was keep going. I wanted to be part of the solution and knew that people would care if they knew more.”
Keep going, that is exactly what Amy did as she researched sex trafficking of women and girls and pulled the issue into the public eye through her role with the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office.
While Amy was deep in research, Linda was raising money to establish Shared Hope in 1998, beginning restoration services in Mumbai that reached challenging brothel areas. Shortly after, Shared Hope launched the Women’s Investment Network (WIN) program in 2000, the same year that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) was signed into law, providing the tools to combat trafficking in persons both worldwide and domestically.
This was just the beginning. In the coming years, Linda would continue to lead efforts to bring awareness, restoration, and justice regarding domestic minor sex trafficking. Linda formed the War Against Trafficking Alliance (WATA) to coordinate efforts to fight sex trafficking worldwide. WATA and the U.S. Department of State partnered together to convene the First World Summit in 2003 that brought together activists from 114 countries to address sex trafficking and find practical solutions.
Linda Smith stands in good company. Worldwide, women have truly provided the backbone of the fight against domestic minor sex trafficking. They have done the research, shared their experiences, provided desperately needed services, informed policy, educated the populace, and… they never give up! We heartily celebrate the work of past and present women pioneers working to end this scourge worldwide.
Purchase a copy of the Invading the Darkness book here.
Learn more about how you can get involved at Shared Hope here.