Monday, July 12, 2010

When Success And Reality Collide

     It’s been said, that I have a big mouth that never stops talking. So far, I’ve avoided trouble because there’s no written proof of what I’ve actually said. If I utter anything too far over the top, when confronted it’s easy to feign ignorance. This blog robs me of the ability to do so as it shares my thoughts with you. Welcome anyway…and, here it goes!
     The other day someone asked, “Iana, with all the honors that you’ve been awarded, you must feel like a real success. What’s it like being you?”
     After 12 years of running the safe house and offering a trafficking prevention program, there are more girls trafficked out of Romania than when I started. I’m a success because this doesn’t overwhelm me. It doesn’t cause me to shrug my shoulders and say, “Yeah, it’s awful, but what am I supposed to do about it?” I’m a success because it just makes me want to fight harder.
     A few days ago the police from Bucharest called and asked me to start a new shelter and a trafficking prevention program in Constanta, a Black Sea port town.  “Girls are disappearing from here as if down a black hole,” they said.
   “I’ll help. But I need to raise funds first.”
     “Hurry,” they said. This made me want to fight harder. It caused me to want to encourage you to fight too.
      When the electricity got cut off at the shelter the same month I was awarded an Abolitionist award, some questions arose about success. Yet, I knew I was fighting for the right thing. It would get sorted out.
     Recently, prison officials released the same traffickers that girls from the shelter had risked their lives to put away in 2003. Their pimps were released several years early for “good behavior” although they continued to run their trafficking ring from a prison cell. I’ve seen new girls come to the shelter in 2010 who were trafficked by the same men the other girls and I worked so hard to put away. If the traffickers had remained in prison for the length of their terms, these girls could have been saved from the experiences they struggle with today.
     I’m not fond of laws that give a tax evader more jail time than a trafficker of minor aged girls. Someone’s sending an upside-down message to these guys. “Evade your taxes and we’ll send investigators out to find you and you’ll get put away for a long time. Sell young girls into forced prostitution and you’ll just get your hand slapped.” No wonder pimps trying to make a quick buck do so at the expense of vulnerable girls and young women. It doesn’t cost them enough. This makes me want to fight harder. I want you to fight with me.
     You may say this doesn’t affect me. The country I live in already has legislation addressing human trafficking. Think again. Girls from Eastern Europe are shipped all over the world and into every country. It’s people in the countries they are shipped to who create the demand. We not only need anti-trafficking legislation, we need enforced anti-trafficking legislation.
     When one of the girls from the shelter passed the entrance exams for a Christian high school but got turned away by the administration because she's a former prostitute, I fought down frustration, and continued on to find a good school for her. While she's happy now in a school for Environmental Studies, the experience left me wondering. Did those who refused this girl’s entrance application realize what kind of message they sent her? How could they turn away a girl who wanted to come and learn from them?
      I've lived just long enough to know that questions such as these are better directed at myself. What am I doing in the face of 5,000,000 children sold into sexual servitude and labor slavery? Am I willing to let it go? No! I want to do all I can to fight for these children. I know there are others who will join me in this fight.
     This is why I open my world to you—so that you will respond with whatever weapon you have. If you are a praying person, pray for five minutes each day about these children. If not, meditate five minutes each day about these girls. If you do this, it’s my guess you will discover you possess other weapons to use against child prostitution and forced labor. If you have finances, give them. If you possess the gift of gab or know how to write letters, contact your government officials.
     Over the next few months I’ll post a weekly blog. Log on and ask your friends to log on to read and share their own thoughts and anti-trafficking messages. Each time someone makes a comment, it informs publishers and lawmakers that people care. It says that you are interested in what happens to children forced into labor and prostitution.
     Success means pulling together to allow girls entrance into a safe place and raising our voices to lawmakers. I know we can do it.
     Join me next week when I’ll post an excerpt from the first chapter of my book, Unstoppable Redeemer, describing how I ended up running a safe house, and being called an abolitionist. (Proceeds from the book, will go to a trafficking prevention program for at-risk girls in Romania.)         


r.r. said...

Iana, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

We need a reminder of the day to day realities of trafficking. Otherwise, the problem seems too large to deal with, too abstract and suddenly "not our problem." You help put us back on the hook. We need that.

Iana Matei said...

Thanks r.r.
Trafficking it's by now too large, but it's not at all to abstract, and it's definitely our problem. Thanks for joining!

Iana Matei said...

Thanks r.r.
Trafficking it's by now too large, but it's not at all to abstract, and it's definitely our problem. Thanks for joining!

Chase Webpage Designs said...

I and the world are thankful for people like Iana who is willing to face these challenges to help other people in need. I don't feel this or any problem is to "BIG" if you have the will and means to help. Saving one life and making a change is what counts. Iana, keep up the good work, share your story and thoughts.

Iana Matei said...

Thank you. The truth is that if you feel that nothing is to BIG, it means you have the will, and with that, you' surely find the means..

Anonymous said...

Iana, Thank-you so much for what you are doing to help those in need. We need to hear more talk about trafficking to get everyone aware of whats going on, so thanks for the blog on such an important subject.

Carolw said...

I've had the joy of reading the initial draft of this book. It's compelling, gripping, difficult, and convicting. It's the kind of book that's hard to put down and stirs up both anger and compassion. Thank you for being willing to tell this story and for sacrificing so much of your life to save others' lives.

Carol W.

TheTruth said...

Keep up the amazing work. can't wait to read the book x

Iana Matei said...

Thank you. The idea of the book and the blog, is to open up the discussions on the subject, hoping that the potential available out there will be used to stop the most humiliating form of slavery. After working for 10 years in this field, I concluded that there is no political will to really put an end to it, so I decided to find "ordinary people able to do extraordinary things",( meaning people like you) and try again to help the girls. So thank you all for being part of this work.