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Inaugural ‘Freedom Fest’ raises awareness of Human Trafficking

Guyana’s first ever ‘Freedom Fest’ held yesterday, at the Durban Park, Georgetown was organized to raise awareness on the subject of human trafficking.

The event was part of a series of activities being coordinated by the Ministry of Social Protection’s Counter-Trafficking In Persons (C-TIP) Unit in observance of World Trafficking In Persons Day which is observed on July 30.

At the opening ceremony, Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally reiterated the government’s commitment to eradicating human trafficking in Guyana.

“Too often, we hear of stories of young men and women who are promised legitimate jobs in the mining industry but end up becoming victims to human traffickers, some are sexually exploited, while others are forced to work in conditions akin to slavery…Today [July 30], I stand before you to say enough, to this grave human rights violation, we collectively as a society must say enough! no more to these heinous acts”

The minister noted that human trafficking is a callous industry that denies victims their basic rights and dignity, in order that the perpetrators can benefit financially from the exploitation of victims. It crosses cultures and communities and has no boundaries.

Therefore, Minister Ally emphasized, it is imperative for our society to be to be cognizant that this scourge is “not someone else’s problem, everyone has a responsibility to bring this practice to an end.”

She reiterated that the ministry stands with the victims. “I confidently stand here and say that you can count on this government to support you,” she assured.

Human Trafficking impedes health, economic growth, rule of law, women’s empowerment, lifetime prospects for youths and hinders the prospects for realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Minister Ally noted that for Guyana to be fully developed, the nation’s most valuable resources, the human resources, need to be protected and must be given the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential and contribute to nation building.

In 2015, the government reconvened meetings of the TIP Ministerial Task Force which is chaired by Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan. The task force was assigned with formulating an Action Plan for the period 2016-2017 to tackle Human Trafficking.

Over the last three years, the government increased collaboration with anti-trafficking non-governmental organizations by instituting procedures to refer victims to the shelters.  These efforts have been sustained with significant strides being made to employ additional personnel. Additionally, the ministry completed several awareness and training sessions in high-risk areas. Training sessions were also conducted with frontline officers and medical practitioners to build capacity in identifying possible instances of TIP. As a result, Guyana was reclassified as a ‘Tier 1’ country in the United States’ Department of State’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

At yesterday’s event, several booths provided information on human trafficking, whilst persons demonstrated various forms of the act.

Synieka Thorne

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