Submitted by Sr Paula, fcJ, of the Salta community, to mark 30th July – World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
Salta is a Province which is both source and also destination of victims of human trafficking. In northern Salta many large market gardens keep workers under slave-like conditions. In the towns and cities, many youth and young women are seduced by job offers and find themselves trapped in the trafficking for prostitution networks. The situation is similar in the whole of northern Argentina, and the reason for the urgent need to respond and to work in the area of prevention.
In August of 2014, the first National Encounter of Red Kawsay, an anti-trafficking network started by religious in Argentina, was held in Buenos Aires. Paula fcJ, who had arrived in Salta the previous month, was invited to attend and represent the Religious of Salta! Upon her return, and accompanied by a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, she began to visit high schools and technical institutions and to share with them the material about human trafficking that she had acquired during the National Encounter. The first public event of the newly formed Kawsay team in Salta was a concert (live folk music interspersed with information about trafficking) which was held in the beautiful patio of the Diocesan Offices. (The photo above shows l to r: Paula fcJ, Remedios FMM, the archbishop of Salta Mario A. Cargnello, and Mily, Focolare).
In 2015 Paula was invited to give two workshops during the annual assembly of the Conference of Religious of Argentina (CONFAR). From this event she was able to get a sense of the interest of religious women and men in the formation of work teams to combat human slavery. One of the participants, Ester Robles, a Sister of the Holy Spirit, became a principal actor in the development of the Kawsay network in Argentina, and is now the national Kawsay coordinator. Each year, during the annual assembly of CONFAR, the Kawsay network is given time for input. In this way interest and commitment continued to grow among Religious in northwest Argentina.
Our presence at the National Eucharistic Congress in Tucuman gave rise to the formation of our first group on the border between Argentina and Bolivia. This group, animated by lay women, has been one of the most active – in spite of the dangers involved. In October 2016 Ester and Paula led a formation workshop for them, and have been able to visit and continue to animate their valuable work since then.
Shortly after the formation of the group in Oran in the north of Salta, Paula and Ester led a formation workshop in Jujuy (a neighbouring Province to Salta), and this group in turn were responsible for the formation of a new group in Tucuman (a Province to the south), which in turn, and after some experience of preventative work in their city, shared their knowledge and experience with interested persons in Santiago del Estero (south-centre). In this way the Kawsay network expanded to all but one of the Provinces which constitute north-west Argentina.
Annual organizational meetings with representatives of each team were held to do joint planning and mutual animation, each rep. giving an account of their group’s activities during the year. Eventually a Coordinating Committee was formed to do regional planning.
In the meantime every team, using a great variety of methods, found ways to alert and educate citizens – especially the youth- about the dangers of human trafficking and the seductive methods used by traffickers to attract and trap new victims. For a time Paula and her team collaborated with a Commission of the Bishops Conference to paint murals in public places in the city and also further north along the border, and then to animate a logo and video competition in local secondary schools. Other teams focused their efforts on bi-weekly talk shows on radio, interviews on TV, and hand-outs in plazas, while yet other teams made the effort to be present (with leaflets about human trafficking) in local religious fiestas. A constant among all the groups was the giving of workshops especially to youth.
It wasn’t long before an interested group in the Province of La Rioja asked for a formation workshop. Members of the Jujuy team travelled over 10 hours southeast to help extend the network to this area.
In September of 2019 the Kawsay teams of Jujuy and Salta collaborated with the team from Oran (a border city) to sponsor a very successful public event focusing on Human Trafficking and Child Abuse. Ester and Paula made several trips to Oran during the organizational process. Previous to this event, Paula was privileged to address a large group of Religious in the Province of Chaco – 11 hours bus journey from Salta. The result of this workshop was the formation of a team in a zone where the long-distance truckers pick up young girls at their night time stops.
More recently, Paula and Sara (an FMM Sister) were instrumental in the formation of an anti-trafficking team in Santa Fe (mid-Argentina).
The last meeting of the NW Argentina Coordinating team took place in early January 2020 in Salta, with Paula organizing the logistical aspects.
Unfortunately the COVID-19 quarantine hijacked our plans for activities in Salta. It is even more unfortunate that human traffickers continue to seek new victims. Just this week in Salta, seven women were rescued from different houses in the city.
Thanks to generous donations from the FCJ Society and the Sisters of St. Louis, each of the Kawsay teams has been able to count on enough resources to do effective work in their respective areas. These donations have also enabled regional coordination.
We appeal to Saint Bakhita – our patron saint in the effort to do away with this most horrendous crime. She herself, a Kenyan citizen, was captured as a young girl and sold into slavery. Without a doubt, the expansion of anti-trafficking networks throughout the world is largely due to her intercession.