Left to right: Sisters Reg McKillip, OP; Dubuque Presentation Sister Marilou Irons, PBVM; and Mary Lechtenberg, OSF.
For the past several years, members of the Tri-state Coalition Against Human Trafficking joined both the Dubuque City Council and the County Board of Supervisors early in the new year in proclaiming January as National Prevention of Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking Month.
This year Sister Marilou Irons privilege to receive the proclamation and address each group thanking them for their continued support and appreciation of the coalition’s local efforts to educate residents about human trafficking (labor, commercial sex and organ harvesting) and to advocate for survivors and victims.
The coalition’s task is difficult but possible due to partnerships and collaboration among civic and religious groups, law enforcement, nonprofits and volunteers. Based on demand and supply, human trafficking is a local, national and global public health issue that all are called to learn more about and take action to end all forms of trafficking.
The Tri-state Coalition Against Human Trafficking’s early roots are grounded in a March, 2014 meeting of five Dubuque area women religious who gathered to learn what human trafficking was, who was affected and how might they organize to eliminate it. With a majority of founding women being educators, they quickly organized to self-educate and dialogue with others to advance their goals. In recent past years, other dedicate men and women have joined the sisters in their endeavors.
Over the years due to the energy and talents of the group, the following projects have been part of the coalition’s strategies to educate and advocate for survivors:
- Train hotel/motel employees and managers to recognize and respond to traffickers. 70% of sex trafficking occurs in these businesses.
- Continual City of Dubuque bus drive training couples with purchasing a bus wrap advertising the end of selling youth for sex.
- Presence at local events: Juneteenth, Farmers Market, Dubuque County Fair booth, SK Run the Runway.
- Participate in the Secretary of State’s initiative entitled Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking (I-BAT).
- Letter writing to elected officials pertaining to laws that re-victimize and traumatized survivors.
- Attend state and national conferences for networking and updates.
“All these plans and projects require dedicated people who remain focused on raising awareness about this modern-day evil. I feel so blessed to collaborate with members of the Tristate Coalition as they spur me on to continue this work,” states Sister Marilou Irons. “These good hearted, hardworking coalition members keep me going when I feel we are battling an ever-shifting, invisible monster. Their creative ideas and wisdom keep us moving forward as we know this crime of trafficking affects millions of young people in the US and worldwide.”