Nobel Peace Prize winner champions justice for modern slavery survivors

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad served as keynote speaker at the “Forum on Modern Slavery: 21st Century Solutions,” held at Seton Hall University on Sept. 27. The full-day event, which was sponsored by the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, the university, the International Justice Project and the Slave-Free Community Project, was attended by almost 400 people. 

Murad, who was taken captive by Islamic State fighters, sold and forced into a life of sexual servitude before escaping, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for her efforts in ending the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and conflict. Murad has worked tirelessly to provide greater visibility into wartime sexual violence and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. She spoke about what justice means for survivors, which includes rebuilding the lives of victims, and ensuring that survivors are not re-exploited during their healing journey. At the forum, Seton Hall University also conferred Murad with an honorary doctorate during an official ceremony.

The forum also included five plenary presentations to impart a well-rounded perspective of current challenges and contemporary solutions related to anti-slavery efforts. Representatives from various organizations, including Kelly Gleason, data science lead at the United Nations University-Centre for Policy Research, discussed UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, which seeks the eradication of modern slavery. NJCAHT President Danny Papa, along with educators and representatives from UNITAS, explored how administrators, teachers and students can work together to educate students about modern slavery and prevent them from becoming victims.

Anti-slavery journalists and filmmakers, including Leif Coorlim, executive editor of The CNN Freedom Project, discussed the challenges and opportunities related to impact journalism in video format, which involves creating short films that reveal the nature and effects of modern slavery to inspire the viewer into action. A panel comprising Tonya Tucker, education and training director at UNITAS; Gina Cavallo, NJCAHT survivor consultant; and Megan Cutter, associate director of the National Human Trafficking Hotline, discussed the nature, extent and causes of modern slavery in the United States, and the challenges encountered in eradicating it.

The final plenary presentation addressed the intersection of modern slavery and armed conflict. Panelists, including Elise Groulx Diggs, an international human rights lawyer with extensive experience in human trafficking matters, discussed the resurgence of enslavement that results from conflict, including soldiers, prisoners, forced laborers and sex slaves. These incidents are on the rise, and directly correlate to Murad’s experience in captivity.

According to Bob Boneberg, chairman of NJCAHT’s Slave-Free Commerce Committee, “The forum brought together experts from different fields and a diverse audience, so that, as abolitionists, we can understand modern slavery more fully and work to eradicate it.” 

Photos Courtesy of NJCAHT