At least 250 women from 30 US states gathered in Washington Tuesday, moving from office to office of members of Congress and lobbying them to do more to fight child trafficking and high mortality of children and mothers.
The group, Women of Vision, which is part of US World Vision, wants to see the passage of bills on both issues in the Senate.
“We need women from individual constituencies to lobby their representatives to additionally support the bills,” said Haidy Ear-Dupuy, communications manager for World Vision in Cambodia.
Group members had brief meetings with congressional staff members, informing them on the issue of trafficking, including in Cambodia, where many parents fall prey to traffickers in desperate attempts to escape poverty. Cambodia remains on a US watch list of countries that should be doing more to combat the crime.
“When [the children] migrate to other countries and to Phnom Penh, they don’t have clear information, and they don’t have legal documentation,” Ear-Dupuy told VOA Khmer. “When problems happen, they don’t know who that can contact, so they can fall into human trafficking: a girl will be sent to work in a brothel and a man will be sent into forced labor on a boat.”
US officials estimate a total of 1 million children are trafficked every year into the global sex trade, while 1.2 million are trafficked into child labor. Meanwhile, 24,000 children die every day due to preventable diseases like diarrhea, measles and malaria.
Women from the group walked door to door on Capitol Hill, but none was able to meet any congressmen, though at some offices, staffers took notes and promised to pass them on.
The women want support for The Child Protection Compact Act and the Newborn, Child and Mother Survival Act.
“If the senators get on board and become a co-sponsors, we will get these bills passed,” said Terresa Bulger, a resident of Virginia and a member of Women of Vision, which is part of World Vision.
The US would then be a leader on the issues and help other countries draft similar laws and regulations, she said, urging more people to contact their representatives. Child victims do not know how to protest against the abuses, she said.
Cassandra McDonald, a resident of Ohio, said aid agencies and other organizations needed to step up on the issue and women and girls need to be wary.
“Evil is everywhere,” she said. “It may not be as pronounced [in all places], but it’s everywhere, and we need to address it.”