OCEANSIDE — The 22nd annual San Diego Candlelight Walk for Human Rights, hosted by the North County Chapter of Amnesty International, will take place at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the outdoor amphitheater and Oceanside pier.
This year’s theme, Stop Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, will give the participants an opportunity to learn that an estimated 27 million people globally have been lured and forced into a life they didn’t choose — sold into prostitution and the sex trade, locked up in sweatshops, forced to work for little or no pay. They are victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. The greatest majority are women and girls.
The event is free to the public. A brief reception with refreshments, materials and live music will be followed by a program of speakers committed to end slavery and commercial exploitation locally and internationally.
Kimberly Hunt, 10 News anchorwoman, works on and off camera to combat local sex trafficking. In an undercover investigation in May of 2009, in one night Hunt discovered 1,000 Internet ad postings for sex with young girls in the Mission Valley area alone. San Diego is an ideal place for traffickers because it’s a large metropolitan city with paying customers and a lot of runaways. On any given night, there are about 2,500 reported runaway children in San Diego and all of them are vulnerable to being kidnapped and coerced into forced prostitution. The FBI has identified San Diego as a key target for the importation of trafficked children and has labeled San Diego as a High Intensity Child Prostitution Area.
Janis Olson is the executive director of Nepal Youth Foundation, a U.S. based, nonprofit organization devoted to bringing hope to the most destitute children in Nepal. Now in its 20th year, the NYF provides a multitude of programs by leveraging the wealth of developed countries to help the children. Olson will address one of the primary issues they focus on, the selling into servitude of girls, some as young as 6 years old. In parts of Nepal, many indigenous families subsist as farm laborers. Unable to make ends meet, families have been forced to sell their daughters to work as indentured servants in far-away cities, slaving from dawn to late night. For their work, the fathers receive an average of $50 a year. Working in the communities, the NYF provides humane alternatives to this practice, and estimates they have liberated 10,000 girls from bonded labor since their founding.
An educational update on the San Diego County Human Trafficking Task Force and the North County Regional Human Trafficking and Prostitution Task Force, provided by the Sheriff’s Vista Station Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving Unit, or C.O.P.P.S., was awarded a three-year federal grant for the investigation of Prostitution and Human Trafficking.
The North County Chapter’s 2010 Digna Ochoa Human Rights Defender Award will be presented to Soroptimist International of Vista. The Soroptimists established the North County Anti-Human Trafficking Collaborative in 2007 to raise awareness and educate the local communities about the horrible crimes of slavery and human trafficking. SIV can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Designed as an evening of hope and inspiration, the event will culminate with the symbolic Candlelight “Freedom Walk” along the Oceanside Pier. Participants will be invited to walk in the names of the victims and take up the cause of individuals who need a voice and action to prevent future occurrences. The event is rain or shine — everyone is reminded to dress warmly.