In honor of Women’s History Month, LifeWay Network would like to recognize a few of the many women who have made a difference in the fight against trafficking and their commitment to justice and human rights. The New Abolitionists Campaign highlights the following women and other activists like them, who are “dedicated to the protection and empowerment of trafficked people.”
Image credit: https://lifewaynetwork.org/founder/
Sister Joan Dawber, the founder of LifeWay Network, established LifeWay because she saw the need in our community for safe housing for women survivors of trafficking, in coordination with community education and raising awareness on the issue of human trafficking. As a leader in the anti-trafficking field, Sister Dawber expresses that her work “is not something I do; this is God’s work.”1 Her commitment and attitude toward her work at LifeWay and at the other anti-trafficking groups that she has served (the Coalition of Religious Congregations to Stop Trafficking of Persons, the Sisters of Charity Global Concerns Resource Team and the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking) have paved the path forward for LifeWay’s remarkable programming for women survivors of trafficking.
Image credit: https://www.thenewabolitionists.com/abolitionists/hc9fd6170#hc9fd6170
Carmen, a survivor of sex trafficking, was kidnapped at fourteen years old in Mexico and pimped in New York State for five years before escaping with the help of Good Samaritans. Carmen then bravely assisted in the investigation leading to her trafficker’s arrest and conviction. She is an inspiration for survivors of sex trafficking in their fight for freedom.
“When I was forced into prostitution, I did not know what ’trafficking’ was. My trafficker stole my childhood. I want to make sure that no girl ever again suffers what I went through. I hope someday that I can show my face without fear for my safety or my family’s, but until then I will speak out until I have no voice left.”2
© The New Abolitionists
Marion Kendall, LifeWay’s chief executive officer since 2019, has supported survivors through her commitment to their healing as a clinician and social worker. Under her leadership at LifeWay, the organization operates with the constant understanding that widespread education of the general public is the power the larger community needs to combat human trafficking. And the individual attention and care that LifeWay’s safe houses provide to human trafficking survivors is not only necessary but also essential to empowering women to be able to one day live on their own and support themselves. As the only organization in New York to provide safe housing to domestic and foreign-born human trafficking survivors, LifeWay has a 100 percent success rate, since the women who come to our safe houses have the tools they need to support themselves and the reassurance that LifeWay will always be there for them. Marion was recently recognized as a co-chair of the New York State Anti-Trafficking task force, where she continues to advocate for systematic change.
“I work from a philosophy of leadership that emphasizes equity, transparency, authenticity and a clear, unwavering commitment to enhancing social justice and inclusion within the spheres in which survivors of human trafficking live, work and serve.”3
© The New Abolitionists
Image credit: https://www.thenewabolitionists.com/abolitionists/hc9ef2937#hc9ef2937
As the first woman to serve as Queens County District Attorney, Melinda Katz has nearly 30 years of public service. She formerly served in the New York City Council, New York State Assembly and as Queens Borough President, where she has authored legislation and launched initiatives to protect New York’s most vulnerable by aggressively pursuing and prosecuting human traffickers, child abusers and those who prey on the elderly.4 District Attorney Katz will serve as the honoree for LifeWay Network’s annual Event Towards New Life in 2023.
“Government should be, at its core, the struggle for freedom for all people — freedom from economic chains, from oppression, to control one’s own body and from enslavement. Together, we must pave the way.”5
By Josephine Crisostomo
1 “Sister Joan Dawber Featured in Podcast,” March 1, 2021