On October 8, I was given the opportunity by the all girls theater company I’m a member of, The Arts Affect, to perform a play called A Day in the Life at the National Summit on Human Trafficking and State Courts in New York. This play reveals the truth about sex-trafficking and the impact of “pimp and ho” culture on lives of girls.
I was able to use my own power as a 16 year old girl to educate chief justices and court administrators from all around the country on the effects of human trafficking.
Before we went on stage, our acting teachers told us that nobody in the audience wanted us to perform our play. They didn’t want to listen to what 15 teenage girls had to say about human trafficking. This did nothing but boost our motivation. We wanted to be heard. We wanted to take these justices out of the suffocating mindset of law and show them what it means to be trafficked from our perspective.
If a whole bunch of white rich men are going to be in charge of dealing with these cases, they need to be fairly educated on the reality of trafficking from a women’s perspective and not just what lies in the system of law.
We went on stage and performed for these leaders. It felt powerful to be the one standing on stage, looking out at these people of such power and educating them on such an intense topic. Part of the play focuses on the fact that these girls are tricked into selling themselves. Here are a few lines from our play:
“He promised he’d take care of me – he said he’s be my man, my boyfriend, my protector…my daddy. I was 12. I was 14. I was 13 years old. I needed him. I believed him. I loved him. Who else did I have? So I was scared to leave him when he put me on the street.”
Girls who are incredibly young are being used and taken advantage of every day. Who better to go to than the ones creating and ruling on laws and controlling what happens to these girls?
These judges hear so much about human trafficking, but rarely do they ever hear real, raw examples of how these girls truly feel. This is what I think really got to them.
When we finished our performance, the men and few women in the room seemed genuinely impressed and moved. They all stood up and clapped for us, giving me the feeling that maybe we had actually made an impact.
Many of them came up to us afterwards asking if we would come to their states and perform. It was such an incredible feeling to know that we spoke powerfully to the people who make important decisions regarding human trafficking and were honest and straight up with how the system unfairly treats young girls.
There is way too much blame placed on these innocent girls that are being forced into these situations. To give a new perspective to these people in such power was an amazing feeling.
A few weeks ago, my high school feminism class watched Malala’s speech at the United Nations addressing the importance of education. The thing that struck me the most was when Malala said that she “does not even hate the Talib who shot [her], even if there was a gun in [her] hand, and he stood in front of [her], [she] would not shoot him.” Rather than feeling anger towards the Talib, she turned that feeling into hope. What she wants more than revenge is education for the Talib children.
Listening to Malala speak about education made me connect her story to a movie I watched for class called I Am a Girl.
This film “follows the lives of six different girls who differ by origin, economics, ethnicity and access to education. As they inch closer to adolescence they define what it means to be a girl in the 21st century.”
The story that stuck out to me was that of a 16 year old sex-worker in Cambodia. It was painful to watch the way she was treated by her husband. The man that paid her $300 to take her virginity didn’t know any better.
That is where the pressing need for education comes in. I wish there was a way we, as high school students could effect legislative change that would create the education that is needed for moving our country and our world forward!
Education is such a crucial thing in our society, and ultimately the lack of it is what leads to the ignorance and gender-based violence we see all around the world. I want to be a part of making a change and a difference in young girls’ lives.