by ROWENA OREJANA
With 36 million people enslaved in the world today, a New Zealand inter-congregational group is
raising awareness and advocating against human trafficking in New Zealand and internationally.
Sister Gemma Wilson, SM, founded Aotearoa New Zealand Against Trafficking in Humans (ANZRATH)
in 2012, with the idea of partnering with international groups, concerned about the 36 million people enslaved around the world.
“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” she told NZ Catholic before Christmas, speaking about ANZRATH.
“We are aware that we are one of many, many organisations on the national and international level, and so we see the importance of networking,” she said.
Sr Gemma said that based on the figures from the Global Slavery Index 2014, a flagship report of
the Walk Free Foundation, there was a 20 per cent rise in slavery compared with the previous year’s
One of the biggest aims of the group is raising awareness. Their new website is up. The group is also preparing resources on trafficking.
“In the future, we’ll possibly do more. But there are small things we do: writing a letter, signing
a petition and educating ourselves,” she said.
Sr Gemma said there are a number of trafficking issues in New Zealand.
These include the exploitation of migrant workers, as well as forced marriages.
Another alarming issue, she said, is the existence of about 7000 active websites that show children being abused violently and sexually, based on ECPAT Child Alert figures. ECPAT Child Alert is an international organisation that works to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.
“They say these websites have about 50,000 hits from New Zealand. These children are not in New Zealand, but their exploitation is being fed by New Zealanders,” she said.
ANZRATH has cooperated with ECPAT Child Alert in fundraising for a survey to look at public awareness.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to showing migrant workers are still being abused, Sr Gemma noted.
“We are looking at awareness-raising in secondary Catholic schools and, hopefully, to see a bigger media splash,” she said. “We’ve made such approaches [to media], but we’re not sure if they are going to be taken up, or how.”
Forced marriages are also becoming a big issue. “We’d like to see what we can do to help [prevent those],” she added.
ANZRATH members include Mercy Sisters, Josephites, a Sister of the Sacred Heart, a Marist Sister, a Marist Missionary Sister, Good Shepherd Sisters, a Marist Brother, a Franciscan and two laywomen.
Sr Teresa Donworth, RGS, said joining the group gave her a lot of ongoing learning about human
trafficking. “There’s something about belonging to this. There is a rippling effect,” she said.