By Sharon Bleviss
On March 30th, 2014, Congregation B’nai Emunah, a member of the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking (SFCAHT), hosted an important screening of the film, “Not My Life”, followed by a discussion of human trafficking. The event was cosponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women SF/The Jewish Coalition to End Human Trafficking and the US Fund for Unicef. Following the dramatic film, a panel of speakers including Unicef Global Citizenship Fellow Helen Cawai Liang, Antonia Balkanska Lavine, president of NCJW/SF, also a member of SFCAHT,and Federal Administrative Judge Marianna Warmee, fielded questions from the engrossed audience.
Not My Life is the first film to depict the cruel and dehumanizing practices of human trafficking and modern slavery on a global scale. Filmed on five continents, in a dozen countries, Not My Life takes viewers into a world where millions of children are exploited, every day, through an astonishing array of practices including forced labor, domestic servitude, begging, sex tourism, sexual violence, and child soldiering. “Human traffickers are earning billions of dollars on the backs and in the beds of our children,” says the film’s director, Academy Award nominee, Robert Bilheimer, “and yet no one knows this is happening.” We have a huge responsibility, right now, to learn the truth and act on it. Challenging though it may be, Not My Life’s message is ultimately one of hope. Victims of slavery can be set free and go on to live happy and productive lives. Those who advocate for slavery victims are growing in numbers, and are increasingly effective. At this crossroads for the defining human rights issue of our time, Not My Life tells us, as the late Jonathan Mann said, “We can no longer flee, no longer hide, no longer separate ourselves.”
As a founding organization of the Jewish Coalition to End Human Trafficking, NCJW-SF members have been instrumental in bringing the issue of trafficking to the forefront of our community’s thoughts and actions. The Coalition is an educational, advocacy organization that also supports direct service providers in the area of anti-trafficking work.
The speakers advocated bringing the issue of human trafficking in the Bay Area to people’s attention and to consider assisting in the NCJW SF Center for Women and Girls Mentoring Program for Young Women and Girls. The program urges volunteers to become mentors for young women who may be vulnerable to human trafficking or other victimization. Mentors offer guidance, share fun experiences, and act as a positive role model while helping to prevent future trafficking.
Please watch the trailer here.