Did you know one week ago, on January 11, was Human Trafficking Awareness Day? Or that a 2010 White House release marked January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month? In the realm of yogactivism, Yoga Freedom Project is leading the way in an effort to raise more awareness about sex trafficking and raise money to help stop it.
We spoke with co-founder Heather Snyder and asked her about the mission of Yoga Freedom Project, the connection between yoga and activism and the yogi’s role in helping to stop sex trafficking. Read on for details about this year’s Practice for Freedom event January 27th, to raise money for The Somaly Mam Foundation, GEMS, and Transitions Global, organizations offering sustainable and holistic aftercare to trafficking survivors in Cambodia and NYC.
What is Yoga Freedom Project? When and how did it get started?
The Yoga Freedom Project mission is to unite, educate and mobilize the global yoga community around the issues of injustice and violence
against women and children, and to support and create programs of empowerment, education and healing for survivors of sexual trauma.
Yoga Freedom Project began as a collaboration with the Somaly Mam Foundation as a campaign to unite the yoga community around the issue
of sex trafficking. It started out as just a small idea back in the Spring of 2011 and has since turned into a much larger movement. For me, it traces back to when I read Somaly Mam‘s book 3 years ago. After reading the words of this courageous, inspiring woman and hearing what she went through and the work she is doing to rescue and empower trafficking victims, I knew I had to get involved. I asked my Off The Mat NYC community if they wanted to get involved and with a big YES, we created this global campaign in the yoga community to raise awareness about the horrific reality of sex trafficking and funds to help eradicate it. We raised $25,ooo for The Somaly Mam Foundation last year and we are doing the whole campaign again this month raising funds for three organizations we strongly believe in – The Somaly Mam Foundation, GEMS, and Transitions Global,
Do you think there is a connection between yoga and activism?
I do think there is a big connection between yoga and activism. Yoga teaches us that we are all one. There is no separation. In the yoga sutra, we learn about doing no harm unto others or yourself. If we are all one and there is suffering in the world then our friends need our help. If we don’t help in some way, are we then contributing to the suffering? We are certainly not doing anything to help it by sitting around ignoring it. However, I don’t think activism has to be big or fancy or obvious. Conscious activism can be lending a hand to a friend in need, raising your children mindfully, or simply being there to listen to someone. The big and the small all make a difference. I think yoga reminds us of who we truly are at our core. I believe we
are all compassionate and good deep inside and want to help ease human suffering. Yoga just brings that out a bit more.
For those unaware of sex trafficking in the world, what are a few facts everyone should know?
A few facts to know about sex trafficking are these:
– In the 21st century more people are enslaved than at any other time in history. Some put the number at as high as 27 million.
– Sex trafficking is one of the three largest criminal industries, following just behind arms and drugs. The market value of sex trafficking is $32 billion.
– Conservatively, it’s estimated that 3 million women and children are enslaved for sex right now. Each is likely between the age of 12 and 14.
– Young children are often sold into slavery by their own parents. In desperation, due to extreme poverty, parents feel they have no other choice.
What do you think is yoga’s role in helping to stop sex trafficking?
I think yoga’s role in stopping sex trafficking is more about the yogi who wants to make a difference. Yogis are a generally compassionate group of people. If people tapped into their compassion, learned about this issue and decided to do something about it, I think we could put a lot of support behind changing laws, putting pressure on countries where this is accepted, and putting funds towards the organizations on the front lines.
What do you hope to accomplish with Practice for Freedom event?
With Practice for Freedom, we hope to educate people about the realities of trafficking, unite the NYC yoga community around an important cause, and raise significant funds for The Somaly Mam Foundation, Transitions Global, and GEMS. All of the organizations we are supporting this year provide education, safe housing and healing services to trafficking survivors.
What are your plans for Yoga Freedom Project for the coming year and how can people get involved?
In the coming year, I hope to expand Yoga Freedom Project and see what other organizations we would like to get involved it. I would also
like to expand our program offering yoga to trafficking and sexual abuse survivors. People can get involved by signing up on our website or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yoga Freedom Project: Practice for Freedom
When: Sunday, January 27, 2013 from 5 PM to 9 PM (ET)
Where: Dharma Yoga Center, 61 West 23rd Street between 5th and 6th aves
What: This global initiative will culminate in the inspirational Practice for Freedom led by Colleen Saidman Yee, Kelly Morris, Sri Dhamra Mittra, Alan Finger, Tricia Donegan, Kay Kay Clivio, Douglass Stewart and Kim Jeblick. Tickets are $50.
Sign up here.
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Ironic, deceptive, and tragically sad, that a campaign against the freedom of choice for women in the sex industry would call itself “Practice For Freedom.”
The sex industry in incredibly complex, and while the term “sex trafficking” includes situations with non-consenting parties, it is often erroneously used against empowered adult women working in the industry. Unless organizations and regulations are set defining legit adult sex work vs. enslaved adult and child sex work, they should not receive our support.
And you think “changing laws” will help?!? Sure, let’s put more trust into the hands of corrupt global judicial systems, more power into the violent hands of police forces, and more money into the Prison Industrial Complex. This reminds me of California Proposition 35 in 2012… Ugh.
Human Trafficking = Slavery = BAD
Child Sex Trafficking = Slavery and Rape = BAD
Adult Sex “Trafficking” that’s not truly trafficking = ACCEPTABLE