“Sometimes life presents an ‘ask’, rather a ‘question.’ Sometimes it’s an ask to help, or an ask to take a stand for what is right. And sometimes life brings you an opportunity to be a part of the change that is needed in the world. I was confronted with this ‘ask’ and presented with this ‘opportunity’ and I decided to say yes; I didn’t know how or what, but I knew I was willing. This is the first step to seeing change.” This is how Shae Invidiata, the founder of [free-them], sees her work in combatting the appalling crime of our times – human trafficking. Founded in 2010, [free-them] is dedicated to raising awareness and funds to abolish human trafficking in Canada and abroad by partnering with people, organizations, & businesses to fight this modern form of slavery.
In the wake of our upcoming Lioness VIP Birthday Bash fundraising in support of this incredible organization, we spoke with Ms. Invidiata about this important cause, about her work, and about what we all can do to end human trafficking once and for all.
I am sure many Canadians are surprised by the statistics of the home-grown human trafficking that is happening, literally, right next door. How come such a violation of basic human freedom still exists in the 21st century – even in the so-called developed world?
Human trafficking preys on society’s most vulnerable persons, and those that are most easily to silence, which is why 80% of those trafficked are women and children. For the trafficker, the exploiter, it is about money and power. Human trafficking will always exist if we as a society continue to demand it. Slavery is in the phone we use, the coffee we drink, the sugar we use, the chocolate we like, and the clothes we wear. It is time that society becomes aware that the cheap shirt we bought came at a high price of someone else's freedom.
Being abducted or sold into sex slavery may be one of the most well-known routes to human trafficking, but definitely not the only one. How do these young teenage girls end up being sex slaves?
There are many different ways a girl can end up being trafficked. One of the most common ways in Canada is for a girl to be preyed upon by an older male between the ages of 17-25 who approaches her in a friendly manner to eventually become her boyfriend. He will convince her that he loves her, would do anything for her and that he can give her the world. It won't be long before the tune changes and this girl gets told that she has a debt over her head that she needs to repay back, and if she refuses there are consequences. This girl becomes trapped into a life of sexual exploitation servicing 15-20 men a day.
Is there something in the way our society works or in the way our justice system operates that allows for human trafficking to grow and expand?
Governments that refuse to address the issue and implement legislation in essence are helping to fuel Human Trafficking. Countries need to crack down on corruption, corrupt law enforcement, implement awareness campaigns, educate citizens and also implement into the education curriculum to be taught in schools, governments need to establish budgets to fund and operate safe houses for victims, fund exit and rehabilitation programs for victims. When this is absence, Human trafficking has the ability to flourish.
Talk about founding [free-them]. What were the first steps of the organization? First initiatives?
The first step was creating the brand, spending time on the colour, the name, what is represents as it defines the core of who we are and what we stand for. From there, I established a passion team - I invited people who had a passion for justice, and a heart for standing up for those that are being silenced. From there we just started doing things, creating awareness campaigns on social media, hosting events, inviting the media out to our events, introducing ourselves to schools to try to be able to speak to the students, reaching out to our MPs, MPPs, and councilors. Little by little, things all started to happen, and then they started to snow ball.
At the core of [free-them] are four main freedom factors that you believe are necessary to abolish human trafficking. How do these factors translate into what [free-them] does?
Those freedom factors are our pillars and what we focus on. Our action efforts are focused on awareness and preventative measures, we work with all levels of government and law enforcement, and we provide funds to front line agencies that are working directly with victims of Human Trafficking.
How do you use your platform in the business realm (as a ReMax Sales Representative) to raise awareness about this cause?
I have established a good identity in the real estate community as the “realtor that fights Human Trafficking” we always have the opportunity to share what drives us.
I have spoken at REMAX, and they have done a video on me that was shared nationally to expose the injustice of Human Trafficking to realtors across Canada.
Every year, [free-them] organizes the Walk of Freedom. Can you share some achievements or outcomes of this event.
It’s an event that brings together more than 1000 people from all walks of life. We have done one for 5 years in Toronto and one in our nation’s capital of Ottawa. With dignitaries, politicians, law enforcement, notables, survivors and citizens that come together to walk 3KM to raise awareness and funds to fight Human Trafficking. Best to see, our past walk that took place in Toronto and Ottawa on the same day.
Fifth Annual [free-them] Freedom Walk Presented by The Fairmont Royal York
Laws are being passed, policies are being implemented. But what can ordinary citizens do to join the movement and fight the atrocious crime that is human trafficking?
Join us on social media - help us share the message. Post what we post. Educate yourself, our website has resources and so does google, read up on the issue so you know what you are talking about and start to understand the signs on how to identify victims of human trafficking. Come out to events, get plugged in and volunteer. And please please write your MP, MPP, and Councilor to ask them what their office is doing to fight Human Trafficking. Politicians will listen to you, but you need to ask them to listen to you first.
Any special plans for the future for [free-them]?
Yes, we have a lot of growth plans, join us for the journey and you we will a part of it.
If you were to make one change in the world, it would be…
End the demand to purchase children and sex.
Posted on November 23, 2016 in Lioness Portraits by Lioness Woman`s Club