A trafficking survivor says she wants to scream out for all survivors: “We need jobs, not pity!”
Evelyn Chumbow is an anti-trafficking survivor activist and member of the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. She became a victim of labor trafficking at 9-years-old, brought from Cameroon to the United States, and abused as a domestic servant. She has been an advocate for 11 years She says: “While shocking stories of abuse and terror haunt us into caring about this issue, there is a persistent lack of understanding about what happens beyond a happy ending moment when someone escapes their trafficker. While I don’t want to diminish the need for addressing the issues that enable traffickers, we must also strive to empower victims who are desperately trying to make the overwhelming shift to survivor, as well as survivors who need and deserve to be recognized for more than his or her story.”
She is hopeful that she can help foster understanding in her new position. Last month, President Obama appointed her to the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. That council is responsible for reviewing and recommending policy and programs on human trafficking, reporting to senior administration and agency officials, and submitting a report to the President’s Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. It is made up of a diverse few of survivor advocates, yet each has their own priorities.
Surviving and thriving
Mandated last year when the Survivors of Human Trafficking Empowerment Act passed, the council itself is a victory for the trafficking community, which has fought for many years to have a leadership role as the United States and its government work to understand and address policy gaps that allow human trafficking to exist, as well as those that prevent trafficking survivors from receiving the life-saving services and support they need to truly recover and thrive in the United States. I have faced many challenges as a survivor, including health and financial challenges, and overcoming the fact that I spent nine years with no access to any kind of education.
She recently got her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland University College. It was made possible by a scholarship from the ICE Foundation’s Granting Courage Initiative. As a trafficking survivor, she thinks it would be wonderful if more companies developed programs to help. “I am thriving, yes, but so many others are not.”
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