Human trafficking conference goes virtual, expands reach

· 6 min read

Human trafficking conference goes virtual, expands reach


A shift to a virtual experience is expanding the reach of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s 12th annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Human Trafficking.

The conference, which opens Oct. 1 and continues through the month, is inspired by the human trafficking work of Sriyani Tidball, a retired assistant professor of practice in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Sriyani Tidball

Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the conference is being offered free online and can be attended at any time. The virtual experience has also allowed conference organizers to expand the number of presenters and tap into a broader range of experiences. The lineup includes two movie screenings and 12 talks by 14 human trafficking experts from around the world.

“Moving the conference to a virtual experience has created a tremendous opportunity for anyone interested in learning more about modern human trafficking,” Tidball said. “I’m always so impressed with the quality of abstracts and presentations that make it into the conference every year. But this year we’ve raised the bar, offering presentations by leading researchers and showing two incredible film screenings.”

Speakers include Tidball; six members of The Rights Lab, the world’s leading research center on modern slavery; Congresswoman Debra Anne Haaland (D-New Mexico); and other leading researchers and reformers.

All presentations will be available on the conference website. Topics to be covered include human trafficking (including women and children), modern slavery, forced marriage, sex trafficking, missing and murdered indigenous women, impact of the fashion industry, and movements to end slavery/trafficking around the world.

The conference opens Oct. 1 with a welcome from Chancellor Ronnie Green, followed by an Oct. 2 keynote address by Kevin Bales, research director of The Rights Lab at Nottingham University. Bales, a professor of contemporary slavery and author of numerous books on the subject, will discuss “The Global Anti-Slavery Movement Today.”

Tidball’s presentation is Oct. 9 and will highlight her work gathering and sharing stories of impoverished women in Sri Lanka who have been exploited in the Middle East.

A native of Sri Lanka, Tidball has worked to combat human trafficking globally and locally. She has also worked with the poor in Sri Lanka for decades, including help with relief and restoration after a tsunami in 2004.

The conference will also host Haaland on Oct. 21 for a talk on missing, murdered and exploited indigenous women and children. Haaland is the first Native American woman to earn a seat in the U.S. Congress.

Film features during the event include screenings of “The Price is Free” and “Sisters Rising.”

The Price of Free - Official Trailer
Trailer: "The Price of Free"

“The Price is Free” will be available from Oct. 13-31 and includes a follow-up interview with Heriselda Begaj-Viotti, an impact producer with Participant Media.

The documentary is about Nobel Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi and his journey from being an electrical engineering to founder of Save The Children Movement, an organization dedicated to rescuing children from slavery.

“Sisters Rising” will show Oct. 22-24 and include an informal discussion. The documentary follows the story of six Native women fighting to restore personal and tribal sovereignty in the face of ongoing sexual violence against indigenous women across the United States.

Sisters Rising - Trailer (BSDFF 2020)
Trailer: "Sisters Rising"

The conference closes Oct. 30 with a look ahead at the field of human trafficking. It will be led by Nebraska’s Courtney Hillebrecht, associate professor of political science and director of the Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.

The conference is a collaboration between the university’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications, Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor, Office for Research and Economic Development, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, College of Law, Native American studies and the Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Additional support is provided from the Lincoln Community Foundation.

The conference schedule is below. Learn more here.

2020 Human Trafficking and Migration Initiative, Oct. 1-30

  • Oct. 1: Welcome to the virtual summit, Chancellor Ronnie Green
  • Oct. 2: Keynote address — “The Global Anti-Slavery Movement Today,” Kevin Bales, research director, The Rights Lab, Nottingham University
  • Oct. 5: Talk — “Contextualizing the Role of Women in Child Trafficking: Haiti and the Restavèk System,” Fiona de Hoog Cius, researcher, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Oct. 9: Talk — “Sharing True Untold Stories of Impoverished Sri Lankan Women Who have been Exploited in the Middle East,” Sriyani Tidball, professor emeritus of journalism and mass communications, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Oct. 13-31: Film — Screening of “The Price of Free” followed by an interview with Heriselda Begaj-Viotti, impact producer with Participant Media, and Nebraska’s Julia Reilly, assistant professor of practice for human rights and humanitarian affairs and global integrative studies
  • Oct. 15: Talk — “Slavery and Forced Marriage in the Law: Mapping Global Perspectives and Challenges,” Katarina Schwarz, assistant professor of anti-slavery law and policy, The Rights Lab, Nottingham University; and Helen McCabe, assistant professor of political theory, The Rights Lab, Nottingham University
  • Oct. 16: Talk — “10th Year of the Butterfly Longitudinal Research Project of Survivors of Sex Trafficking in Cambodia: Lessons Learned,” Helen Sworn, executive director and founder of Chab Dai; and Glenn Miles, research associate, Oxford Centre for Mission Studies
  • Oct. 17: Talk — “Modern Slavery in the Anthropocene,” Jess Sparks, assistant professor of anti-slavery ecosystems, The Rights Lab, Nottingham University
  • Oct. 19: Talk — “What is Freedom? Definitions from Across the Anti-trafficking Field,” Juliana Semione, communities and societal research associate, The Rights Lab, Nottingham University
  • Oct. 21: Talk — “The Challenges of Resolving Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and the Trafficking of Native Women and Children,” Rep. Debra Anne Haaland (D-New Mexico), first Native U.S. congresswoman
  • Oct.22-24: Film — Screening of “Sisters Rising,” followed by an informal discussion
  • Oct. 25: Talk — “Technology and Trafficking,” Bethany Jackson, The Rights Lab, Nottingham University
  • Oct. 26: Talk — “A Global Perspective of the Anti-Trafficking Conversation,” E. Benjamin Skinner, founder and president of Transparentem
  • Oct. 28: Talk — “Responsibility and Accountability in Fashion,” Ajai Vir Singh, author and founder of the Responsible Fashion Movement
  • Oct. 30: Closing talk — “Wrap Up of the Virtual Summit — What is Next?” Courtney Hillebrecht, associate professor of political science, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, director of the Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs

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