Women's Chamber Ensemble works to raise awareness for human trafficking
This year, members of the MSU’s Women’s Chamber Ensemble wanted to incorporate themes of social justice into their work.
With the issue of human trafficking in mind, the ensemble worked throughout the year to develop a personal relationship with the cause.
The ensemble came together Tuesday night with several guest speakers to raise awareness of the human trafficking issue, creating an inspiring mix of social justice and vocal expression.
“Merging the social work and musical fields together to create this was a really unique process,” Elizabeth Hermanson, a graduate assistant with the ensemble who helped organize the musical portion of the event, said.
Hermanson said many groups often will do a one-time event to raise money, but the ensemble wanted to go beyond that.
“Throughout the whole year we’ve been doing different challenges,” she said. “Like follow a human trafficking group on Twitter or Facebook, or volunteer at a local women’s shelter that helps trafficked folks.”
Part of the evening’s events focused on changing the dialogue surrounding human trafficking.
“We have to change the way we think, the way we act,” said Deena Policicchio, outreach director for Alternatives for Girls, a Detroit based non-profit organization assisting young women in need.
Policicchio discussed a recent article she read describing a recently scandalized military official who received sexual favors from prostitutes in exchange for divulging military secrets.
The article’s headline described the official as “receiving hookers.”
“What the article did not talk about was that for somebody to ‘receive hookers,’ that would mean somebody gave them as a prize, as a possession,” she said.
Although the conversations surrounding human trafficking and the exploitation of women are difficult, they must be had, Policicchio said.
“We need to recognize what ... is glorified sexual exploitation of girls and women versus empowering them,” Policicchio said. “That is not something I stand up here and say I know the difference between always, but the important part is we’re having the conversation as a group.”
Other speakers included Laura Swanson, a recent MSU alumna and producer of the documentary “Every Two Minutes.” The film highlights human trafficking victims and those working to help them.
“I had originally done a documentary on sexual assault and I realized the myths misconceptions surrounding human trafficking are a lot like those surrounding sexual assault,” Swanson said. “We’re making a documentary film so people can understand what it looks like, how it’s occurring in Michigan, in their backyards.”
Swanson employs 12 students on her creative team and the project is independently funded.
The event was put on jointly by MSU’s School of Social Work, College of Music and the Women’s Resource Center.