Season 2, Episode 5: Anti-Trafficking Platforms and Partnerships - Interview with Pageant Titleholder

You’re listening to Episode 15 of the Trafficking Dispatch, a biweekly podcast that briefs you on human trafficking issues in a brief amount of time. I’m your host, Victoria Erdel. In this episode, we’ll hear from a pageant titleholder who uses her platform to fight human trafficking.

Mi nombre es Samantha Batallanos, represento a Lima, y mis medidas son: una niña muere cada diez minutos por producto de la explotación sexual.
(My name is Samantha Batallanos, I represent Lima, and my measurements are: one girl dies every ten minutes as a result of sexual exploitation.)

Mi nombre es Romina Lozano y represento a la Provincia Constitucional del Callao y mis medidas son: 3,114 mujeres víctimas de trata registradas hasta 2014.
(My name is Romina Lozano and I represent the Constitutional Province of Callao, and my measurements are: 3,114 women are registered as victims of human trafficking as of 2014.)

That was a short clip from the Miss Peru #mismedidasson protest that went viral in October of 2017. “Mis medidas son” means “my measurements are”, and is usually the part in the pageant where the contestants report their body measurements. However, instead of providing measurements of their waists and hips, these contestants decided to report statistics on gender violence in their country. The two statistics that we specifically sampled talk about sexual exploitation and trafficking of women in Peru. For a full translation of these clips, you can read our shownotes.

While the Miss Peru contestants sparked a conversation on different types of violence -- one of them being human trafficking -- they are not the only pageant contestants to do this. Our interviewee for this episode, Lauren Hawks, is the Miss Glendale, AZ pageant titleholder. A long-time anti-trafficking advocate, Lauren uses her pageant platform to raise awareness about human trafficking, all while balancing college life and competing in Miss America Organization pageants.

Victoria: So, Lauren, it's my understanding, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but as a pageant titleholder, you have to choose a cause for your platform. So I was curious, why did you decide to make Bringing an End to Human Trafficking your platform, and how did you even learn about human trafficking in the first place?

Lauren: Perfect! Yeah, that's a wonderful question! So yes, as a local titleholder, or any titleholder in the Miss America Organization, you do have the opportunity to work on your own personal platform along with the national platform of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. So human trafficking has been an interest of mine for a very long time, kind of randomly. It all started when I was 13 years old in the 8th grade. Every year we were required to participate in the science fair. And it was my last year of being required to do that, so I was very determined to get 1st place at the state science fair. So I chose to look at a community issue and see what I could do about it. So I ended up looking and trying to figure out what I could do, and I decided that I wanted to address kidnapping, which is of course a portion that goes into human trafficking. So to do that, I created a device that is kind of similar to Life Alert but for young kids, that they could carry around. And I engineered it into a little finger puppet keychain that they could put on their backpacks. So I did end up getting first place at the science fair, but aside from that, I just gained so much more interest for this topic. Now as I got older, I was of course going through junior high and high school. I was also a dancer growing up, and we got to do dances that were for human trafficking awareness, and I absolutely loved that dance. In high school, I joined Model United Nations (MUN), which is how I figured out that I wanted to go into political science in college. But I often had human trafficking and other human rights issues as a debate topic in our committees. And it was really not until I had the opportunity to travel to Prague, Czech Republic, and participate in the International MUN conference there, representing the UK and the human trafficking committee, that I realized that that was what I really wanted to do with my life. I was selected as best delegate, which meant that I was able to present the resolution that myself and my committee members composed, the resolution being Resolution to Human Trafficking, or how we can help prevent it and combat it. But as I was standing behind that podium in the Prague city hall, I just never felt so right. And I knew from that moment on that that was something that I wanted to do, that I wanted to be an advocate. I wanted to be a spokesperson, and I wanted to do everything in my power that I could do to help the cause.

Victoria: That’s such an interesting story! It's really funny, because I also -- the first time I was ever exposed to the issue of human trafficking, and wanted to do something about it, I was about the same age as you. So, kind of going on the same vein of stuff that you have done and are currently doing to raise awareness about human trafficking, I saw on your Instagram account that you have this BLUE acronym flyers that you created. So I was, also curious how you -- well first of all, just maybe explain to the listeners what it is, and why you created these flyers.

Lauren: Okay, cool. So, the color blue is the color symbol for human trafficking awareness, and when I first started out with the Miss America Organization, I knew that I wanted to develop a way that I could easily tell people how they can help the cause. So I wanted to use blue, just because, everyone knows what blue is, it's a lot of people's favorite color, and it's easy to wear, it's easy to remember. So, after kind of deciding that I wanted to use blue, I was researching, going through just all sorts of websites, books, and resources on, what are kind of the steps that you have to take to do something? So, the acronym BLUE stands for "become aware" B, L: "Learn the indicators", U: "Utilize resources" and E: "Educate others." So this is the kind of process that any person can do, at the individual level to help the cause. So, first of all, we have to become aware that human trafficking is a real and large issue, in not just the world, not just in the United States, but especially right here in Phoenix, since I'm based out of Phoenix. And, L, learning the indicators. So after we know what the problem is, we need to know what it looks like. So on my pamphlet I provide just a

few examples of what indicators are, what human trafficking may look like, but I also want people to know that it can be so much more. And I want people to be prompted to look into that. Now U, utilize resources, I want people to start looking at, "Okay, well, how can I get involved? What kind of organizations are around in my community? What organizations help the cause out?" So I provide examples like A21 Campaign, Polaris, Department of Homeland Security's BLUE Campaign, anything like that really. And E is educate others, and that's simply just being able to talk to people about human trafficking, talk about the problem and tell people about it. Because once people start talking about it, it just snowballs into this big effort where everyone is talking about it, everyone knows about it. And when more people know about it, less people are going to be trafficking. And that's kind of the goal that we have, right? So all in all, BLUE is really just something that I try and tell people, and it's really easy, a good conversation starter. Of course, January 11th was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day where a lot of people wore blue. But I wanted to take it a step further and do it for the full month. So people often say, "Wow, you wear a lot of blue! Why is that?" And I say, "let me tell you why." And, there it goes!

Victoria: Yeah, I think that's a really great, like how you take something that already is a thing, you know, wearing blue on January 11, and then make it your own so that you can prompt even more conversations about it. And I really liked how you framed it as, the more we talk about it, the more we not only raise awareness about the issue, but really prompt people to do something about it. So earlier you were telling me that, you-- you were set on engineering and doing something related to human trafficking, but now you've shifted to political science. And you've indicated that your interest in human trafficking is something that you're definitely going to carry on with you in the future. Can you tell us what you plan on doing to fight human trafficking even after your platform with the Miss America Organization has wrapped up?

Lauren: Right. So one thing that I've been trying to make clear with anybody that I'm working with, whether it be for my platform or just my friends and family, is that, the topic of human trafficking and my work on it isn't going to end with my title as Miss Glendale, Arizona. I really want it to be a Lauren thing, and not just a Miss America Organization thing. It's really become a part of who I am. Everyday, I'm trying to think of ways that I can help further what I'm doing, help further the cause within my community. So, I'm currently working on a project right now. I'm partnering with a local business in Arizona that employs human trafficking survivors. They are so great. They're called the Soteria Initiative. So I'm partnering up with them. But I'm really excited about that, just a whole other type of awareness and educational campaign. So after I graduate college, I'm hoping that, I actually want to become a teacher through Teach for America. I'm an intern with them right now. So after that, once I gain real world experience, I want to be an advocate. I want to be a spokesperson, kind of like how I said before. I feel that, what I've discovered through the Miss America Organization is that, I feel very blessed that I've been given a set of skills and opportunities to where, I feel that I can make an impact. And I have a lot of confidence in myself because of that. In terms of, just, in the future, feeling that I can do something about it. So, the Miss America Organization has been a really great tool for me to discover that confidence, and I'm really excited to use what I've learned from the organization into my future life.

Victoria: Yeah, that's really great to hear, and it also leads really well into the next question, because you mentioned how the Miss America Organization gave you that confidence and that platform to really take action about something you were already passionate about. One thing that I often ask my interviewees is any advice they would have for other potential advocates. And what I'm really interested with you is, you're a shining example of someone using a platform they have earned and already have to create positive change. But I'm afraid that some listeners may feel discouraged if they don't already have as many social media followers as you or have an official organization backing them. So I want to know: what advice would you have for other potential advocates who want to do something about human trafficking but feel like they don't have the resources to do something about it?

Lauren: Definitely. And, that's kind of what I try to use BLUE as. It's just -- it can be so simple. Things that you do can be so simple. They don't have to be big projects, they don't have to be these giant events. They can just start with you. I'm a very firm believer in the power of one. And that's something that's been a driving force just within my whole life. I grew up as an only child, so my biggest supporters were of course my parents. I didn't have any other siblings and I often kind of grew up thinking I was alone. Which sounds kind of sad, but what I also realized is that, there are so many things that an individual can do. So like I said, always look for local community resources, organizations that are doing things. It's really nice in Phoenix there are so many anti-trafficking organizations that accept volunteers, accept donations. You can, you can do anything that you want to do. And I know that sounds so cliche, but I want people to know that they still have so much power within themselves if they just wake up -- get up, and look, they can probably find things. And if it doesn't exist, start it yourself! I guess, the most important thing I think about being an advocate, is just realizing that, again, there are so many opportunities, and that you have total control over what you want to do in terms of helping. Whether it's fundraising, whether it's volunteering, whether it's starting your own campaign or your own event -- I really just hope that people are able to recognize that awareness matters, and also action matters. That was something that was just very, interesting to me, was that, upon starting my 30 day challenge of wearing blue, I kind of got some negative criticism. And they said like, "Oh awareness doesn't do anything, what are you doing with this?" And that really surprised me, because I never had negative feedback for a cause like human trafficking, which we all think -- we're trying to do some good in the world. And what I kind of told that negative person was that, well, by commenting you were engaged! And that's kind of my goal. And after I responded to him he said, "Oh I respect your response. It makes a lot more sense now." And that's really my goal, is that, a lot of people don't understand the cause or the why. And, going throughout college, I've really been trying to find my "why", my why I do things. And, the Miss America Organization and my platform with human trafficking has really helped me discover kind of my purpose in life. I feel like that this is what I'm meant to do. I feel like I'm doing so much now but there's so much I want to do, and I feel like I can do.

You don’t have to be an expert in the field to do something about human trafficking. As Lauren pointed out, you can use the platform you already have, join established organizations, or create your own project. If you’re interested in using and distributing Lauren’s BLUE informational flyer, you can download and print it by visiting the “Meet the Interviewees” page on our website, and then clicking on “Lauren Hawks’ BLUE Flyer”.

Finally, March 14, three days from the release of this episode, is #MyFreedomDay. Our partner, Youth Underground, collaborated with CNN’s Freedom Project in 2017 to “highlight the value of freedom” and raise awareness for those who do not have it. To learn more about My Freedom Day and how you can get involved, we’ll include links in our shownotes to the Youth Underground and CNN’s pages on the project. As Lauren emphasized in her interview, awareness is not the solution to human trafficking, but we can’t do anything about until we’re aware that it exists.

This has been the Trafficking Dispatch with Victoria Erdel. You can subscribe to our SoundCloud channel and tune into our next episode which will be released on March 25th at 5 pm. Or, if you would like to interact with us before then, you can visit our website at thetraffickingdispatch.com, follow us on our social media accounts – our handles are below – or email us with any questions or suggestions at thetraffickingdispatch@gmail.com. Thank you for tuning into this episode, and we hope you’ll tune in again to join the fight against human trafficking.

The Soteria Initiative: www.thesoteriainitiative.com/
Youth Underground #MyFreedomDay: youth-underground.com/about-my-freedom-day/

Facebook: @thetraffickingdispatch
Twitter: @ttdpodcast
Instagram: @ttdpodcast_official

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