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CGJ Hosts Dorothy Taft

By September 22, 2016December 16th, 2019Special Events, Uganda
On September 20, 2016, the students at Regent University had the pleasure of hearing from Dorothy Taft on her work and insights on combating human trafficking around the world.

Dorothy has worked for the US Agency for International Development’s Office of Democracy and Governance, the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the US House of Representatives.  During her service in the public sphere, she was involved in the development and implementation of the International Religious Freedom Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

The International Religious Freedom Act made religious freedom a priority for US-international relations.  In promoting the freedom of religion and conscience for all, societies are more stable and the US has served as a beacon in this regard for emerging democracies.  The act also mandates that the State Department annually identify Countries of Particular Concern for violating religious freedoms.  The Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed in 2000 and continues to be updated with the latest fine-tuning signed into law in 2013.  The TVPA set a high standard not only for the US to prevent human trafficking, but as many as 169 other countries have begun to follow suit and implemented varying degrees of anti-trafficking laws in the last 15 years.

While Dorothy did amazing work serving in the public sphere, she knew that these measures were not the whole answer to the problem of human trafficking.  It is important for the rule of law to support human dignity and to seek out where people are being trafficked and stop the practice. But that is only half the battle, according to Dorothy.  

The need for healing is the other half of the story, and healing and dignity-affirming work are best achieved through the private sector. She is co-founder of a non-for-profit called The Market Project.

The Market Project creates businesses that are trauma-informed and encourage healing. Through well-researched market opportunities, a business can keep workers employed through the power of the market.  Research has shown that work is a critical part of the healing process for someone who has experienced complex trauma.  Work restores a person’s sense of purpose by being able to provide for themselves and others.  The Market Project seeks to address the “work” gap that is missing in the healing process.

An example of what The Market Project does can be seen in Uganda.  There, The Market Project has business that produces a drinkable yogurt.  About a dozen employees produce and distribute the yogurt directly to its customer base.  Employees that have struggled with HIV+, chronic poverty, and being orphaned now are learning new marketable skills.  The company is poised to expand in the coming months and will be able to hire an additional 25 more employees.

The ultimate goal of these businesses is to teach new and marketable skills to trauma survivors so that they are gainfully employed. Some are developing management skills for future leadership opportunities.  The other goal is for each business to be earned out by its employees.
The Market Project addresses a key need for survivors of human trafficking and other trauma.  Individuals become trafficked for many reasons, but one factor that is most often present is poverty.  Once a person is removed from enslavement, there is still a need for work.  When survivors struggle to find safe work after being removed from such a traumatic experience, they often are vulnerable to being re-victimized. It is this profound need, for gainful employment post enslavement, that the Market Project strives to address.

Dorothy wrapped up her presentation using a beautiful metaphor on how survivors of trauma or human trafficking may be considered.  As Muhammed Yunus has posited, the poor are like a bonsai tree.  By reason of the tree’s circumstances its growth has been stunted and no room has allowed it to flourish.  But, a bonsai is  beautiful. Though the seed had all the potential to be a vigorous and mighty oak tree, nourishment and space have been deprived. Trauma survivors too have been stunted in their ability to flourish, but that is not the end of their story.  The Market Project helps these individuals see their beauty as a person created in the image of God.  Unlike a bonsai tree, stuck in a small planter, The Market Project is there to foster growth and allow the survivor of human trafficking to flourish.