January 30, 2012

Breaking Chains

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:11 pm by newsurroundings

I had my last American Women’s Club of Antwerp meeting as Programs Director this month.  For the last year, I have been responsible for finding speakers for our monthly meetings.  The first few months were quite stressful since I had not actually been to a regular meeting before I started planning them, so I was not even sure what was expected.  The job got easier as I made friends and got suggestions and help from others in the club and had a better idea of what would interest the group.  We’ve had some really wonderful speakers and covered a variety of topics- flower arranging, blogging, breast cancer, antique shopping, writing and photography.  This month’s meeting is the one I am most proud of.

The topic was human trafficking- not our usual light-hearted subject but one I thought would be of interest and deserved the attention.  I asked our pastor’s wife, Hannah, to speak as she has been working with the Breaking Chains Network to help women who have been trafficked and forced into prostitution here in Antwerp.  Many women have been brought to Europe thinking that they will have a better life as a baby sitter or perhaps a waitress or house cleaner.  Sometimes they have responded to an ad in a newspaper or, shockingly, they may have been deceived by a family member or often a boyfriend.  The women are beaten, raped, robbed of their passports and everything else they own, and left with the option of being a prostitute or being killed.  They are moved frequently between cities and countries to prevent them from making contacts or learning the language.  This makes it very hard for those who are trying to help, but there is good news that women are being helped and are able to escape from this bondage.  We heard from Ruth, a woman from Nigeria, who shared her story of how she became a victim, her escape 10 years ago, and her efforts to help other women in similar situations.

The Breaking Chains Network has a center in Antwerp where the women can go and take classes, cook together, make friends, and get assistance in breaking free from prostitution. For the women who do escape from prostitution, it is not easy to find viable ways to make money.  Through the Network, they can make jewelry and get paid for each piece that is then sold at different events.  We had a table set up at our meeting and, between the jewelry sales and donations, our group contributed over 500 euros.

With prostitution being legal in Europe, I think many of us think that it’s always a chosen “profession” and we pass judgement on the women in the windows.  Our eyes were opened at this meeting and I hope many of us will help support the Breaking Chains Network and other organizations with similar goals.  If nothing else, I hope we’ll see the women in the windows with new eyes of compassion.

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2 Comments »

  1. Susan said,

    Glad your final meeting was a success! And such great topic about something we really don’t hear to much about.

    • Thanks, Susan! I learned a lot that day and I’m glad the topic is getting more attention in the news.


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