Members of the network have served 10,000 trafficking survivors by accompanying them to shelters and other residential communities, engaging in international collaboration, and aiding survivors’ return home. Bottani first worked in anti-trafficking efforts in Brazil, but she now lives in Italy.
At the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. June 20, Bottani was one of many leaders recognized individually as a Trafficking in Persons Report Hero by U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump.
The U.S. State Department report praised Bottani as “one of the most prominent and influential anti-trafficking advocates within the Catholic diaspora.” It noted her anti-trafficking work in Brazil which aided vulnerable women and children in favelas. She led a national campaign against human trafficking when Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014.
“Throughout her career, her work has inspired generations of anti-trafficking advocates within the Catholic faith,” the report said.
Bottani traveled across the U.S. with a State Department-hosted delegation of anti-trafficking leaders. She was among several speakers at a June 26 reception on the University of Denver campus hosted by WorldDenver, a World Affairs Council affiliate, and the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.
There, Bottani recounted to CNA the most recent case Talitha Kum managed at the international level: the repatriation of a young woman and mother from the Middle East to her home in Uganda.
In Uganda, this woman had lost her job and was questioning how she could support her young daughter. She received an invitation promising better work in the Middle East.
“Then when she arrived in that country, the situation was very different. There was no job for her, but there was domestic servitude,” Bottani said. “She had to be available more than 20 hours per day. She often had little food to eat.”
“At a certain point she was able to escape,” Bottani continued. “She became depressed and she went on the street. When she sought help, a taxi driver raped her. Then she was completely lost.”
Another person brought the woman to the local Ugandan embassy, but she had to wait three days outside before being recognized as a Ugandan citizen and receiving help.
The embassy “brought her to the Church to the Catholic sisters. The sisters took care of her,” Bottani recounted. “It was a very difficult situation. She had nothing to wear, she had depression.”
“The Church paid for the flight back to her country. A sister took her to the airport. This is the importance of having a global network,” said Bottani. “Through Talitha Kum we were able to inform the sisters, and we gave her the first support when she arrived, including health care.”
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UNICEF estimates about 21 million people have been trafficked globally, including about 5.5 million children. Women are the primary victims, making up an estimated 51% of victims. Men make up another 21%, girls make up 20%, and boys make up 8%, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2016 report.
In the U.S., almost 9,000 cases of trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline in 2017, with the true numbers expected to be much larger, Fortune magazine reported in April 2019.
Trafficking is estimated to generate $32 billion per year, according to UNICEF. Other estimates are far higher.
While sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking, trafficking for forced labor is most common in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Sister Bottani warned about all forms of exploitation. From a global perspective, trafficked workers are forced to serve in industries like agriculture, domestic service, construction, and fishing. In some areas, trafficked people are forced to become beggars.
“People are forced into drug smuggling or becoming child soldiers,” she said.