This article was contributed by Sue Flynn - Past Chair of the Junior Leagues of NJ's State Public Affairs Committee
The Junior Leagues of New Jersey State Public Affairs Committee (SPAC) exemplifies growth through partnership and collaboration, which is the most powerful way for the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking to function. SPAC has been raising awareness on the issue of Human Trafficking since 2005, when we read an article about a Human Trafficking case in New Jersey, as advocates for Women and Children in need, our involvement was a natural fit.
In 2005, the words Human Trafficking were rarely heard, although the problem as pressing as ever. SPAC started educating members and escalating public awareness through the help of Polaris Project and ECPAT USA. Our foot-print started with the annual Chamber of Commerce Walk to Washington and the Associations of Junior Leagues International Annual Conferences where we simply brought awareness to the issue. Little did we know, that developing relationships with different organizations and our legislators was the first step in our contribution to the NJCAHT.
In 2009, SPAC co-sponsored the first NJ-centric conference, “Human Trafficking in New Jersey: Hiding in Plain Sight.” and 2011 all Junior Leagues were honored through the United Nations Association of New York for ongoing efforts and commitment to eradicating human trafficking. Once again, our public awareness and building community partnerships helped us gain momentum for the drafting of a comprehensive NJ Human Trafficking Bill, via the NJ Human Trafficking Task Force and legislative meetings. It was though these legislative meetings that we found that members of other like-minded organizations were working with Assemblywoman Huttle on a bill as well. As we advocates know, strength is in numbers so we joined forces and helped draft and advocate for the passage of the NJ Human Trafficking Prevention Protection and Treatment Act. This collaboration created the groundwork for SPAC’s contribution to the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
The bill passed the Coalition was formulating and growing in numbers, it was right in time for the NJ Super Bowl. SOAP and Theresa Flores were introduced to the Coalition by a member organization, as advocates for public policy, this was a new opportunity for SPAC to get involved with direct mobilization and training. SPAC was lucky to include their community partner the Community Foundation of NJ on the SOAP plans. CFNJ, realized the SOAP mobilization was a great avenue for community awareness and a potential life saving mechanism for Human Trafficking victims and suggested the Coalition apply for a grant to fund SOAP. The mini-grant application was written and CFNJ awarded the grant for SOAP UP NJ Super Bowl. It was an exciting time and the Coalition worked well together without competing for there own organizational goals. It was the beginning of the natural harmony that we have now.
Fast forward to present day, the NJ Coalition is over 140 organizations strong! SPAC has continued to grow with Human Trafficking Awareness, been active on committees and increased our community partners that have helped with our other issue areas for advocacy. On a personal note, I never would have dreamed I would be part of such a great Coalition and have the feeling of empowerment knowing that everyday our work together helps people in the most dire need.