The Women in the World Summit in association with the New York Times took place in New York City’s Lincoln Center from April 5 through 7. This year, women such as Indian journalist Barkha Dutt, Nigerian Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the eighth annual Summit.
The three-day events shine a spotlight on women by bringing together many positive, successful female icons and activists to have a much needed dialogue regarding worldwide social issues. Men known to elevate women are also included in the Summit. Together, they share their own personal stories and discuss, in an exciting and profound manner, what can be done collectively to continue the fight to protect women and girls.
Donna Hubbard, a flight attendant and victim of human trafficking, spoke about her incredible story of freedom from sexual abuse. Hubbard became a slave to sex work when the men she was forced to work for threatened her children and family. After years of enduring abuse, Hubbard realized that the only way she could get free was, ironically, by placing herself in prison where she could not be reached.
It was behind bars that Hubbard found solace in religion. She is now a pastor and has developed her own organization called Woman at the Well Transitional Center that provides aid to formerly incarcerated women and victims of human trafficking. Hubbard’s tale of recovery and her charitable work illuminates a dark topic in our country and abroad that is often hidden from us, or just tragically overlooked.
While working as a flight attendant Hubbard caught media attention when she noticed a young boy looking very ill and groggy, as if he may have been drugged. He was sitting with a young couple, so with the help of her coworkers she took charge of the situation at hand, sensing that the boy may be a part of what she had previously experienced.
Proving that one person can make a difference, Hubbard became his guardian angel. The boy was, in fact, being transported as a slave in this deadly business. He was promptly rescued upon landing.
Hubbard stated, “People don’t want to get involved and they don’t want to be wrong. Yet there are warning signs — if one only stops to read them.” She acknowledges that many people are nervous about saying something and causing a scene, however, if she had not used her voice, it may have cost that boy his life.
In her talk at the Summit, Hubbard emphasized the importance of getting educated on this matter, volunteering, and most importantly speaking up when you notice something suspicious. Speaking with two other women at the Summit, she confessed, “The physical chains you can change with an event, the psychological chains are a process.”
This highlights the need for more brave people like Hubbard to help those who have been silenced. She also works with Airline Ambassadors, a non-profit organization that teaches airline workers the skills to spot possible signs of human trafficking and what to do when reporting such cases.
The Women in the World Summit featured many people like Donna Hubbard paving the way for women to break stigmas, stereotypes, and the chains of inequality.
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