On March 1, 2012, Nicholas Kristof came to Quinnipiac to talk to students about his many experiences over the course of his career. There were many aspects of his speech that struck my attention. The first thing that stood out to me was the story he told about a woman he met in Cambodia. He was in the red light district of this city and he met a mother who was searching for her teenage daughter, who had been kidnapped by a brothel owner. Kristof explained that she found her daughter, but was not able to get her back because she did not have enough money to buy her back from the brothel.
This is a story that, Kristof believes is all too common in many parts of the world. Sex trafficking is a widespread problem that he addressed both in his speech, and in his book, Half the Sky.
One stunning statistic that Kristof talked about was the number of girls around the world that are enslaved to this cruel business. Once these women are kidnapped by brothel owners, they are treated as if they were property and are beaten and forced to have sex against their will. Stopping violence and oppression against women is a cause that Kristof has spent his life fighting for.
Throughout his speech, Kristof spoke about his recent travels into the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. This area is restricted and he was forced to covertly sneak over the border to reach the people in this area. Sudan is a country that has been facing human rights atrocities for many years, mainly in the Darfur region. The country recently split into two countries, creating the nation of South Sudan.
In his speech, Kristof shared that a girl in South Sudan has a greater chance of dying in child birth than learning how to read. This was a statistic that really sticks out and makes people realize the lack of basic medical care and education in these parts of the world.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to provide aid to this region because of the violence that has plagued it for so long. A mass genocide in the Darfur region has been led by refugees known as the Janjaweed. This group has killed hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people over the past decade. Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has been helping this group through funding, making the violence nearly impossible to control.
As our trip to South Africa approaches, Kristof’s overall message becomes more important. He says that if everyone can help spread awareness that these problems exist, small improvements can be made which could possibly lead to long term solutions.
As we prepare for our service trip in the Western Cape, it is important to understand that we are not going to be able to help fix all the problems of an entire community. But, if everyone can help better the life of one other person or family, these problems can be slowly brought to an end.