Two-time Dove Female Vocalist of the Year Natalie Grant helped officially start up a new coalition Friday that will provide outreach and training for those people who will most likely encounter victims of human trafficking.
Held by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the press conference last week announced the formation of the Nashville "Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking" Coalition. This local chapter will now add to the other 18 coalitions of "Rescue and Restore" around the United States.
The event marked only one of the many contributions that Grant has made toward reducing human trafficking and eliminating the world's sex trade industry.
The award-winning artist has even devoted her time to her own organization, the HOPE Foundation, founded in 2005 "to help those who may not otherwise be helped."
"[Our mission is] dedicated to the eradication of human trafficking both domestically and abroad," explains Grant's HOME Foundation in its website. "Through advocacy, education and relief efforts, the Home Foundation is committed to end the suffering of women and children sold into sexual slavery."
Grant personally spoke at the press conference, explaining her own involvement in the issue for the past three years.
She began her fight against the sex trade after watching an episode of Law and Order about the human trade industry. She decided to delve into some research to find out more and was shocked by what she found.
As many as 10 million people around the world have become victims of human trafficking, and it exists in every country. 80 percent of those sufferers are female, and 70 percent of those are exploited sexually. An estimated 500,000 are made into prostitutes in Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Grant has been able to witness the process first hand with her travels around the world, particularly a trip to the red-light district of Mumbai, India.
"I was walking down the street in Mumbai, in broad daylight, when my eyes locked on a little girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, peering out of a cage, looking at us on the street below. It was beyond my imagination," said Grant on her website. "I'll never forget that moment. That was her life. Every day people walked by, and they didn't even notice her."
Through the new Nashville coalition just formed, the songwriter and other organizers hope to educate fellow Americans on the continual problem of human trafficking.
"Homelessness and poverty are tragic enough," added Grant, "but some of these children are kept in cages and forced to perform heinous, unfathomable acts 50 and 60 times a day. And you never hear anyone talk about it."
"Human trafficking is the equivalent of modern-day slavery," said Martha Newton, the director of HHS' Office of Refugee Resettlement, in a press release Friday announcing the new Nashville coalition. "This partnership in Nashville is critical to help identify and assist more victims through increased awareness and involvement of the local community."
According to the ACF, members of the Nashville coalition include World Relief Nashville, Southern Migrant Legal Services, the Tennessee Department of Health and Human Services, Madison Street United Methodist Church, the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee and others.
On the web: Grant's HOME Foundation at TheHomeFoundation.net.