Indiana State University Newsroom

Human Rights Day focuses on human trafficking

April 21, 2010

When Bobby Webb, a freshman political science major from Michigan City, attended the ninth annual Terre Haute Human Rights Day celebration at Indiana State University for his U.S. diversity class, he did not expect to learn as much as he did.

"I didn't realize there's more slavery now than ever before," Webb said. "It actually makes me pretty sad. It's sickening."

This year, the Human Rights Day theme was "Stop Human Trafficking" and the event focused on Article IV of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In her keynote address, Mary Burke, director of training for the doctoral program in counseling psychology at Carlow University, explained to a standing-room-only audience that child labor, sex trafficking and slavery are still very present in the world. She said that 246 million children and youth between the ages of 5 and 17 are involved in child labor.

"Close to three quarters of working children are engaged in the worst forms of child labor-armed conflict, sexual exploitation and other hazardous work," Burke said.

Burke, co-founder and director of the Project to End Human Trafficking, used examples of people she has worked with around the world, including a young girl from Haiti who was sexually exploited. She ended her presentation with a video about slavery.

Joni Dyer, a junior social work major from Coal City, learned that slavery is still occurring in the United States.

"It's really important for us to learn about human trafficking because a lot of people think it only happens in other countries," she said.

Dave Cox, member of the Human Rights Day planning committee, said Human Rights Day "gives people in Terre Haute an opportunity to educate themselves on some issues of global importance."

Jared Frink, a graduate assistant in the Center for Public Service and Community Engagement, used the analogy of a fishbowl mentality.

"There's this trend of people not being overly aware of what is going on outside of Terre Haute," he said.

Human Rights Day brings to light topics of international concern that are not necessarily talked about in everyday conversation.

"They don't directly impact me or you," Cox said.

Nevertheless, Cox believes it is important to discuss them.

"It also demonstrates there are people who don't have life as easy as we have it," he said.

Photo: - Mary Burke, director of the Project to End Human Trafficking, was the keynote speaker for the 2010 Human Rights Day at Indiana State University.

Writer: Lana Schrock, media relations assistant, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or