Susana Trimarco, an Argentinian human rights activist who has dedicated her life to fighting human trafficking, has been named the recipient of the 2014 Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award.
In 2002, Trimarco’s 23-year-old daughter, Marita, was kidnapped by a human trafficking network and believed to have been forced into a life of prostitution. Trimarco, at great risk to herself, went undercover in search of her daughter and in the process, helped free other women who had been kidnapped and forced into a life of prostitution.
In 2007, Trimarco founded Fundación María de los Ángeles ("Foundation of María of the Angels") in order to continue to rescue kidnapped girls throughout Argentina. Since then, her organization has helped free hundreds of women, and Trimarco has testified against and helped convict numerous human traffickers. “I don’t care if they kill me,” Trimarco said. “I will never give up. I will never shut up, never, never.”
Globally, millions of people are trafficked each year, half of them children. This can be tied directly to the explosion of legal prostitution around the world in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2007 Trafficking in Persons report, between 4 and 27 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide. Eighty percent of the trafficked people are women and girls and 70 percent of those are believed to have been trafficked into the sex industry.
Because of Trimarco’s work, human trafficking was finally made a federal crime in Argentina four years ago. Since then, 7,000 people have been rescued from such slavery. Trimarco herself has rescued 150 girls including some as young as 12 years old.
Trimarco has been recognized over the years with many awards including the Premio Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (Domingo Faustino Sarmiento Award) for her work in promotion of human rights awarded by the Argentinean Senate as well as the International Women of Courage Award, conferred by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Department of State. Today, she received the 2014 Helen & Jesse Kalisher Humanitarian Award.
Five years ago, the Kalishers created their Humanitarian Award to recognize someone who had done something miraculous for humanity and to reward him or her with the gift of art. “It's a small way for us to say thank you and to show our appreciation and respect for the tough choices that someone has made,” Mr. Kalisher said. “It’s our way of showing support and for being heard,” he added, pointing out that this year’s honoree, Ms. Trimarco, has made significant and remarkable achievements, and in the face of grave threats against her, in order to better the world in which we live.
Mr. Kalisher’s interest in women’s rights was influenced by the fact that he was raised by Ilse Kalisher, a single mother. In addition, the Kalishers have traveled much of the world since 2001, during which time – while not exposed to the perils of human trafficking – they have been impressed with the need to actively support the human rights of women worldwide.
“I am honored to accept this award,” Ms. Trimarco said from her home in Argentina. “Art is important and plays an invaluable role in our lives and in society. Indeed, art is a mirror of who we are at a moment in time. And I appreciate the effort the Kalishers are making to use their art to raise awareness. It all helps and is all important.”
The Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award a gift of a limited edition, hand signed collector’s print of one of Mr. Kalisher’s photographs (www.jessekalisher.com) as well as a $1,000 donation to Fundación María de los Ángeles.
The previous recipients of the Jesse & Helen Kalisher Humanitarian Award have been Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, who was instrumental in exposing lies and fraud within the American Tobacco Industry, Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, who successfully led a peace movement in Liberia, Urmi Basu, a champion for at-risk girls and young women in Kolkata, India, and Ann Cotton, a British woman who is revolutionizing the lives of women in sub-Saharan Africa.