Posted by George Belitsos

owa Rotary District 6000 Governor, Alka Khanolkar arranged a Zoom training between Iowa and India on July 30th in honor of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Alka has made the prevention of human trafficking one of her major goals as our new Rotary Governor. 

The two-hour virtual meeting connected Iowans with the Rotary Club of Seven Hills Dharwad, India. Three US presenters spoke about the progress being made to end trafficking in Iowa. The speakers included, Teresa Davidson, Vice-Chair of the Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking (NAHT), Karen Walkowski, President of the Rotary Club to End Human Trafficking, and George Belitsos, Board Chair of the NAHT and vice-chair of the Rotary Action Group Against Trafficking (RAGAS).

A speaker representing India spoke about the growing slavery problem in his country and how the Covid pandemic has resulted in a recent increase in modern slavery. If one includes forced child marriage, the number of enslaved people in India is nearly 18 million. The Zoom screen photo below shows the speaker from India, William Christopher. He serves on the India High Power Committee on Human Trafficking and Bonded Labor.

Alka informed the Seven Hills Dharwad Club that she has formed a District 6000 Prevent Human Trafficking Action Team. This Action Team is providing awareness training for Rotary Clubs and community groups in Iowa.

The Action Team plans to engage Rotary clubs in sponsoring anti-trafficking projects. She and 3 other District 6000 Rotarians are also members of RAGAS and are serving as RAGAS Good Will Ambassadors. The Rotarians in India were encouraged to become members of RAGAS.

Shirlee Reding, NAHT Board Member and Chair of the Central Iowa Service Network Against Trafficking (CISN) made a second virtual presentation on human trafficking to a group of human trafficking professionals from India. These participants were invited to connect with Iowans by the International Visitor Leadership Program of the U.S. Department of State. Janet Norton of the Iowa International Centers was their hostess and program guide while studying in Iowa.

The Department of State outlines the following specific objectives for the project:  

  • Present innovative strategies for preventing, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking crimes;
  • Explore Iowa initiatives to recognize, protect, and assist victims of abuse and trafficking, including social and economic reintegration services;
  • Discuss awareness and education efforts and share strategies for international cooperation in combating trafficking in persons.
  • Examine efforts to combat trafficking in Iowa, including crimes against women and children, by examining the formulation, administration, and enforcement of policies at the international, national, state, and local levels:

Shirlee shared some major anti-trafficking Iowa projects over the past several years. She told them about our efforts to get Iowa legislation passed that would allow law enforcement to closely monitor the activities of their local massage businesses because of the sex trafficking that occurs in some of them. She also talked about the hotel/motel employee training. Through their discussions, it became apparent neither of these programs is something they are currently doing in India but she sensed both were eye-opening. She further got the impression it was something they intended to bring back to their superiors as something worth pursuing.

After Shirlee’s presentation Chief David Lorenzen spoke about the various anti-trafficking projects at the Iowa Department of Transportation. Chief Lorenzen also presented information and anti-trafficking projects of Truckers Against Trafficking.

To learn more about the Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery or the Rotary Action Group Against Slavery, please contact:

George P. Belitsos (Dr. George)

YSS Founder and CEO Emeritus
Chair, Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking and Slavery
5508 West Lincoln Way
Ames, Ia 50014
(515) 290-1909 (cell)
Vice-Chair, International Board, Rotary Action Group Against Slavery