Hope in Action: Empowering Women Worldwide

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Countering Human Trafficking & Gender-Based Violence

My first experience of International Women’s Day is memorable, but not for the right reasons. I was living in northern Uganda and had not heard about International Women’s Day and what it meant. I had just spent the day relaxing with friends under their mango tree, contemplating what the day represented during my break from work. Walking home on a well-worn dirt path that evening, I heard a woman’s horrifying screams.  My Ugandan companion said it was a woman running from her husband. I tried to understand, especially after hearing all day about celebrating women. This woman had sprinted down a dirt path, trying desperately to get away, but she had nowhere safe to run.

Fast forward seven years, and I had the opportunity to spend the day working at World Hope International’s Recovery Centre in Sierra Leone. At that point, it had been operational for two years. Today it continues to transform the lives of women and children in Sierra Leone, in similar situations as the Ugandan woman I briefly encountered. 

There is a safe place for them to run to at a location that offers comprehensive, transformational care and recovery to women and children. 

The World Hope International Recovery Centre, piloted with funds from the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of State, is celebrating its 12th year of operation this month. It opened after multiple entities in Sierra Leone, including the government and the National Trafficking in Persons Task Force, expressed the massive need to provide emergency protection for women and children. Before the centre’s opening, women and children who had experienced sex and labor trafficking, gender-based violence and other suffering had nowhere to run. 

The Recovery Centre has served more than 800 people since inception. Survivors find physical and therapeutic healing there because they can speak the truth — and they know they will be believed.  Beyond their physical and emotional needs, the centre helps survivors, and their families make police reports and provides support when they testify in court.  The centre also arranges access to medical care, and survivors know they are safe when they walk through the centre’s doors and when they crawl into the centre’s beds at night to rest. 

On this International Women’s Day, I want to acknowledge the dire situation of women who are unable to find safe places to run to. According to the UN: 

  • Women and girls represent 65% of all people who are trafficked globally.
  • More than 90% of detected female victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

But the UN also notes there is hope. Women survivors who share their experiences can help design preventive measures. Women World Hope International serves at the Recovery Centre help protect other women and children from similar experiences. We are learning together and with the hope that there will come a day when all women and girls will be safe and free.

Roughly 800 women and girls have received services from the Recovery Centre (including 371 survivors of abuse, including trafficking, in 2023). As I write this, 16 women and girls are experiencing a safe haven at the centre.

Today on International Women’s Day, we acknowledge the strength and resilience of women. We’ve witnessed their courage at the Recovery Centre, as we provide sanctuary and support to hundreds. From the dire situations faced to the hope found, every woman supported contributes to a brighter future. Together, let’s continue empowering women worldwide. 

Haley Clark

Haley Clark

Director of Anti-Trafficking and Gender-Based Violence

World Hope International

Together, let’s help HOPE flourish around the world.