A public art installation highlighting the crime of human trafficking has just completed its month long tour around Ireland. The GIFT Box is a walk-in sculpture designed to raise awareness of this human rights abuse.
Evidence shows human trafficking is happening in towns and villages across the country. Men, women and children are trafficked for different kinds of exploitation, including forced labour, forced criminality and sham marriages, but the most prevalent form in Ireland is trafficking for sexual exploitation. The majority of these victims are women and children.
APT (Act to Prevent Trafficking) works to raise awareness of sex trafficking and has partnered with the Loreto Sisters and the Department of Justice to bring the GIFT Box to Ireland. This installation has toured in seven countries and been visited by tens of thousands of people around the world.
APT Co-Ordinator Sr. Geraldine MacCarthy SHCJ said “This is a fantastic opportunity to get people talking about the very urgent issue of human trafficking happening in our own communities. If people aren’t aware of this crime, they cannot take action to help those who are victimised. Raising awareness of human trafficking is the first step towards eradicating it.”
The GIFT Box was launched in Drogheda at the beginning of March by Rose of Tralee, Maria Walsh and Mayor of Drogheda Oliver Tully. It then proceeded south to Dublin City Centre, where it was visited by representatives of An Garda Siochana, the International Organisation for Migration, and the Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald.
The Minister has shown enormous commitment to anti-trafficking efforts in the state, having recently guided the Sexual Offences Act, which criminalises the purchase of sex, through the Oireachtas. In recent months she also oversaw the launch of the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.
From Dublin, the GIFT Box travelled to Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, where a small but dedicated band of volunteers, including Sr. Catherine Ryan and Sr. Martina Bourke, helped promote the Box, handing out literature to passers-by and encouraging students to go inside and take a look at the exhibit.
Mary Ryan and Sile McGowan
The GIFT Box then set off for Tralee where it was on display for two days at the Manor West Shopping Centre. The visit to Tralee was facilitated by the Kerry Stop Sex Trafficking group who did an enormous amount of work to bring the event about, even going so far as recruiting the local army barracks for logistical support. This committed group are also involved in the MECPATHS campaign.
From Tralee it was on to Galway, where the intrepid volunteers had a busy day in the middle of Shop Street and then to Athlone for a day in the Golden Island Shopping Centre. The GIFT Box was then displayed in NUI Maynooth where the volunteers and visitors alike enjoyed a beautiful sunny day and a lively atmosphere.
The final stop on the tour was the Redemptorist Church in Dundalk, where a large group of volunteers drawn from the parish welcomed visitors to the GIFT Box and encouraged discussions about human trafficking over cups of tea in the parish centre.
The tour has been a huge success and it would not have been possible without the efforts of volunteers who came out in force in each of the locations. These people, of all ages and from right across the country, worked tirelessly to help raise awareness of the evils of human trafficking.
MECPATHS Campaign Manager