Compelling story shines attention on plague of sexual trafficking

Mark Weber

The play may have wrapped up its recent run in Red Deer, but the reverberations can certainly still be felt. I’m speaking of local author Andrew Kooman’s She Has A Name, which was staged last week at Red Deer’s Scott Block and opened prior to that in Calgary.

Landing positive reviews for its powerful portrayal of a young woman trapped in the horrors of sexual trafficking in Thailand, the play was expertly directed, acted and written. Kooman, who has long been penning material that taps into various themes of social justice, has shown another creative strength – that of playwright.

There is certainly a need for such skills with the prevalence of sexual trafficking.

According to ACT Alberta, which is a coalition of government agencies, non-governmental organizations, survivors of trafficking and the general public concerned with responding to human trafficking in this province, the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation.

Eighty per cent of all trafficking victims are women and half of all cases are children. And according the Council of Europe, human trafficking has an annual global market worth $42.5 billion with an estimated 27 million people worldwide being held against their will.

It’s a tragic and all-too-common scenario. Traffickers often take away victims’ travel and identity documents. Threats of murder, violence and sexual abuse also keep victims stuck in lives of degradation and hopelessness.

It’s also clear that even though the perception may be that human trafficking is a scourge primarily affecting faraway countries, the reality is it is global in scope. Local folks can indeed be part of a solution, even though such a momentous evil seems at times unstoppable.

But there are so many examples of people working hard to make a difference – locally and abroad. Here in Red Deer there is Magdalene House Society, a charitable society set up to help those who are trafficked for sex or labour purposes in Canada.

Any trafficked person, regardless of race, creed or gender can access the services provided by the Society. As their web site points out, many of the victims of human trafficking need support to get the legal, medical and psychological help they desperately need.

“Some people who are trafficked are not able to speak or understand English, so the house will provide people who can translate, so they can fill out all particular documents required to get a Temporary Residents Permit. Magdalene House will also provide opportunities for furthering their education in order to get a fresh start in employment.”

Red Deerians should be thankful we have this kind of service available in our City.

We should also be grateful for the insightful work of writers like Kooman, who actually started work on She Has A Name back in 2008. His international travels over the years have clearly given him an insight into showing the harsh realities many in the world face.

Audiences, and readers of his work, aren’t only left with solid, well-constructed stories. Most importantly perhaps is that there is always a sense of challenge there as well, as he consistently points people to practical ways they can help make a difference.

As to She Has A Name, its impact will certainly be felt for a long time to come. It’s ultimately a powerhouse piece of theatre leaving audiences challenged about the harsh realities of sexual trafficking.

Kooman should be proud of this tremendous work. There’s no doubt that crafting these kinds of works is where Kooman’s heart is, and it’s exciting to think of where this play will go and what we can expect from him in the future.

Too often caught up in the charms of a complacent, prosperous society, we need constant reminders that there are urgent, dire issues that continually need to be addressed.

She Has A Name carries the kind of message that always needs to be heard.

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