Talitha Kum is an international Catholic charity that is dedicated to ending the plight of human trafficking.
A federation of Catholic nuns who are devoted to ending human trafficking, Talitha Kum, is being hailed for its great work in 2021. In just the last year, the Rome-based charity organization prevented and rescued more than 26,000 women from being trafficked, worldwide.
Talitha Kum is an international network of religious sisters, which was formed in 2009 in response to rising levels of human trafficking. Their name is drawn from an Aramaic expression found in the Gospel of Mark, “Maiden, I say to you, arise.” Today, the organization is active in 92 countries, with 55 national networks that coordinate 6,039 people actively involved in anti-trafficking, on all continents.
Along with identifying and rescuing victims of human trafficking, Talitha Kum also supports those who are rescued with a variety of services including shelter, counseling, and legal assistance. The sisters also offer training to locals in vulnerable regions to be aware of signs of human trafficking. According to their Wikipedia page, the sisters are so dedicated to saving trafficked victims that they have even been known to disguise themselves as prostitutes in order to infiltrate brothels and extract women.
Agenzia Fides spoke with Sr. Abby Avelino, director of Talitha Kum Asia, about their success in 2021, when it was estimated that Talitha Kum lent aid to some 26,065 victims of human trafficking. Sr. Avelino praised the efforts of the organization to raise awareness to this plight, noting that they have been particularly successful at awareness-raising campaigns in schools, parishes, and local communities.
She went on to explain that their work has not been made easier by the world pandemic, or by political conflicts such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. She told Fides:
“Crises like these increase the number of people who become vulnerable to trafficking, particularly women, girls, young people, migrants, and refugees. The predominant forms of domestic and international human trafficking are forced labor, forced marriage and sexual exploitation.”
Sister Avelino noted that the more complicated economic problems become, the easier it is for the vulnerable to become trapped by exploitative circumstances. One area of entrapment that has grown in the pandemic years has been “cyber-based trafficking and Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC).” In response, Talitha Kum has had to adjust and take their prevention campaigns online.
Since 2020, Talitha Kum has been offering online webinars on human trafficking to strengthen prevention and awareness. The process of moving online was difficult, but it has already begun to bear fruit. In 2021, thanks to the increased online visibility of its network, Talitha Kum was able to expand its mission to Vietnam and Bangladesh.
“We have organized activities using the Sufficiency Economy Program, helping women and young people in villages and mountainous areas to manage natural food resources, such as herbs and vegetables that can be found in the local forests. This program has had a satisfying impact on the local community in supporting and promoting capacity building,” Sr Avelino told Fides.
Talitha Kum is also devoting resources to ensuring the next generation is equipped to combat human trafficking. In 2021, the organization launched a new program aimed at training youth leaders in skills to identify and lend aid to trafficking victims, as well as raising awareness of human trafficking. Sr. Avelino explained:
“We launched the Talitha Kum Anti-Trafficking Youth Ambassadors program in 2021 to engage more young people with the vision and mission of Talitha Kum. Young women and men, representing 10 countries in Asia, were trained to be anti-trafficking youth ambassadors among their peers at the grassroots level,” she remarked.