On July 1, ‘Women to Go’ made its debut in North America. The Task Force on Human Trafficking with the help of event organizer, Phyllis Nutkis, brought the campaign to Evanston, Illinois. Women to Go forcefully confronts society with the evils of trafficking and prostitution by exposing these underground crimes in a public space. During a Women to Go event, women with price tags are placed in a storefront as if for sale, while volunteers explain the demonstration to passersby.
The event in Evanston focused on Backpage, a classified advertising site with an adult section. “There’s a tremendous number of ads that look like they’re for individual women offering their services, but really most of those are placed by pimps,” explained Phyllis. At the event, Phyllis and her volunteers collected 609 signatures on a petition urging Backpage to discontinue advertisements for sexual services.
The event was hosted by Williams Next Door, a small family owned women’s boutique. In addition to providing TFHT with the space, Williams Next Door also donated 10% of their sales that day to the campaign. Zoe Lembeck, one of the store’s owners, explained, “As soon as we heard about this, we jumped at the chance to be a part of it. We loved the creative presentation along with the informative and pragmatic side of it. Being part of this event feels exciting and relevant as a woman, and as a business owner.”
Although Phyllis hails from Chicago, she is one of TFHT’s most active volunteers. In addition to staging Women to Go Phyllis is also a lobbyist for Project 119. Phyllis credits her family who “…were always fighting for social justice,” with making social action an integral part of her everyday life. “I’ve been hearing about ATZUM’s work for years, and it’s inspiring. I always wanted to be a part of what ATZUM does, and this was something I could do.”
Organizing the event was at times challenging, though Phyllis maintains the “right person with the right skills would find it manageable.” She explains, “The rewards are many – meeting and working with dedicated, interesting, passionate volunteers; learning all kinds of new skills you didn’t know you had; and most of all knowing that you’ve done something really good and important in the world.”
If you are inspired by Phyllis’ success and want to contribute to the fight against human trafficking, host a Women-to-Go event in your community. To find out more, please e-mail Rebecca.
The Task Force on Human Trafficking debuted as Women to Go in Tel Aviv in October 2010. The daylong event considerably raised public awareness about proposed legislation to criminalize the purchase of sexual services in Israel. Shalmor-Avnon-Amichay/Y&R, an Israeli advertising agency, designed the campaign for TFHT. The success of the Tel-Aviv event inspired TFHT to export Women to Go to different cities.