(As prepared for delivery)
September 13, 2018
Good evening and welcome to Villa Richardson!
Tonight we’re gathered to honor Blessing Okoedion — an inspirational voice in the fight against human trafficking.
Thank you for being here, Blessing.
In June, the U.S. State Department honored Blessing as a 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report Hero.
Each year the Department bestows this title on exemplary individuals who devote their lives to the fight against human trafficking. They are recognized for their tireless efforts to assist, protect, and educate trafficking victims, and to punish the offenders.
Blessing is clearly a hero. She is a survivor, an activist, an author, and a fierce protector of women and girls suffering under the evil of human trafficking.
She has helped a multitude of women escape from this horror. Her advocacy has saved numerous lives.
Blessing’s story is nothing short of remarkable. Prior to fighting human trafficking, she worked as a computer technician in Nigeria.
During this time she was exploited by traffickers posing as recruiters and forced into prostitution in Naples, Italy.
After four days, Blessing escaped. Her perseverance took her to Casa Rut, a shelter managed by Ursuline nuns in nearby Caserta.
During a recent symposium hosted by our embassy, Blessing explained how the sisters of Casa Rut provided her with shelter and care.
Today, Blessing works as a cultural mediator for trafficking victims. She plays a vital role in ensuring that survivors receive the services they need during their healing process — and that law enforcement engage in a victim-centered manner.
Blessing has written a book, “The Courage of Freedom,” to help others better understand the horrors of human trafficking.
She is an inspiration and a shining example to all. Her efforts are critical in the fight against human trafficking.
Today human trafficking is one of the most tragic human rights abuses of our time. More than
40 million men, women, and children worldwide are victims of this global evil.
The United States is committed to ending this horrific offense. President Trump has pledged to bring the full force and weight of the
U.S. government to combat human trafficking.
The United States and the Holy See share a common commitment to fight and end this crime. As the U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, I am fully dedicated to this cause.
The path to eliminating human trafficking requires cooperation. No single government or individual can do it alone. Governments, faith-based organizations, civil society, and survivors must work together.
The United States joins heroes like Blessing and other like-minded partners, to defeat human trafficking.
Together, we can and must do more to eradicate this horrific crime.
And with that, I would like to welcome Blessing to say a few words. Thank you.