Arise is strengthening its presence in the Philippines to address the scourge of human trafficking. The country has been identified by UNICEF as the global epicentre of cybersex trafficking, with a high incidence of child sex trafficking, exacerbated during COVID and lockdown.
The Arise Philippines office will open in October, under the leadership of Sister Cecilia Espenilla - a pioneer of the local and international anti-trafficking movement.
Her work to combat human trafficking began in 2012, when she was appointed Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Promoter of her congregation, the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Philippines.
In partnership with local NGO, the Voice of the Free, she travelled across the country to conduct awareness campaigns in schools, colleges and universities. With the support of the Department of Education, she helped promote the iFIGHT Movement - a programme to organise and empower the youth against human trafficking - and led its implementation in schools across the country.
Through the course of her work, Cecilia was introduced to Arise and other NGOs and government agencies working towards the same goal. In 2016, she was elected as the Main Animator of Talitha Kum Philippines - a global network of Catholic women fighting human trafficking.
In 2016 she was accepted as one of the 8 Fellows of the Center for Women of Faith and Leadership (CWFL) at the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) in Washington DC. She was invited as a main speakers to the 26th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) at the United Nations in Vienna, where she presented the topic ‘Human Trafficking: How Demand Creates Supply’.
In 2017, Cecilia was appointed to Rome as the Dominican Sisters International (DSI) International Promoter of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation. She travelled worldwide, speaking at meetings and events across Europe, the US, Asia, Latin America and Africa, steadfast in her advocacy against modern slavery.
Now, Cecilia is returning to the Philippines to continue in her advocacy and frontline work for her congregation and for Arise. From October 2020, she will be the Arise Philippines Coordinator.
To support Arise’s work against human trafficking in the Philippines and beyond, donate here