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March 04, 2014

Women's Month Profile: Cindy McCain and Letty Ashworth

By Jess Ballance

This week, Human Rights First will profile just a few of the millions of women worldwide who are fighting discrimination and gender-based violence, who work tirelessly to make universal human rights for women a reality. On March 8, International Women’s Day, thousands of events will be held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements; the United States designates the whole month of March as Women’s History Month. At Human Rights First, whether we’re helping female refugees or partnering with activists working on the frontlines, we make women’s human rights a priority.

Today, Human Rights First celebrates two women, Cindy McCain and Letty Ashworth, for their groundbreaking work in putting an end to human trafficking. According to the United Nations, 2.4 million people at any given time are trapped in trafficking situations, 1.8 million as sexual slaves. And women are the primary victims. Fifty-five percent of forced labor victims – and 98 percent of sex trafficking victims – are women and girls. Human trafficking is an issue that demands American leadership, and Cindy and Letty are helping to lead the way.

Cindy McCain, co-chair of the Arizona governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking, has long been passionate about putting an end to this atrocity. At the Human Rights First Summit in December, McCain told a story about her first encounter with human trafficking. While shopping for a sari in India, she was in a shop that housed trafficked children under the floorboards. She said, “the obvious problem with that was that children were under the floorboards, but the real problem for me was that I walked out of there and didn’t do anything. I never did anything at that time and it’s haunted me ever since.” Today she is a loud voice in the fight against human trafficking.

Watch Cindy McCain and Letty Ashworth talk about human traffikking at the Human Rights First Summit. 

Recently, McCain used that voice to spread awareness on human trafficking during large events like the Super Bowl. McCain notes that when large groups of men congregate in one area, the consequence is often an increase in trafficking. As Arizona prepares to host the 2015 Super Bowl, McCain is advocating for legislation that would give law enforcement more power when targeting human trafficking. Based on recommendations from her task force, Arizona will implement a program to train police officers and other first responders about how to better help trafficking victims. Later this week, McCain and researchers with the McCain Institute for International Leadership will release a report on the effect of the Super Bowl on human trafficking, as well as recommendations for combating the problem during major sporting events.

Tackling this problem from another angle is Letty Ashworth, the General Manager for Global Diversity at Delta Air Lines, who works to ensure that Delta continues to set an example for the transportation industry with its efforts to combat human trafficking.

In her testimony before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations in January, Ashworth emphasized that Delta was busy in preparation for the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey: “Delta’s 80,000 employees worldwide – over 8,000 of whom live and work in the New York City Region alone - have received training and are in prime positions to be eyes and ears to spot potential cases of human trafficking and point them out to law enforcement for action.” Delta, a founding member of the Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking, was the first airline to sign the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children for Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.

Human Rights First commends Cindy McCain and Letty Ashworth for their work on human trafficking. We look forward to working with them and the thousands of other women (and men) who have devoted their lives to putting an end to modern slavery.