Photo courtesy of the Zonta Club of Birmingham
The Zonta Club of Birmingham recently put up this billboard on I-65 South at Exit 250 to draw attention to the problem of human trafficking, especially in the run up to The World Games 2022 in Birmingham in July.
Birmingham has a reputation as a major center for human trafficking, according to law enforcement and other officials.
This is true in part because the city is at the center of several major transportation routes — I-20, I-59 and I-65.
I-20 has often been dubbed a sort of “superhighway” for human trafficking.
Now a women’s group in the area with a long history of concern over trafficking and women’s issues has put up a billboard on I-65 to draw attention to the problem.
The Zonta Club of Birmingham put up the billboard on I-65 South at exit 250 on Dec. 4, and it will remain up until Jan. 2, club member Jean Bouler told Iron City Ink.
The billboard contains the message, “See something. Say something,” meaning that citizens should report what they consider suspicious activity, and has a phone number, 888-373-7888.
“The billboard is in response to the The World Games 2022 in Birmingham,” Bouler said.
The World Games will take place in the Birmingham area July 7-17 this year and is expected to draw about 100,000 visitors to the city from all over the world.
Club members are concerned that The World Games could cause a uptick in demand for sexual trafficking.
Other officials have expressed a similar concern, including Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.
“An increase in tourists seeking entertainments, including commercial sex, increases the potential risks for exploitation and human trafficking,” Woodfin said in December 2019, according to a report at Birmingham Watch.
The Zonta Club of Birmingham will also host a virtual program about the issue, “Human Trafficking: An American Problem,” on Jan. 11, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
The program will be led by Amy Wagar, a human trafficking survivor advocate and trainer in Birmingham.
To register, go to Eventbrite.
The Zonta Club of Birmingham was started in 1940 by professional women who were not allowed to join the then male-only Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. The goal is to empower women through service and advocacy.
Zonta of Birmingham has long been aware of human trafficking because it is a major issue with Zonta International, Bouler said.
The international organization has chapters in 63 countries and works with the United Nations to provide financial support and technical assistance to women and children in developing countries.
The local club has about 35 members and taken on the issue of human trafficking in the past, sponsoring programs, speakers and posters in restaurant restrooms, Bouler said.
For several years, the club has funded billboards in Birmingham with the message, “Say No to Violence Against Women.” “We also support the YWCA women’s shelter and are hopeful that the billboard message helps,” Bouler said.
The club also promotes women’s issues online, said club member Alison Smith.