Remember the Disneyland image of the United Nations?
If you take it and smear disillusionment, regret, backstabbing and some angry passion, that is what Madeleine Rees’ experience was.
Her eyes are a piercing blue with so much sadness, anger, and passion that only a person who has lived through so much disappointment from losing a long and violent battle can contain. Her right cheekbone slants down a little farther, as if to say that it too had been broken by the battle. She was sitting but her story and her voice were so commanding that it seemed she was standing on a podium.
The first thing she said: “It was all true. All events actually happened.”
And I do not doubt it for a second. I know it happened. I saw her eyes flash from the pain. The corners of her mouth twitched on the last syllable of the sentence, as if she suddenly realized the reality of her sentence.
And her memories came flooding in. I know this because I saw it. She paused after saying the story was true, and I saw the events re-actualizing in her eyes. In this Lausanne lecture room, full of Swiss law students who may not understand her English, she is willing to tell her story.
Madeleine Rees was working as a gender expert in the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights. She was crucial in the United Nations in raising awareness of human trafficking, especially in Eastern European countries, where she worked closely with Kathryn Bolkovac in attempting to end trafficking altogether. And the worst part is that they could have done it. They could have ended a severe violation of human rights but governments from all countries, as well as the beloved United Nations blocked them from succeeding.
The students that were actually enrolled in the law lecture (I crashed the class that day because I heard Mme Rees would be there) watched this film: The Whistleblower
It looks like a great thriller that would make you jump in your seat in the movie theatre, right? But the reality of it can make you sick to your stomach.
As Madeleine Rees sat in front of a lecture hall at my university, I could only think “What happened? How did you get here?”
This woman almost solved one of the sickest cases of the world, and she knew how to fix it, but the men who run our world covered up the case of human trafficking and fired Madeleine’s colleage, Kathryn, because she was a “whistleblower.” A whistleblower tells the truth about an entreprise or an experience–its not libel or slander. It is not even journalism. It is the truth. And Kathryn was fired by the UN for “whistleblowing.”
The UN would prefer that no one knows about the cover up scandal they did with Kathryn, in order to guard its Disney image. But Kathryn and Madeleine would prefer the world to know their story. The real story.
And this brings me back to the power of women. These two women have the passion to change the world and change other womens’ lives whether there is something in it for them or not. They don’t care about “turning the other cheek” when a great enterprise bribes the UN or another government body to keep human trafficking quiet. But there is always a loophole in the law, always a secret service to keep everyone in their place.
This is real. I could see it in Mme Rees’ eyes. These stories aren’t good plot twists in government scandal television series, or a a solid story line in a horror movie. Human trafficking, government corruption–it all exists.
I wondered when the last time was that Mme Rees smiled. Just then someone asked what she was doing now, and she explained that she helps the women who have removed themselves from the trafficking industry to heal themselves. One corner of her mouth came up into a satisfied smile when she said that some women laugh again, but her eyes remained cold and deep.