Group, UD Professor Honored For Anti-Trafficking Efforts

February 11, 2022

A local coalition and a University of Dubuque faculty member have been recognized for their efforts to stop human trafficking.

The Tri-State Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Kim Hilby, a UD assistant professor of sociology, were among five entities recognized by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office this week with Outstanding Anti-Trafficking Service Awards. The awards were presented as part of Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

“I’m very proud of the coalition,” said Sister Marilou Irons, co-chair of the coalition. “There are so many well-organized, enthusiastic, passionate women on this group. Pretty much all of us are former teachers. We know how to organize and move mountains.”

The coalition was founded in 2014 by five area congregations of women religious: Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters and Sisters of Mercy.

Sister Mary Lechtenberg, cochair of the coalition, said the group has worked hard to educate the community about human trafficking and how to spot it, despite not having an in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Our focus is raising awareness and helping (community members) know the indicators,” she said. “It’s what we’re continuing to do with hotel employees.”

An Iowa law passed in 2020 requires hotels and motels to train employees to spot signs of human trafficking in order to be included on a list of places public employees can stay while traveling on government business. The effort was supported by all Dubuque area women religious. She said coalition leaders hope to gain new members as they continue educating local residents about human trafficking, noting that members do not have to be sisters of a religious order.

Read the full story by Kayli Reese on Dubuke Telegraph Herald.