From global to localTeresa Oleszczuk is a women’s rights activist who took part in the Beijing Conference in 1995. She is one of the founders of the La Strada Foundation against Trafficking in Persons and Slavery, an organization that works to combat human trafficking in Poland and in several countries across Europe.
Being able to participate in the Beijing Conference in 1995 was the result of long and hard but immensely satisfying work that took place in the many months prior to the event.
I was lucky to be given the chance to participate in the preparation of the national report of NGOs and the national conference for Poland. We could see that it was a crucial time for the integration of women’s groups. Issues raised in the report by women, citizens of my mother country, made me look beyond the perception of my city towards the bigger national, and even global picture.
Challenges that women face to make the world a more just place – from the point of view of this newly discovered international perspective – are universal for all.
During the Beijing Conference, I was especially interested in the topic of human trafficking. Sometime before leaving for Beijing, I had started a program in Poland aimed at combating human trafficking of women. In 1993, working with some Dutch organizations, we prepared a European action plan aimed at counteracting this phenomenon. I was involved in the development of La Strada – the Foundation that was brought to life in Poland and Ukraine thanks to this programme.
When I left La Strada, it was with a feeling of a mission well-accomplished – the mission of convincing politicians and media to take the issue of women’s slavery, practiced in Poland and in Europe, seriously. After the Foundation was off the ground, I returned to my previous employment, working as a graphic designer in one of the biggest Polish weekly news magazines.
I continue to take advantage of other civil rights tools. I participate in every Manifa, the Women’s Solidarity March, as well as the Equality Parade, with pride and satisfaction, year after year in a continually growing crowd.