Shalom Prize for Romanian aid project against sexual exploitation

The working group “Shalom für Gerechtigkeit und Frieden” (Shalom for Justice and Peace) at the KU will award this year's Shalom Prize to the organization Reaching Out Romania (ROR). It is a non-governmental aid organization in Romania that helps girls get out of forced prostitution. ROR rescues children and young people from the Moldovan and Romanian mafias that traffick people to Western Europe. At a facility run by ROR in the city of Pitesti, girls receive protection from traffickers, receive life skills-based education, and psychological support.

The organization was founded in 1999 by Iana Matei. The 64-year-old psychologist has been committed to justice since the late 1980s and has been fighting human trafficking since the late 1990s. Since 1999, ROR has helped more than 750 victims, built two assistance centers and a farm to provide them with a framework of normal living conditions and the possibility of reintegration into society. Currently, twelve children and adolescents between the ages of ten and sixteen with Romanian citizenship live in the centers and are provided with a safe place as well as medical, psychological, social and legal assistance by ROR.

Survivors of human trafficking have often been subjected to physical abuse that has profound physical and psychological effects. Academic studies have shown that the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or sleep disorders is extremely high. Cognitive dysfunction, depression, and suicide are among the long-term consequences.

"Victims of human trafficking and sexual violence are often isolated and socially ostracized; even their circle of friends and family often turn away. ROR offers victims space to heal, raises awareness in the community, enables the building of bonds, and creates new perspectives on life with specific targeted actions. The organization thus also makes an enormously important contribution to combating the structures of human trafficking. Once again, we as a working group would like to point out with this year's project that there are serious violations of human rights here in Europe as well, against which we raise our voices", explains Ulrike Schurr-Schöpfel, spokeswoman of the working group.

 Iana Matei founded the organization Reaching Out Romania.
Iana Matei founded the organization Reaching Out Romania.

ROR is the only organization in Romania accredited and licensed to work with minors who have suffered the trauma of human trafficking. "If, after being identified and rescued, the victims are offered no better alternative than the streets, starvation, and neglect, they will return to the environment from which they were just rescued. In addition to sending them to school and offering activities and medical treatments, we also work with the family whenever possible to ensure consistency and continuity", reports Iana Matei, founder of Reaching Out Romania.

The Shalom Prize is one of the most highly endowed human rights prizes in Germany. Last year, a total of 28,000 euros were collected for the then award-winning organization, the pan-European peace network Youth Peace Ambassadors Network . The prize money is raised exclusively through donations. Citizens of the city of Eichstätt, students, alumni and staff at the KU make the human rights work of the working group, which was founded in 1981, possible through purely voluntary commitment.

The Shalom Prize will be awarded to Iana Matei on June 24, 2023, at 7 p.m. in the Holzersaal of the Sommerresidenz in Eichstätt.

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