Celhia de Lavarene is a journalist by training. For nearly two decades she has worked as a correspondent for Jeune Afrique, Radio France Internationale, NewAfrican Magazine and Mediapart reporting from the United Nations. She has also worked on seven UN missions in places as diverse as Cambodia, South Africa, Eastern Slavonia, East Timor, Bosnia and Liberia where she has been a political counselor, a electoral monitor until 2001 when the head of the UN mission in war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina appointed her to create and run the UN’s first-ever operation to combat human trafficking for sexual exploitation. That effort, a response to the burgeoning sex-slave trade between Eastern and Western Europe that was being funneled through the Balkans, was known as the Special Trafficking Operations Program- STOP.
For over two years, Celhia lead a contingent of more than 200 international and local police officers based in 9 regional offices. The program raided 240 premises, closed 142, and rescued 265 victims. The operation was shut down in 2003, when the UN mission in Bosnia ended.
In 2004 and 2005, Celhia set-up and lead a similar operation to deal with sex trafficking in post-war Liberia. Building on the experiences in Bosnia, the operation was not just a police action, but added a social component: finding shelter for rescued victims, and arranging for their repatriation.
Dismayed by the lack of effective help offered to victims of human trafficking in terms of relief, assistance and protection, Célhia and two of her colleagues decided to create Stop Trafficking Of People, Inc, an international humanitarian organization (STOP whose goal is to assist victims of human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. S.T.O.P is registered and based in the United States and is a 501 (c) (3).
Celhia’s book about her experiences fighting human trafficking in Liberia, “Un Visa Pour L’enfer” (‘A Visa to Hell’) has been published by Fayard, in France, in October 2006 and in Brazil in 2008. Her second book, “Les Etoiles avaient déserté le ciel” (The Stars had deserted the sky) has been published by Balland, in France, in October 2016. She is writing another book, a novel this time.
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