San Francisco city officials Tuesday kicked off the city’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month by honoring two women helping to address the problem and youth who worked to increase awareness of the issue.

The San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking honored Cindy Liou, staff attorney with Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, and Jaida Im, founder and executive director of Freedom House, a Burlingame-based center for human trafficking survivors.

Mayor Ed Lee was on hand at City Hall this morning to give Liou and Im the SFCAHT 2013 Modern Day Abolitionist Awards for their efforts.

“This is such an important challenge for all of us,” Lee said.

Liou said a major way to increase visibility of the problem of human trafficking is to highlight the stories of the victims.

“Their individual experiences and voices need to make it to the top,” she said.

One of the survivors, Minh Dang, was the keynote speaker at today’s event and told the story of being sold into sex trafficking by her parents at the age of 10.

“I felt like my dignity was stolen from me,” Dang said.

She has since become an advocate for human trafficking survivors and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in social welfare at University of California at Berkeley.

Mayor Lee also honored winners of the collaborative’s second-annual youth poster contest.

“We must make sure future generations are part of the solution,” he said.

A group of students from the Community Youth Center of San Francisco’s Young Asian Women Against Violence program won first place for their submission.

Human Trafficking Awareness Month was established by San Francisco lawmakers in 2010 and runs from National Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Jan. 11 to Feb. 12, the date of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

More information about the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking and dates of events during the awareness month are available at

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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