Shandra Woworuntu is a survivor of human trafficking who has translated her pain into powerful advocacy. She was originally a financial executive at an international bank in her native Indonesia. In 2001, political turbulence erupted, and she lost her job. Desperately needing income, Shandra responded to an advertisement for a job that promised a six month position in the hotel industry in Chicago, but when she arrived, she found out she had been lied to.
Shandra was sold and forced into an underworld of sex trafficking in New York and the surrounded areas. After many horrifying acts, she summoned the courage and escaped her traffickers by jumping out of a bathroom window in Brooklyn. After escaping, Shandra was homeless – she had no food, no money, little knowledge of English, and no way of finding support.
Shandra started to believe that she would never be able to find help until she met someone who took the time to connect her to law enforcement agents. They linked her to Safe Horizon’s Anti-Trafficking Program (ATP). The expert staff at ATP provided compassion and care to help her overcome the traumatic experience as well as guidance to rebuild her life.
Since then, Shandra helped create a survivor leadership program called “Voices of Hope” that is facilitated by Safe Horizon. She has raised global awareness of human trafficking by lobbying for policy changes and encouraging worldwide education. In 2014 she founded Mentari Human trafficking Survivor Empowerment Program Inc., a non-profit organization to help survivors reintegrate back into their communities.
In 2015 she helped Mentari establish a program in Indonesia that distributed five thousand copies of her educational book “Impian Dewi” (Dewi’s Dream) to educate children about human trafficking. Mentari Indonesia also partnered with local organizations to promote backyard farming to help eliminate poverty and prevent human trafficking.
President Barack Obama appointed Shandra to the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking. As a member of the Council, Shandra will play an integral role in providing recommendations to the U.S. Government to strengthen U.S. federal policy and programming efforts to help end human trafficking once and for all.