Former Rotary Peace Fellow a defender of children
Former Rotary Peace Fellow Katia de Mello Dantas takes part in a panel at a Caribbean regional meeting on protecting children from sexual exploitation. Photo courtesy of Katia de Mello Dantas
Katia de Mello Dantas is helping to stop sexual abuse of children, including pornography, human trafficking, and abduction. In the past year, she has worked especially on protecting children from sexual predators on the Internet.
Dantas is policy director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in Brasília, Brazil. Every day, at least 22,000 children worldwide are reported missing, and 5,000 are victimized through commercial sexual exploitation, according to the center.
Based in Virginia, USA, the center has trained more than 3,200 law enforcement officers from over 110 countries and is drafting model child protection legislation for use by governments around the world. Dantas travels throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, drafting uniform laws and training officers in how to collect evidence and file charges effectively.
Previously, Dantas worked for USAID in Brazil and, during her studies as a 2007-09 Rotary Peace Fellow, completed fieldwork with the International Organization for Migration, where she researched the impact of cross-border movement on HIV/AIDS transmission and other public health concerns. Through the Paul F. and Carolyn C. Rizza Endowed Rotary Peace Fellowship, Dantas studied at the Rotary Peace Center at Duke University and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA. She was also a member of a Group Study Exchange team from District 4530 (part of Goiás, Tocantins & Distrito Federal, Brazil) to District 7890 (parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts, USA) in 2005-06.
“My network of contacts significantly expanded with the fellowship, and that certainly helps me tremendously in pushing forward in combating child sexual exploitation, abuse, and abduction,” says Dantas. “The tools and techniques I’ve learned from Duke -- from a simple stakeholder analysis to the much more complex dynamics of international aid -- are all applied on a daily basis to my job . . . And I cannot forget to mention the importance of Rotary’s motto, ‘Service Above Self.’ This saying alone gives me the strength to continue when I feel ready to give up.”
Most of all, Dantas says, it is gratifying to know that her work is reducing the number of children being victimized by sexual predators.
“Little by little I believe we can get to a point where all children of the world will be able to be just that: children. Not toys in the hands of adults, not mini workers, not victims; just children, with their full array of rights guaranteed,” she says.