In the fall of 1998, while still a member of the U.S. Congress, Linda Smith traveled to Falkland Road in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India — one of the worst brothel districts in the world. The hopeless faces of desperate women and children forced into prostitution compelled Linda to found Shared Hope International (SHI).
Linda’s model for restoration has been revolutionary. SHI builds partnerships with local groups to provide homes and shelters where women and children can live without time limit. These Villages of Hope have a holistic approach to recovery, including education and job skills training.
To build momentum in the international anti-trafficking movement, Linda founded the War Against Trafficking Alliance (WATA) in January of 2001. WATA coordinates both regional and international efforts necessary to combat sex trafficking. In February 2003, WATA co-sponsored a World Summit with the U.S. Department of State, which brought together non-government and government leaders from 114 nations, all demonstrating a sustained commitment to prosecuting trafficking, providing assistance to victims, and building regional strategies to protect the vulnerable from the sex trade.
In 2006, SHI spearheaded the U.S. Mid-Term Review on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC), bringing together leaders from across the United States to assess progress made in combating the sexual slavery of children in America. The CSEC conference resulted in a broader approach to combating trafficking that looks at the victimizer in addition to the victim. A Congressional hearing held by the Helsinki Commission on the CSEC Report was held in September 2006 to emphasize the threat to nations that CSEC poses. The U.S. Mid-Term Review Report on CSEC in America was the basis for a United States-Canada Regional Consultation in preparation for the World Congress III Against CSEC held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in November 2008. Shared Hope International delivered the report in person and participated in the outcome document from the World Congress III.
The “buyer” became the focus of the DEMAND. report and documentary in 2007, funded by the U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. In creating the DEMAND. report, Linda and team were in the field conducting research in Jamaica, the Netherlands, Japan, and the United States in order to reveal the sophisticated business model behind sex trafficking, exposing the Buyers who increase Demand and the traffickers who Supply the victims.