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Baltic Sea Counter Trafficking Award winners announced; one of the winners - Sandra Zalcmane

Ievietots: 01.12.2017

On 29 November 2017, the counter-trafficking community from the Baltic Sea Region, together with diplomats and ambassadors based in Stockholm gathered at ‘Fotografiska’ for the first ever Baltic Sea Counter Trafficking Award Gala Dinner.

To this day, in all sectors of our work, cases of sexual and labour exploitation remain too common. Be it from the service industry to hospitality and fashion. From the restaurants and hotels we visit, the services we use and items we buy – all of these may potentially rely on human trafficking, forced labour & exploitation. Among the invitees were also local Swedish activists and cultural actors, widening the spectrum of counter-trafficking as a joint responsibility for all sectors of our society.

When it comes to assisting victims – public funding only goes so far, so it often falls on the non-governmental organisations to provide vital services such as legal advice, psychological counselling and housing. Trafficking is complex, and unfortunately, even today, support for victims beyond the basics remains scarce. The women, men and children, who are trafficked, all have their own story, which means their needs are varied. Recovery from trauma and exploitation takes time and rehabilitation can sometimes be difficult. It is the tireless work of individuals, which makes recovery for victims a little less strenuous. 

The evening honoured the work and dedication of individuals, whose work has made a significant contribution to helping victims of human trafficking in our region in the past 20 years. Out of the 15 nominees, 3 were awarded the Baltic Sea Counter Trafficking Award.

The winners:

Sandra Zalcmane

Sandra started her professional career as a social worker more than 18 years ago, at a time when the support system for victims of trafficking was only in development in Latvia. It was with her initiative and participation, that a professional support system for the social rehabilitation of victims of human trafficking was set up. In 2007 she was part of establishing the non-governmental organisation “Shelter “Safe House””, which she now heads. The organisation is one of two support services that provides a 24-hour hotline and services for victims of human trafficking and legal immigrants.

Maia Rusakova

Maia is the director of the Russian non-profit organisation “Stellit”. She has published numerous publications and toolkits on the issues of prostitution and trafficking in human beings, and has vast experience in the field of combating trafficking in women and children for sexual purposes. She has initiated and implemented more than 40 projects including research, awareness-raising campaigns to provide assistance to victims across Russia and abroad.

Sirle Blumberg

Sirle is the director of the non-profit organisation “Living for Tomorrow” in Estonia. “Living for Tomorrow” was created in 1999 to counter human trafficking. She has worked on setting up a nation-wide human trafficking helpline and through her work on the helpline, she has played a significant part in uncovering one of the largest sexual exploitation cases in Estonia in the last year. She continues to train young people as well as private sector businesses, on how to uncover situations of trafficking and exploitation.


The evening was moderated by the Swedish presenter Henrik Schyffert. His career is wide-spanning: television director, musician, scriptwriter, film producer, radio producer, actor, director and comedian. Awarded male comic of the year in 2016, he has over the years created some of Sweden’s greatest comic successes. State Secretary to the Swedish Minister of Children, the Elderly & Gender Equality Madeleine Harby Samuelsson gave an opening speech in which she highlighted the continued efforts to provide the highest level of assistance to victims of sexual exploitation and improvements to the legislation and administrative structures of the counter-trafficking work. She also highlighted the establishment of the Swedish Gender Equality Authority in Gothenburg in 2018. Council of the Baltic Sea States Secretariat Director General Maira Mora highlighted in her speech the work of the CBSS Taskforce Against Trafficking in Human Beings over the last years and addressed some of the misconceptions still held when it comes to victims of human trafficking.

Human trafficking knows no borders and includes various forms and means of exploitation. It affects men, women and children, and is closer to our everyday life than we might like to think. This is why it’s important to make a stand and take action, to be more aware of this phenomenon and most importantly, to award three outstanding individuals from our countries for their commitment and day to day work to prevent this horrendous crime. 

Throughout the event, the guests were also invited to do their bid by donating money to support the Swedish Civil Society Platform against Human Trafficking, which helps victims of human trafficking on a daily basis in Sweden. Ninna Mörner, representing the platform, gave the guests in her speech a glimpse into the journey, a victim of human trafficking takes on their way to recovery. Often the victims have difficulty getting help from officials structures, every individual case has its own complexities and differences, and too often the victims also have children with them, which means a comprehensive family support system is in need.

If you would like to read more on the fundraising campaign see www.chuffed.org/project/trafficking.

The evening also included a performance by the chart-topping Swedish singer-songwriter Rhys, bringing the evening to its culmination.

Lasma Stabina, the Latvian Delegate to the CBSS Task Force Against Trafficking in Human Beings, also gave out a special award of recognition from the Latvian Ministry of Interior to Vineta Polatside, CBSS Senior Adviser, and Anthony Jay Olsson, CBSS Head of Media & Communications, for their dedication and efforts in counter-trafficking work over the last years.