“In order to elevate the experiences and suppressed voices of victims and survivors of human trafficking, we rely heavily on collective narratives and shared lived experiences to draw out the insights, leadership, wisdom, and courage of these remarkable human beings.”

Araceli Alonso

Welcome to Social Transformations to End Exploitation and Trafficking for Sex or STREETS, a signature project of the UW-Madison 4W Initiative. The 4W-STREETS project is a local to global and research to action initiative to foster social transformations that contribute to ending human trafficking related to sexual exploitation. The initiative was designed as a platform for knowledge exchange between UW-Madison and civil society including service providers, survivors, advocates, and other stakeholders. Through STREETS we have taken an innovative approach to social transformation through education, engagement, and action research grounded in the perspectives and preferences of survivors. Though much of our work focuses on women and girls, we work to end trafficking for people of all genders..

STREETS Tree of Transformation

Our Mission

Contribute to the end of human trafficking through education, action research, and collaborative engagement that is grounded in the perspectives and preferences of survivors.

We work to achieve this mission through the following activities and impacts:

  1. We research to improve the well-being of people who trade sex by using participatory approaches to translate evidence into action.
  2. We educate by developing materials and curriculum based on the experiences of trafficking survivors to share with scholars and students in order to enhance leadership and grow changemakers.
  3. We engage diverse communities by cultivating strong relationships and convening survivors, practitioners, and researchers to identify best practices and policy recommendations for addressing sex trafficking.

The Tree of Transformation illustrates our approach to ending human trafficking through social transformation.  It includes the key foundations, motives, and action areas of STREETS that prioritize the wellbeing of survivors. At its roots, STREETS is grounded in trauma-informed philosophies and strategies that motivate and animate our work in higher education. The base and trunk represent our core that grows from the Wisconsin Idea and 4W’s vision to make life better for women and the world better for all. The tree’s canopy represents STREETS’ three main action areas of education, research, and engagement and their subcomponents. Surrounding the canopy are elements that permeate all action areas and allow us to achieve fruitful outcomes that are improving practice, expanding a circle of care for survivors, and investing in the next generation of scholars and advocates.

Explore the Tree of Transformation.

Our Vision

Creative collaboration in higher education driving social change toward wellbeing, hope and an end to exploitation and human trafficking

Our Story

In 2014, Lori DiPrete Brown of the Global Health Institute and Soyeon Shim, Dean of the School of Human Ecology, were working together to create a new women’s wellbeing initiative on UW’s campus.  As part of that process, they invited Araceli Alonso and Jean Geran, both of whom had extensive experience with human trafficking, to dream of ways such an initiative could address the challenges posed to women’s wellbeing by the scourge of sex trafficking in Wisconsin and around the world.  The larger effort became the 4W Initiative (Women, Wellbeing in Wisconsin and the World).  And with the support of the Diermeier Family Foundation, several UW colleagues and interested community partners like Jan Miyasaki of Project Respect in Madison were able to come together to create an innovative program designed to function as a platform of knowledge and action on issues of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Social Transformations to End Exploitation and Trafficking for Sex or STREETS was launched in 2015 as one of 4W’s pillar projects with the goal of amplifying the voices of survivors of human trafficking in higher education and serving as a research to practice bridge both locally and globally. In 2016, the existence and initial work of STREETS helped recruit a promising young researcher, Lara Gerassi, to the faculty of the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work.  Lara leads the STREETS research agenda which has expanded significantly under her leadership.

STREETS also has become a core project of the UNESCO Chair on Gender, Wellbeing and a Culture of Peace at UW-Madison.  The UW-UNESCO Chair focuses directly on women’s right to live healthy lives and to access education and knowledge. In addition, it cuts across all other UNESCO priorities, specifically ‘dignity’ recognizing that women’s empowerment and women’s rights remain a challenge and that they should benefit from and be included fully in the progress of societies; ‘justice,’ based on our conviction that working towards the promotion of women’s wellbeing entails building long-lasting peace and true democracy, and advancing towards the elimination of diverse forms of structural violence women are subjected to; and ‘partnership’ addressing North-South transnational collaborations and inter-sectoral approaches at the local, national, regional and global levels as the most efficient means to implement change.

The work of STREETS has evolved over time to build on the strengths of our team, our students, and our partners. Several elements have emerged that set us apart.  From the beginning, we sought to integrate art and artistic expression into all aspects of our work as core components of wellbeing. We use trauma-informed methods that we call a circle of care which allows us to combine academic rigor and feminist emotion toward deeper connection and mutual learning. Our trusted survivor friends have taught us the importance of cultural humility for understanding their diverse needs especially for those from indigenous, racial, and other minority groups whom we seek to honor. The work is never done and we continue to learn, grow and teach – grateful for our many partners whose contributions have made the work shine.