Maria Escobar ’22 is a women’s and gender studies and psychology double major with a minor in peace and justice studies. If that sounds like a lot, it is! But Maria is dedicated to the causes she has always felt passionate about. “Ever since I was young, I have felt a strong responsibility towards ensuring justice, especially in terms of gender equality,” she told us. And it would seem she made the right call to take on so many different subjects. “Three years later, I can say that every course I take for my major reaffirms the fact that I made the right decision.”
Initially, there were several colleges that Maria was considering. But it was a visit to the campus on accepted students day as an early decision applicant that really solidified her choice. “I had this feeling that Pace was the right college for me,” she said, noting that the location in particular had a lot to do with her decision, too. “If you take advantage of this, you can make so many connections for your future career and land internships as early as your freshman year.”
She landed her own internship during her sophomore year with with Sanctuary for Families, which is a leading nonprofit service provider for survivors of sex trafficking, domestic violence, and gender-based violence in New York. “The main aspect of my internship revolved around doing research on the Nordic Model, a legal framework to partially decriminalize prostitution. I had never heard of it before and it remains one of the lesser known frameworks despite being adopted in seven countries around the world,” Maria explained. “[It was] my dream internship. It inspired me to pursue a career in law working with survivors of gender-based violence.”
Maria’s interest and potential in this area was definitely noticed. Her manager from Sanctuary For Families suggested she attend the World Without Exploitation annual youth summit, which took place over the summer. “[It’s a] two-day event that focused on educating youth on commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking,” Maria explained.
Along with ten of her cohorts, she went on to help form the World Without Exploitation National Youth Coalition, a network of young people who are dedicated to ending exploitation through advocacy, awareness, and education. Their mission statement is a powerful one, and admirable from passionate students:
“The fight to create a world where no one is bought, sold, or exploited is a fight for the future—and creating an exploitation-free future is what the World Without Exploitation Youth Coalition is all about. Our new, national, youth-led network—made up of young people, ages 15 to 28—is using advocacy, educational, and awareness raising initiatives to create change while supporting a culture of inclusion and diversity. Young survivor leaders, students, professionals, activists, artists and allies are all encouraged to be a part of our efforts.”
“I am very proud of this venture and [I’m] so happy I am part of its development as its director of social media,” she went on to explain. Check out Maria’s work on Instagram!
Of course, the important work is never finished. Maria is currently presenting at the 2021 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women along with two other council members of the coalition. “[We will] discuss our movement as part of an event called ‘Girls Fighting Human Trafficking,’” Maria told us. We wish her luck on another incredible endeavor!