Mercedes Assorati

Ashoka Fellow
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Mercedes Assorati was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Mercedes is fearlessly confronting one of Argentina’s most formidable challenges: human trafficking. With a comprehensive and diverse initiative, Mercedes organizes all levels of society to recognize their complicity and combat this deep-seeded yet invisible problem. At the heart of her work is the centrality of the victims of human trafficking, the illegal trade, enslavement and exploitation of people for purposes of domestic service, forced labor, prostitution, or extraction and sale of their organs. By giving agency and an active role to exploited individuals, Mercedes overcomes the sense of dehumanization from which they suffered in their captivity while also uniting stakeholders in behind her efforts.

Believing that a synergy between civil society and government must exist to address this problem, Mercedes has resourced coalitions of organizations, advocacy groups, and social service agencies in the citizen sector into an integrated support structure that operates in parallel to the various government agencies and ministries that have failed to protect its citizens against trafficking. This network receives specialized training from Zero Slavery and promotes her toolbox of over 200 different tools and resources that individuals, citizen organizations (COs) and governments can employ to combat and prevent human trafficking. Mercedes also focuses on public policy change and the use of innovative law suits to achieve large-scale government reform and create allies among the public sector. Instead of merely advocating for change, Mercedes is spearheading societal change.

Mercedes’s program, Zero Slavery, is at a pivotal moment in Argentina. While her national network is still evolving and developing its abilities to nimbly address cases of human exploitation, she has shaped partnerships with lawmakers to enact a national plan to combat trafficking, the implementation of which would be a watershed moment for the country and her work.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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