Monday, 10 January 2011

Human Trafficking Awareness Week

Tomorrow, the 11th of January is Human Trafficking Awareness day. I have decided to have an entire week devoted to books concerning this topic (and similar areas).

I was first aware of human trafficking when I was around 12 years old. I started reading Anne McCaffrey's Acorna series. I truly loved Acorna, how she could heal people and how crazy people were after her. I loved how she saved a lot of children from slavery (mostly for working in mines, or workshops, but also some young girls were taken for adult relations). I was horrified at what happened to the children before they were saved. I know I cried as I realised that although Acorna's story is set in space in the distant future, this was happening in the world.

After helping out with Aids Awareness Day and National Non-Fiction Day, I thought that I should help support the cause I'm most interested in.

My understanding of human trafficking is buy and selling people for services. This can be for slavery, such as farming, factory work (making clothes in sweat shops), or other jobs. My main interest is in trafficking where people are sold for non-consenting adult relations. To me this is almost the worst crime on earth ever. Children are forced to grow up too fast. They lose their freedom, their dignity, and hope. Some are under 5 years old.

Please don't make the mistake I did by investigating this on You Tube right before bed. I couldn't sleep for a long time. There are hundreds of organisations out there on the web who explain all the details of human trafficking, and how it affects every single country in the world. Apart from possibly the Arctic and Antartic because not very many people live there. But wherever there are people, there are a few sick and twisted individuals who have it in their heads that humans (especially children) are objects. They can be bought or sold for any price. Sometimes to the highest bidder. Sometimes to just anyone.

We may not have Acorna, but there is hope for some of the children out there. There are countless organisations which try and shut down seedy establishments, as well as the gangs who find the children. The one organisation which I keep an eye on is Transitions Global. It started with an ordinary American family learning about human trafficking, and then they set off to Cambodia to help save girls. What makes them unique is that they don't just save the girls, they give them a home to live in until they can manage on their own two feet. They are given the opportunity to an education, to prepare for any career they wish for. They give the girls counselling, they give them opportunities where they can actually laugh and feel like a child again. Their innocence may have been not, but they can regain their lives with a lot of help and support.

Here are a few questions the Transitions Global team kindly answered for this post.

  1. What's the maximum number of girls you can take in at a time? Our TLC Program can take up to 20 girls and our STAR House Program can take 8 girls at a time. We don't take more because we create a home-like environment and keep a family atmosphere. Also, we want to give girls the maximum attention to their therapy, life skills, education and job training. We believe "It begins with a girl", which drives our work.
  2. Is there a minimum and/or maximum age limit for taking a girl in? We work with Cambodian and Vietnamese girls between the ages of 14-18 years old. This is the most critical age group, with the most challenges in finding care that is focused on their particular needs.
  3. What is the average length of time a girl spends with you? Our program averages 18-24 months, but the program is focused on the individual needs of the girls. We have had girls that only needed 6-9 months and we are seeing some girls with 9th and 10th grade educations, who need a little longer to finish high school and have the opportunity to attend university.
  4. Roughly what percentage of girls are able to bring their perpetrators to court and have them prosecuted? Of all our girls over 90% testify against their traffickers. Most result in significant jail time. Our latest was sentenced to 16 years. In about 10% of the cases, justice is not done and traffickers, brothel owners and pimps are not prosecuted. But, the girls still feel empowered to have spoken up for themselves.
  5. Do the girls keep in touch once they've 'graduated' from you? Yes. Many have come back from as far as China to visit, bring their babies to see us, or just to drop in. Last week, a graduate called to say 'thank you' for all Transitions Global did to help her heal and find a job as a counselor to other survivors.
  6. How would you like Transitions Global to expand in the future? (More care for girls/different locations) We used to have dreams of world domination (just kidding). We really want to help more girls. What we are learning is that, while we would consider opening other TLC's and STAR Houses, we really believe we can create value from developing aftercare curriculum to help other organizations use our program in their countries. To date, Transitions Global has helped organizations in India, Greece and Indonesia to develop aftercare programs.
  7. Would you consider running a similar scheme for boys? "It begins with a girl" is really a lot more than a tag line - it is the ethos of what we do and how we do it. Girls are the most affected by sex trafficking. While boys certainly need services, this looks much different and is not what we are good at. Empowering girls is our core competency and we want to do what we can do best. We believe that we have some practices that would work for a boys program, but we want to reach the greatest need, which is girls.

It is very easy to help support Transitions Global - follower them on Twitter and on  Facebook. Even by doing that small thing you are helping raise awareness about human trafficking, and a wonderful cause who help support some of the girls involved.

I'd like to thank everyone who has donated books for this event - at one point I was in despair of finding any other than Acorna! I'll be reviewing the entire Acorna series, including the one about her children (I'm actually writing this post on Dec 23rd. I haven't read them all yet, so I'm guessing that Acorna's children continue their mother's good work).


Caroline said...

Hi Jess!
I am really really interested by your Human Traficking Awareness week!! I will read up all the posts when I come back from work!!
(you can link your Anne McCaffrey reviews in the First quarter linky (link on sidebar)!!) x

Nayuleska said...

Hi Caro! Thanks :) I'm glad that I can devote a week to this cause, and hopefully I can continue to raise awareness after this week.

Is it the link in your side bar? I'll go and have a may need to email me instructions!

Liana Brooks said...

Excellent post. Thanks for bringing this to everyone's awareness.