This week on Wednesday 2 December, the world will be acknowledging crimes of trafficking and the worst forms of exploitation against individuals through the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.
Trafficking and slavery are heinous crimes that know no boundaries. Victims of trafficking can be found in every country in the world, including right here in Australia.
World Vision Australia responds to this issue through field programs focusing on prevention and protection, and on advocacy to change laws and policies in many countries, including Australia – but is known globally in the sector for its funding for and work through the regional anti-trafficking project End Trafficking in Persons (ETIP). The regional project works across borders in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam to prevent the most vulnerable from being trafficked, to protect survivors of human trafficking, and to promote improved anti-trafficking government policies.
A few weeks ago I joined the regional ETIP management team in Bangkok – along with regional and national World Vision operational and advocacy leaders – to reflect on the successes of the last five years of the project, and to start planning for the next five year phase of the project.
Even though I have worked on the project for my last six years at World Vision – and am very familiar with the activities, I was still struck yet again by the passion and commitment of our staff on the ground who are at the coalface of the issue and have the trust of our beneficiary communities – and more importantly, on the incredible successes and real impact we are having on this issue.
Often when we talk about trafficking we focus only on the problem – so I wanted us to take the time this week, especially on this important day – to focus on our achievements and celebrate the changes we have made.
To name a few, this year alone to date, World Vision has:
- directly supported 461 survivors of trafficking – helping them to return to their home or to a safe community where they can rebuild their lives
- worked with Indonesian and Cambodian Governments to help rescue 62 Cambodian men trafficked into the fishing industry and return them to ETIP locations helping them to generate sustainable incomes for the future so that they do not have to take risky decisions again
- reached 125,102 vulnerable people through behaviour change communication (BCC) materials, including safe migration books, games, radio ads, and phone scripts for Migration Centre hotlines
- in Laos – through our Child Protection Network groups at the community level – helped families locate missing youth and worked with police, and labour officials to bring loved ones home safely
- used ETIP-designed trafficking prevention tools to help identify the most vulnerable persons in a community, visit them, and give them assistance with building economic resilience and life skills
- improved systems for reporting and responding to cases of exploitation
- assisted youth advocates who had been touched by trafficking to raise their voices with senior government officials through regional COMMIT meetings
ETIP is renowned in the Greater Mekong Sub-region for its work on the ground in communities doing prevention work: helping parents with livelihoods and economic resilience through difficult times; helping children and their parents build their resilience to dangerous situations; helping youth with leadership skills; and build pathways to safe employment, plus much more. Much of the theory around how to do good prevention work is currently being proven through our extensive monitoring and evaluation. World Vision’s ground-breaking Vulnerability Report is a first step towards proving that that we have identified the correct risk factors in determining whether someone is more vulnerable to trafficking. No other agency working on this issue in the world has done this!
We have helped reduce the number of people vulnerable to being trafficked – and helped survivors return home and seek justice and compensation.
ETIP works alongside other major DFAT programmes like AAPTIP (improving the criminal justice response to trafficking) and ILO (on increasing safer and legal migration pathways and improved labour protection) to build a holistic response to the issue of trafficking of persons in the South East Asia region.
Everyone can also support this vital work. Forced, child and trafficked labour is used in many of the products we buy every day. With Christmas approaching, it’s a great time to stop and think about what you’re buying. There are plenty of great tools out there to help you make informed decisions, like the Ethical Shopping Guide and the Shop Ethical! App.
On the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery – let us be mindful that while we still have a long road ahead of us in breaking the root causes of the crimes of slavery and trafficking and the demand for exploitation – we can be very proud of the work that World Vision is doing to make a real impact to lives on the ground.
By: Melissa Stewart