Women of the world UNITE!

Today is International Woman’s Day!

Today is the day we put our feet up and celebrate the very simple fact that we are and (in most cases) always will be women.

Wondering what to write, the women in our office tried to think of reasons why it is great to be a woman. Ourlist started with things like; we have soft skin, we are nurturing, we wear nice pants…  I was very quickly reminded how lucky I am being a woman in the UK.

Today, as I sit here with the sun streaming through the window, a friend I met at an anti-trafficking conference in Egypt is inspiring her fellow women to meet in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to use this day both a celebration and as a way of re-connecting with a political voice that was taken away and forgotten.

As I sit here, I know there are women and young girls working in a brothel I visited as part of a project run by Oasis India. I can see it perfectly; a narrow house in the middle of a district famous for its sex industry. Small sprawling rooms no bigger that a sauna but just as warm with at least 8-10 young women and girls in each, waiting for customers with a man guarding the door….. I think they would find my list insulting.

As I sit here with my Masters Degree I think about the girls denied an education because they are girls or because there are no girl’s toilets in their school or because the school is too far away. Pretty grim isn’t it?

To stop me hurling myself out the window in despair, I think a little bit deeper….

Sally in Egypt has taken to the streets. She may be surrounded by hundreds of empowered women, she may be there yelling on her own, it doesn’t matter how many people are there – the movement has start somehow. Admirably she has the drive to get up and fight for what she believes in.

I can see women sat in Mumbai’s brothels but I can also see the tiny lady from Oasis India talking to them and holding my arm for support. They won’t stop fighting for India’s untouchables.

Then I read an email from 3 mums in Australia who are taking part in Freedom Ticket for Life and want to raise money to get vulnerable girls into school.

Life’s funny isn’t it?

We are women and women rock. We have a voice; we should always use it because one thing we are good at is shrieking.

An excited to be a woman Victoria Kuhr

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Poverty and Human Trafficking: Myth-Busting

By Simon Butcher

Last week, the Institute for Trafficked, Exploited and Missing Persons (ITEMP) published a new report identifying poverty as the root cause of human trafficking.  “By finding the roots of the problem, we can begin to look for permanent solutions,” ITEMP Director of Operations Charles Moore said.

You can perhaps imagine the scene: the worldwide anti-trafficking movement sat together in a grand auditorium as the ‘root cause’ is announced. The lights go down, the room falls silent as the host opens the golden envelope, announcing… “And the root cause of human trafficking is….global poverty”.

There’s some polite clapping and some patting of backs, but the overwhelming feeling in the room is one of slight demoralization. “Well how are we meant to solve global poverty?” they ask each other. “So to stop trafficking we have to eliminate poverty first?” they whisper, disheartened. 

It goes without saying that tackling poverty is a massively important cause. But the good news is that combating trafficking does not require us to eradicate world poverty.

Myth number 1: “Poverty is the sole cause of human trafficking.”

Not only is blaming poverty alone for human trafficking disheartening, it’s also misleading and inaccurate. There may be a correlation between the two phenomena, and poverty almost certainly increases an individual’s vulnerability to trafficking, but so many other factors come into play too. To name but 5: the approach taken by law enforcement authorities to the issue; the legislative measures taken by national governments; global gender inequalities; the level of access to education; falling in love with the wrong guy… Most of these things can be shaped and influenced, and it’s up to us to do so. 

Myth number 2: “There’s not much we can do about such a huge issue.”

Yes, it’s a huge, global problem, but it’s also a local issue. Every case of trafficking starts in a community and ends in a community; every case of trafficking is preventable. The human trafficking industry is thriving because it is so low risk. Every one of us can do something to make the risk to the trafficker higher; to make it impossible for traffickers to hide themselves and their victims. ACT (Active Communities against Trafficking) is a worldwide network of groups tackling human trafficking by doing just that. You can get involved here.

Moreover, every one of us can do something to tackle the root causes of trafficking – and it doesn’t require you to eradicate world poverty. Through the Freedom Ticket For Life campaign, STOP THE TRAFFIK is supporting community groups in trafficking hotspots around the world. Together, we are increasing access to education, raising awareness of the dangers amongst the most vulnerable, and helping people build lives free from the risk of trafficking. Find out how you can join the Freedom Ticket For Life campaign here.  

So often, poverty is presented as a mammoth barrier standing in the way of stopping trafficking. It isn’t – there is no barrier – this is a winnable fight.

The finish line

Sex in the city – red light freedom run finish line

The finish line
The finish line
Red light freedom run statistics 
140 miles
1.1 million steps
5.5 days
3,500 calories a day
5 hours sleep a night
5 pairs of trainers between 2 men
1.5 stone lost during training (and that was just Duncan)
 
The pennies and pounds are still to be counted and we’ll let you know the total raised next week.  There is still time to donate to give vulnerable girls an education – their freedom ticket for life click here.
And two final quotes
Mark Rowland, marathon-extraordinaire: ‘Trafficking is a big problem.  But running long distances teaches you how you deal with big challenges. It’s just about taking the next step and believing you will get there.  As you do that, it’s amazing how far you can get.   In our case it was 140miles – 1.1million steps – from Amsterdam to London. I can’t think of a more important reason for running to say something simple; people should not be bought and sold and we must not stop until that is a reality.
Ben Wilkes, who ran the last 5K and works for Children on the Edge educating girls who are vulnerable to being trafficked and is receiving some of the funds raised; ‘I’ve stood on the Thai-Burma border where girls escaping the brutal military regime in Burma are trafficked into the sex industry. On my last visit, I met a girl who was trafficked into the sex industry, abused, beaten and left for dead after contracting HIV and becoming pregnant.  We are now helping her rebuild her life and receive an education. Money raised today will help more girls in situations just like this.

Red light run story in photos

Red light freedom run – photo montage

Red light run story in photos
3 days out of 6
Check out this little photo montage of the boys. Days 1-3 of red light run. Kings Cross – Amsterdam – Hook of Holland – Harwich – Colchester. They’ve just completed day 4 and arrived in Chelmsford. 2 more days to go. Txt ‘freedom’+ur name to 70700 to giv £5. Or go to http://ow.ly/3kAIA. Dig deep. Money raised goes to www.freedomticketforlife.org

Red Light Freedom Run

Someone wise once said that if you want to win something, run 100 metres, but if you want to experience something, to really achieve something, run a marathon…

Every minute of every day, vulnerable women and girls are trafficked into the sex industry across the world – unseen, unheard, unnoticed.

For one group of anti-trafficking activists, sitting up and taking notice isn’t enough. So instead, they’ll be standing up and running… for 6 days…

The ‘Red Light Run’ from the red light district in Amsterdam to the red light district in London, will take place between the 3rd-8th December and cover over 120 miles – the equivalent of nearly 5 marathons.

Anti-trafficking campaigners Duncan Parker and Mark Rowland will be accompanied by Phil Lane, who will be cycling the due to injury. All three of them know that the money raised can make a huge difference to vulnerable girls. Their run is part of STOP THE TRAFFIK’s ‘Freedom Ticket For Life’ initiative, which supports projects across the world providing girls with an education. Phil has recently returned from the Thai/Burma border where he has seen at first-hand the crucial impact that having an education can have:

“When we visited a shelter for rescued trafficking victims, we asked them what ‘freedom’ meant to them. One small girl replied that it was someone rescuing you from your situation and giving you an education – that was freedom!”

“I know that Freedom Ticket For Life makes a difference in the fight to stop trafficking.” Read more about the project here.

Phil, Mark and Duncan will be joined by supporters for short distances along the way, but anyone can get involved by sponsoring them online at www.justgiving.com/redlightfreedomrun

They’re also hoping to inspire people to go the extra mile in support of the Freedom Ticket For Life initiative by holding their own sponsored run or walk. Whether it’s 1 mile, 5 miles or 5 marathons – it’s your chance to experience something, achieve something, and be part of something which will change lives.

To read more about the Freedom Ticket For Life initiative and how you can get involved, visit www.freedomticketforlife.org

Global News 25/11/2010

Thailand / US

If you want a ‘happy ending’, it depends, of course, on where you stop your story.

This article from the LA Times is a perfect example.

A Thai victim of human trafficking who has just been reunited with his family at LA International Airport after 6 years describes it as the most wonderful moment of his life. He originally left Thailand for the US having been offered agricultural work which would have given him a 25-fold increase in his salary. But, along with 20 other men, he was controlled by guards, had his passport confiscated and was forced to work despite rarely being paid.

A happy ending? Hopefully, yes. But the anti-trafficking assistance programme that is in place to support his rehabilitation and help his young Thai family integrate into American society is in danger of being shut down if it is unable to secure further funding.

India

Circuses are always a little bit disconcerting, but it’s hard to pinpoint why. It could be the clown with the disingenuous smile. Or the bouncy yet sinister organ music coming from the shadows backstage. Maybe it’s the child performers who were taken from their homes, subjected to physical or sexual abuse and forced to work in slavery.

Police forces in India are investigating links between circus groups and child trafficking, after several such operations came to light. Many are taken from families in Nepal through force, coercion or deception, whereupon they become child slaves in an industry created for the joy and entertainment of children.

France

A French couple are currently in court accused of willingly selling their daughter as ‘part-exchange’ for a second-hand car. This is the type of story which is so beyond belief it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve blogged before about parents sometimes being complicit in, or even orchestrating, the trafficking of their own children. It’s a heartbreaking phenomenon, but it does happen.

What’s so shocking about this young woman’s story in particular, is the absolutely horrifying abuse she suffered after being sold into domestic slavery. Read the full article if you’re prepared for the details – but suffice to say after 3 years she was dumped outside a Paris hospital close to death, with no teeth, and weighing just 40kg.

Vietnam

Over the last decade, human trafficking in South East Asia in particular has grown exponentially. In the last 2 months, an incredible 1200 victims of trafficking have been identified by police in Vietnam alone. The recent crackdown by Vietnamese authorities is of course hugely welcome, but it does demonstrate the massive amount of work there still is to do. Increasingly, Vietnamese men are using the internet to make contact with young women and girls who are in debt, and exploiting this fact to recruit them into forced prostitution.

Raising awareness among South East Asian communities of the dangers of trafficking and ensuring that young girls remain in education is the key to winning this battle. STOP THE TRAFFIK’s Freedom Ticket For Life campaign is the way that you can join the fight.

Freedom means escape and an education

I’ve just visited one of the projects your money supports through Freedom Ticket for Life; Children on the Edge’s project in Mae Sot in Thailand on the border with Burma.

Burma has been under military rule for many years and different ethnic groups have been under attack ever since (the military is literally trying to destroy them).  Whole villages have been wiped out and civilians murdered. Arefugee camp we went to has been there over twenty years and houses more than 20,000 people waiting (most of them for years) to be moved and placed in another country. We also saw a clinic where mine victims were being fitted with prosthetic limbs.
As you can imagine, situations of such turmoil result in many children being orphaned and many more being sent by families unaccompanied across the border for safety. This makes them very vulnerable to being trafficked.

The projects you support through Freedom Ticket for Lif e are a children’s crisis centre and an attached school that give girls and boys the chance for a safe place to live, recover, receive counselling and get an education.
When we arrived the place was in working order but one wall was desperately in need of repair, the toilets weren’t finished and the courtyard was nothing but dirt and rubble.

Amazingly, right before our eyes and because of your money, materials arrived and work began! By the end of our visit, the building was complete and the transformation wonderful. Young girls now have somewhere clean, safe and sanitary to learn, develop and grow into a life with more hope and opportunity. Without you, this would not have been possible.


Thirty–seven girls and a similar number of boys are cared for and schooled by these two linked projects. Many children are very sad and traumatised but the staff are amazing, very caring and committed. About ten percent of the children have been trafficked and the rest would be extremely vulnerable to trafficking if they were not at the Children’s Crisis Centre.
While we were there, we and people from Give Way to Freedom who are working with us on this project, ran an art therapy session. The children were given T-shirts and encouraged to draw something on them which made them happy. One girl drew an orchid, she said her family grew them in Burma and she drew orchids when ever she missed them. Another boy drew a picture of mountains and his parents waving goodbye.

We asked them what freedom meant to them. Many children replied that it was to be free from control and able to go to school. One child said ‘freedom is when people help you to escape and give you an education. We believe that too and that’s why the donations to Freedom Ticket for Life are so precious, they enable trafficked children to be free.

To do your bit and find out more go to www.freedomticketforlife.org

Phil Lane, STOP THE TRAFFIK Belguim.

Trafficking & The Sex Industry: Where do you stand?

The Economist’s ‘Where do you stand?’ advertising campaign, which consists of a series of juxtaposed posters with opposing arguments on contentious issues, has delved into the sex industry, asking “Prostitution: Crime or Business?”.

One of the arguments on the poster, which can be found sprawled across the walls of London underground stations, reads as follows:

“The idea that most prostitutes are victims of sex-trafficking is nonsense. In a recent study of migrant sex workers in Britain, only 6% said that they had been deceived or coerced into selling sex.”

Certainly not mincing it’s words is it? STOP THE TRAFFIK is, of course, an anti-trafficking campaign and decidedly not an anti-prostitution campaign. The complex debate surrounding the legality of prostitution is not one that STOP THE TRAFFIK is involved in.

But, the advert’s suggestion that the extent of sex trafficking in Britain might be exaggerated is inevitably going to incur the wrath of the STOP THE TRAFFIK blog.

I could, at this point, unleash a torrent of academic findings, statistics and studies which would contradict the survey quoted by The Economist. I would begin with some insistent data which would demonstrate the ‘real’ scale of the sex trafficking trade in the UK. I would continue by presenting a piece of scholarly research which would indicate that sex trafficking has a nation-wide impact and is certainly not confined exclusively to large, urban centres, but is actually a phenomenon which could touch every town, every street in the country.

And I would probably conclude by recapping how all these numbers had ‘proven’ that the proportion of sex workers in the UK who have been trafficked into the country is significantly higher than government reports or this billboard suggest.

As you will have gathered, this isn’t the approach I’ll be taking. Many a newspaper article or TV debate has descended into a tedious trudge through a statistical quagmire, whilst the women and girls actually affected (however numerous) remain voiceless.

The truth of the matter is that neither we, nor anybody else, can proclaim with certainty how many victims of sex trafficking end up in the UK or indeed anywhere else. STOP THE TRAFFIK shares a widely held belief that what we know about the secret, unseen operation of sex trafficking is probably only the tip of the iceberg.

What’s clear, however, is that a cursory flick through most regional newspapers will yield advertisements for brothels offering ‘new girls every week’.

What’s clear is that there is a quietly consistent drip-feed of news stories telling of the latest discovery of trafficked women and girls, horribly exploited. Read about one of the most recent here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1324299/Father-son-ran-sex-trafficking-family-business-forcing-women-UK-court-hears.html

What’s clear is that absolutely no-one is claiming that this horrific criminal activity doesn’t happen.

So instead of adding our voice to the shouting match of journalists and self-proclaimed ‘experts’, we’d rather act to ensure it stops. Our Active Communities against Trafficking (ACT) groups work to increase understanding of the problem in their local areas, and create an environment where it is harder for traffickers to hide themselves and their victims. Read here about how an ACT group can make your community more traffik aware:

http://www.stopthetraffik.org/takeaction/act/default.aspx

Have a look at the ‘Freedom Ticket for Life’ campaign website to find out what STOP THE TRAFFIK is doing to protect vulnerable woman and girls in trafficking hot-spots.

http://www.freedomticketforlife.org/

UK Government Minister endorses STOP THE TRAFFIK on Anti-Slavery Day

ACT group members meet Immigration Minister Damian Green MP

On the UK’s first official Anti-Slavery Day, 18th October 2010, government immigration minister Damian Green MP met with and endorsed STOP THE TRAFFIK in its community work to tackle and prevent human trafficking. He heard from Active Communities against Trafficking (ACT groups) across the country about the impact that they are having in their local areas:

– The ACT London Forum told him about their advocacy work with decision-makers, and about their research into signs of trafficking in their communities.
– ACT Sheffield are raising awareness amongst local refugees, and bringing volunteers together from across the city to act on this issue.
– ACT Liverpool detailed how their campaign to inform taxi drivers about human trafficking is already leading to reports of suspected cases.
– ACT Bristol updated the minister on how over 200 volunteers have raised awareness and money for tackling trafficking through Freedom Ticket For Life.
– ACT Manchester highlighted the work they are doing to train frontline professionals, in cooperation with the local authorities.

STOP THE TRAFFIK urged the minister to recognise the importance of communities in tackling human trafficking, and to actively support the work that current groups are doing. Damian Green thanked the ACT groups for all that they are doing, and said that ‘This work is hugely important. It’s essential at the most local level, and a very effective way to stop it – go to it’. He also highlighted that prevention is better than cure, and STOP THE TRAFFIK looks forward to seeing a much greater emphasis on prevention and community action when the government publishes their new strategy to tackle human trafficking in the new year.

Love Running, UK

There was a “Bristol 10K” run that took place on Sunday May 9th, 2010. Remarkably, over 10,000 people ran that day, 500 of who formed a special team called “Love Running”.

Love Running (http://www.woodlandschurch.net/love-running) was set up by the Woodland’s Church in Bristol. Their major aim was quite literally seeing love running through their communities and into situations of exploitation and suffering. That is why they teamed up with STOP THE TRAFFIK to take a stand against the trafficking of people and help raise money for our FREEDOM TICKET FOR LIFE campaign.

FREEDOM TICKET FOR LIFE backs projects in trafficking hot spots around the world that give vulnerable girls an education. The longer a girl is in education, the less vulnerable she is to being trafficked. Education and training means choice; choice means freedom!

An incredible £47,607 was raised through Love Running! This will go towards helping girls like Cho.

Seven year-old Cho lived in a small village in Burma. One day, her parents were tricked into letting her leave with a man who promised her a great opportunity to earn money. Cho soon found herself in Mae Sot, locked in a room. Thankfully police raided the house where Cho was help captive and she is now getting help at a children’s Crisis Centre, supported by Freedom Ticket For Life.

What makes ‘Love Running’ so special is that it is not just a result of outrage at stories such as Cho’s – it is a result of a community acting upon that outrage and doing something about it. If you’d like to get involved in your community, why not support FREEDOM TICKET FOR LIFE. Raise money by RUNNING, WALKING, CRAWLING, HOBBLING or racing on WHEELS to give a girl an education – her life long ticket to freedom! See how here: www.freedomticketforlife.org

You can listen to the presentation where Woodland’s gave STOP THE TRAFFIK the cheque here: http://www.woodlandschurch.net/Love-Running-Grand-Finale and see more here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC-JAc3oDXE

Secret Diary of a STOP THE TRAFFIK worker

Good day to you, dear blog reader. 

There are two things to report this week. 

1.A few days ago I was offered a place in the British 10km run on Sunday 11th July (T  minus 10 days).  Now, I’ve always thought it’d be nice to do a run but I am not a runner (at all) and the idea of training for weeks and injecting protein supplements into my eye sockets has been enough to deter me (please don’t try that) . But loving a challenge, I said ‘sure thing. I’d love to’. 

I got up early this morning and ran for 20 minutes. On Saturday I will run / jog very very slowly for 25 minutes building up to an hour in 10 days (I am not going to dwell on the maths of my training plan). 

The point is, I am doing it. I am going to run.  The reason I tell you this is that if I can do it, so can you!  Try it, I dare you! Go outside and jog / walk / run / hobble / race on your wheels for 8 minutes. You’d be surprised. And when you get back feeling simultaneously energised, great and tired check out www.freedomticketforlife.org.    

 Wristbands out, lycra outfits on! 

 2. A number of people find our blog by typing things like ‘sexy girls Mumbai’ or ‘Kamathipura’ into search engines. So yesterday we posted something an unsuspecting internet user will get instead highlighting the reality of the situation there. Have a read here https://stopthetraffik.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/kamathipura-%e2%80%93-the-dirt-uncovered

Classical concert streamed right to your ears

Hello there everybody and wishing one and all a happy weekend!

This evening something very exciting is going to happen. The International Orchestra of Freedom are putting on a classical concert for STOP THE TRAFFIK.

Look  how lovely the building is….

   

 As non London people want to enjoy it too,  the organisers are going to stream it live into your living rooms! You can watch it and enjoy their beautiful sounds right here:  http://playliberate.com/?p=471

There are still a few tickets available so if you want to go head to St Johns, Smiths Square, London and let your ears be pleasured!

PRICE OF FREEDOM- Giving a Helping hand to Traffickers?

Looking through some old postcards, I came across some I had bought at the Nelson Mandela Touch Gallery when I visited Sydney, Australia. There’s someone who has truly touched the world! You’re probably wandering what this could possibly have to do with human trafficking? You may have a point!

But I want to share this symbolic artwork with you because not only does it bear uncanny resemblance to our own STOP THE TRAFFIK symbols, but I believe it really reflects our message too. As the world descends on South Africa for the World cup, what better reflection on freedom than Nelson Mandela himself.

The first picture is an exact replica of Nelson Mandela’s “freedom key” of his cell on Robben Island; the second depicts his left handprint. If you look twice, you will notice it has been altered to reflect Africa in the centre of his palm. But it is the third image of the hands of child victims of AIDS that kind of got me thinking. It got me thinking about the thousands of African boys today who are trapped on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast (visit our Chocolate Campaign to find out more www.stopthetraffik.org/chocolate).

         

Nelson Mandela said in his book ‘Long Walk to Freedom’: “I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me.”

I’d like you to take this message of Freedom and think of ways you might be taking someone’s freedom away from them without even KNOWING. The aim is not one of guilt, but one of empowerment. I want to get you all thinking about how you might be giving a helping hand to the traffickers allowing them to get away with what they do, however indirect and insignificant you think it is.

Let me start. When I eat a chocolate without traffik-free certification, I support companies that might buy cocoa from abusive farms on which children have been sold to work; their only compensation- a lost hope for a better life.

There are many opportunities that traffickers exploit which you and I are part of. Think of what those could be. It may be not noticing something suspiscious at an airport, in a hotel lobby, your favourite restaurant or at your local grocery store. It may be not knowing who your neighbour is. If we start by thinking about how we actually HELP THE TRAFFIK, we can begin to put our hands together to STOP THE TRAFFIK!

Maybe we need to start seeing ourselves as part of the trafficking chain and not just part of the solution; A living human rights legend also once said: Freedom is INDIVISIBLE; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them; the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.”

Also, visit the Touch Gallery: www.touchofmandela.com/au

And put your own print on freedom with one of our projects here:

www.freedomticketforlife.org ; www.startfreedom.org

“…for with freedom comes responsibilities” (Nelson Mandela).

RUNNING…OUT OF STYLE, FOR FREEDOM!

Hi everyone!

We’ve just gone LIVE with our BRAND NEW website FREEDOM TICKET FOR LIFE! Here we are in the office looking a bit silly but in high spirits for the launch!

The project focuses on providing an education to girls most vulnerable to trafficking. We believe that the longer a girl is in education, the less likely she is to being trafficked. When she is in school, she is in a safe environment & when she finishes, the more choices she has about her future.

You can all get involved with our exciting new FREE:ME Avatar and the opportunity to take part and get sponsored to RUN for FREEDOM!

Read about all the exciting new Education projects taking place in anti-trafficking HOT SPOTS around the world that you can become involved with by raising money through running -or crawling! Check it out here:

www.freedomticketforlife.org

Lives are waiting to be changed with your help- so give vulnerable girls their FREEDOM TICKET FOR LIFE!

We hope you get on board and have a fabulous weekend!