Modern slavery plagues millions of communities globally. Human trafficking, a $150 billion plus industry, impacts lives regardless of race, gender or economic status. Human trafficking in Thailand is a major national problem.
Children and Human Trafficking
With convenient trafficking routes that funnel women and children in and out of the country, Thailand has become a popular destination for traffickers. Extreme poverty, particularly in rural areas makes children vulnerable. Research estimates that around 60,000 children are trapped in the sex trade in Thailand. Direct intervention can be extremely difficult, due to the violent nature of this criminal activity.
There are a number of risk factors that make children vulnerable to human trafficking. Poverty and hunger can cause parents to sell their children into slavery with the hope that they will find a better life. In addition, traffickers target homeless and isolated children, hoping to lure them with false promises. A lack of education or understanding of their legal rights, also makes children more vulnerable.
In Thailand, most children only attend school for about 7 years. The most susceptible population are girls living in orphanages who are about to graduate into the outside world.
Peacework Safe Girls Campaign
Peacework, a non-profit based in Virginia, has developed the Peacework Safe Girls Campaign to combat child trafficking in Thailand and other countries through education and empowerment. The Safe Girls Campaign empowers children with financial self-reliance and avoid the chains of trafficking.
The Peacework Safe Girls Campaign hosts a variety of different empowerment projects at orphanages in Thailand staffed by university students from the United States working alongside university students in Thailand.
In Saraburi, Thailand, Peacework partners with Asia Pacific University, a Seventh-day Adventist university east of Saraburi. The partnership between Peacework and Asia Pacific University focuses on the development of a financial independence curriculum. They present the curriculum to the orphanages and shelters on an annual basis.
Peacework Safe Girls Campaign empowers children in Chiang Rai as well. Chiang Rai sits at the top of Thailand, and ineffective border regulation results in well-used trafficking routes. Peacework partners with Keep Girls Safe, an initiative of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency that runs a shelter for young girls. The Safe Girls Campaign sends university students from the United States to Chiang Rai to run educational workshops for shelter residents.
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
Through these projects, the Safe Girls Campaign helps children achieve self-determination that helps them avoid trafficking. Equipped with knowledge about their legal rights and the skills to pursue a profitable career, vulnerable children can take control of their futures and resist the cycle of trafficking. The work also gives children the tools to lift themselves out of poverty. Entrepreneurial development equips them to pursue a financially stable career.
While the scale of the campaigns’ reach may be small, the impact of economic empowerment on the lives of orphans in Chiang Rai and Saraburi are sure to have a ripple effect. In addition, the tactics they are developing to fight human trafficking and poverty are inherently valuable to ending the epidemic globally.
The prevention work Peacework does through the Safe Girls Campaign is crucial in the fight to end trafficking and it currently hopes to expand the campaign to countries around the world. Their prevention strategy can be applied to any country. The Safe Girls Campaign empowers children to pursue better lives.
– Julia McCartney