10 Facts About Child Sex Trafficking in IndonesiaIn recent years, Indonesia has been struggling to address the grim issue of child sex trafficking. Although laws are in place to provide protection for children, there is still much work to be done in implementing these policies. Tourist hot spots such as Bali and urban centers are where trafficking and exploitation of children thrive. Here are 10 facts about child sex trafficking in Indonesia.

10 Facts About Child Sex Trafficking in Indonesia

  1. There are an estimated 70,000-80,000 victims of child sex trafficking in Indonesia. Despite this alarmingly high number, Indonesian authorities arrested only 132 traffickers in 2019. The police struggle to identify victims and rely heavily on assistance from NGOs.
  2. Up to 30% of Indonesia’s commercial sex workers are female victims of child sex trafficking. Underage girls represent a majority of child sex trafficking victims, but boys are also at high risk.
  3. Foreign tourists are often complicit. Australians and Singaporeans, in particular, have been major culprits in committing acts of sexual abuse towards children in Indonesia, along with smaller numbers of other nationalities.
  4. Sometimes friends and family members force children into sex work. When it comes to child sex trafficking, brokers are highly varied and can be family members of victims.
  5. Indonesia is a source and destination country for child sex trafficking. In addition to urban centers in Indonesia, child sex workers have been trafficked to Malaysia, Taiwan, the Middle East and other regions.
  6. Poverty due to natural disasters plays a role. Natural disasters have been a major reason for mass displacement and chronic poverty in many of Indonesia’s thousands of islands. Victims of child sex trafficking often originate from situations of displacement.
  7. There are 4 million impoverished children at risk. This is an estimate by the Indonesian government of children that are living in abject poverty and are at risk of exploitation. Addressing poverty, therefore, is an essential component of ending child sex trafficking.
  8. High rates of urban youth homelessness also lead to increased trafficking. There are an estimated 16,000 homeless children living in urban centers throughout Indonesia. Living on the streets greatly increases the vulnerability of these children.
  9. The police only enforce laws when under pressure. NGOs report that Indonesian police aren’t likely to intervene in child sex trafficking situations unless they are under pressure by the government or the international community to do so. Some of this is due to a lack of funding.
  10. Child sex trafficking is no longer an unknown problem. Thanks to the tireless work of NGOs and aid organizations, there is now more awareness and advocacy for child protection in Indonesia.

Solutions

The NGO Dark Bali operates using three steps of prevention, intervention and rehabilitation in assisting victims. The first step involves combating poverty, offering protection and educating vulnerable families. It identifies intervention as the weakest link in protecting children, so Dark Bali raises awareness of the issue and puts pressure on law enforcement to intervene in cases of child sex trafficking. Lastly, the NGO offers long-term rehabilitation for victims, along with educational programs and job training.

Project Karma is an Australia-based charity run by a former detective that assists Indonesian police in apprehending child sex traffickers throughout Southeast Asia. Their operations have rescued more than 200 children and brought more than 30 sex traffickers to justice for their crimes. In addition to raising awareness, Project Karma also utilizes digital platforms to alert authorities of pedophile rings and posts photos of fugitives throughout the region.

Australia has addressed cases of its citizens sexually abusing children in Southeast Asia by banning travel for convicted pedophiles. This applies to 20,000 Australians that were convicted at home or abroad. For those that sexually abused children abroad, the country has some of the world’s strictest punishments, with sentences of up to 25 years in prison.

Conclusion

Thanks to coordinated NGO task forces throughout the country, the issue of child sex trafficking in Indonesia is a more widely known societal problem. With the continued work of these organizations, the Indonesian government and police forces are under more pressure to implement laws protecting children. Important connections have been made between NGOs and law enforcement that will be crucial to ending child sex trafficking in Indonesia.

– Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

children in migration
In February 2021, the European Union announced the new E.U. Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme in collaboration with UNICEF and the U.N. Refugee Agency. This initiative aims to ensure protective services for migrant children. The year 2020 marked the highest migrant population ever recorded with 280.6 million people. Nearly 15% of this population are children under 19. Extra care is necessary to ensure this vulnerable group can receive proper protection.

Creating the Programme

Children in migration are often at risk of gender violence, physical harm and exploitation as they travel to their destination. This is due to the lack of resources, government protection and spending long periods in immigration detention facilities. The E.U. created its Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme to address these risks of abuse in order to better protect minors in these situations. These protections are especially crucial because of the rising number of unaccompanied children in migration.

The plans include training for government officials who work with migrating children, increasing awareness of gendered violence and alternative care plans for migrant children to replace traditional immigration detention. Efforts will go towards provided education for officials to recognize child abuse and learn proper intervention techniques for the child’s safety. The program will focus on the countries El Salvador, Mexico, South Africa and Zambia.

The program expects to use approximately €7.5 million in funding and already received €7 million from the European Union by its launch date. Hopes are high that the program will protect many children within its 30-month duration; in Mexico alone in 2019, an estimated 52,000 children had to migrate.

The Risk of Gender Violence for Children in Migration

Children in migration are incredibly vulnerable to gender violence. This consists most commonly of sexual violence and exploitation. Perpetrators can easily take advantage of children without families, safe housing options or defenses. Migrating children are often subject to rape, sexual assault or even human trafficking while traveling to their final destination.

Small case studies from around the world report high rates of migrant children experiencing gender-based and sexual violence. However, the exact rates are difficult to find because so many cases go unreported. Since most children in migration do not have legal protection or support, they do not report assaults in their destination country. Girls are more likely to face gender violence, but migrant boys also report high rates of sexual violence. While migrant boys and girls face different challenges, both need special protection.

Research found officials under-trained to properly care for abused children’s needs once they reach safety. Increasing psychosocial training to assist children with sexual abuse or trauma could better prepare officials in locating resources to aid the child’s mental or physical needs.

Options for Alternatives to Migrant Children in Detention

UNICEF has already been educating partners on alternatives to putting migrating children in immigration detention, especially when they do not have accompaniment. Some children in detention have even reported sexual abuse and neglect by center workers. They need special protection even in an environment catered towards caring for migrating children.

Instead, UNICEF’s recommendations include new foster care programs or homestays with families that are trained and willing to house unaccompanied minors or children whose parents have been detained in immigration detention. Additionally, referral networks must appraise migrants of their rights and point children in migration towards protective environments.

Hope for Migrating Children

While the E.U. Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme is focusing on only four countries in the world, the findings from this project can be instrumental in pioneering solutions for government officials and social workers across the world working to support children in migration. With increased intervention and assistance, children in migration can safely seek refuge without fear of abuse.

– June Noyes
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health Emergency Care Services
Mental health emergency care services are a necessity for women across the globe. One in three women experiences a physical or sexual violation in their lifetime. The mental health implications of sexual and physical abuse against women are staggering. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N., “Women who experience physical or sexual abuse are twice as likely to have an abortion.” It claims “the experience nearly doubles their likelihood of falling into depression,” as well as “[makes] them more likely to acquire HIV” and “have alcohol disorders.” Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Through this Sustainable Development Goal, the United Nations seeks to end gender-based violence.

In the meantime, many women suffer under the impact of the violence they have already endured. However, there are mental health agencies, emergency care centers and programs that help women after they suffer physical trauma. Here is some information about mental health emergency care services for women.

Samburu Girls Foundation

Doctor Josephine started the Samburu Girls Foundation after rescuing her cousin from a forced marriage and subsequently saving 20 other children. Samburu now rescues at-risk girls in four different counties in Kenya: Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo and Laikipia. Samburu Girls Foundation helps girls escape child marriage, beading and female genital mutilation (FGM). Pro-bono counselors work to provide safe living conditions and psychological help to young girls who have suffered from sexual and physical abuse. The foundation also seeks to equip the children with a valid education. This occurs through the Schools End FGM program. This program educates communities on the harm that practices such as female genital mutilation induce. Over 1,183 girls have received help from this organization.

Forgotten Women Sexual Trauma Clinic

The organization, Forgotten Women, has a sexual trauma clinic that serves over 105,000 women per year. Its clinic primarily reaches Rohingya women who experienced sexual assault. Many of these women suffer from internal tearing and infections, thousands of whom have become pregnant. Since 2017, over 900,000 people have escaped from Myanmar to Bangladesh refugee camps. Unfortunately, a change in environment has not resolved the trauma that lingers with thousands of the brutalized women. Forgotten Women’s clinic offers several mental health services, such as one-to-one trauma therapy and group counseling sessions. These are necessary services that invest in the healing and well-being of women who have endured sexual, physical abuse and trauma.

The Spotlight Initiative

The Spotlight Initiative is a collaborative effort between the United Nations and European Union. It focuses on eradicating violence against women and girls, specifically in the following areas: Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Latin America. In Southeast Asia, The Spotlight Initiative provides counseling support via telephone to women in need. According to the initiative, “Since [April 2020], the hotline has received seven times the number of calls it did during the same period in 2019.” The counselors accept calls from women who are suffering from violence. They are responsible for collaborating with local authorities, and referring women to counselors when necessary and supplying legal support.

The pandemic has also worsened violent conditions for women in Mexico. The violence against women and girls (VAWG) caused a spike in phone calls to an additional 53% at the start of 2020. Through the aid of the Spotlight Initiative, alongside the support of the government and private sector, Grupo Posadas hotels now provide seven costless nights to women and children in need of protective services. After their stay, they receive direction to justice centers and other helpful resources.

Collaboration

Working alongside the United Nations on the Sustainable Development Goals is a powerful way to end violence against women and girls. Violence has increased due to the conditions that the pandemic brought on. The services provided by organizations operating under The Spotlight Initiative,  such as Forgotten Woman’s Sexual Trauma Clinic and Samburu Girls Foundation, are vital resources. They provide meaningful, mental health support emergency care services to women and girls that have already experienced violence and need help.

Hannah Brock
Photo: Flickr

Sexual Violence in India
Sexual violence is hard to quantify as it comes in many forms. Addressing sexual violence in India is difficult due to stigmas around gender and sexuality. Furthermore, victims of sexual violence are primarily children. Educating youth and providing resources for victims is crucial to reducing sexual violence in India.

Prevalence of Sexual Violence

India has a much lower rate of sexual assault cases than the United States. However, it is likely that most sexual assault incidents go unreported. This is due to social stigma, cultural expectations of marriage and the prevalence of sexual violence against children.

Less than 10% of sexual assault victims seek assistance from law enforcement. Due to limited law enforcement in rural areas, the police neglect around 100,000 reported rape cases per year. Additionally, only one-third of these cases lead to a conviction.

Sexual violence against children is rampant in India. A Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment study estimated that 53% of boys and 47% of girls experience sexual abuse during childhood. Girls are at high risk of suffering from sexual violence between the ages of 15 and 17. As a result, it is much less likely that victims will report the abuse they experience.

Child Marriage and Violence

It is common in India for girls to enter into arranged marriages at a young age. Around 45% of girls marry before reaching 18 years of age. Additionally, 22% have their first child before the age of 18. Victims of sexual violence often know their perpetrators. Furthermore, most husbands consider their wives property. As such, police frequently overlook cases of domestic violence.

Information Barriers

Schools often neglect to teach students about sexual violence due to its taboo nature. A 2017 survey found that 15% of adolescents felt comfortable discussing sexuality with their parents. However, over half of the sample could not define what sex was.

Sexual education programs are becoming more common throughout India. Yet, these programs often do not discuss the nuances of sexual relationships and power dynamics between genders. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends implementing comprehensive sex education into curriculums. This curriculum helps delay the age at which young people enter into sexual relationships and reduces the number of sexual partners. This aids in preventing unplanned pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The YP Foundation – Empowering Youth

The YP Foundation emerged in 2002 and works to educate young people in “feminist and rights-based leadership.” Know Your Body Know Your Rights (KYBKYR) is a program that provides a series of workshops for young students. This program is led primarily by young women who educate students about gender issues and safe sexual behavior. Every year, around 1,500 young people attend KYBKYR workshops that cover gender expression, relationships, violence, anatomy, body image, puberty, HIV, sexual orientation and discrimination.

SNEHA – Resources For Domestic Violence Victims

SNEHA is a nonprofit that emerged in 1999 with outreach programs that prevent, address and monitor abuse against women and children across India. One program includes five crisis centers and four women’s hospitals in Mumbai that provide counseling, medical attention and legal assistance. About 16,328 women have received counseling from this program.

Furthermore, SHENA uses mobile phone technology to collect data before, during and after treatments at these counseling programs. Thus, data points allow statisticians to assess the programs’ effectiveness.

Additionally, SNEHA has trained 7,915 law enforcement officers, 10,722 hospital staff and various other professionals on how to handle cases of sexual assault appropriately. SHENA has also helped pass the Women Against Domestic Violence Act in 2005 and the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offenses in 2012.

Combatting sexual violence in India requires refined education and adequate access to counseling for adolescents. Breaking down the communication barriers about sexuality and domestic violence is important in addressing this issue. An open discussion about cultural norms and the pervasiveness of sexual assault against children is necessary to create a safer place for everyone.

 – Elise Brehob
Photo: Unsplash

Human Trafficking in South Sudan
The Republic of South Sudan is a nation that has continuously dealt with longstanding conflict and instability. As a result, conflict-related, sexually violent crimes throughout the country have had an unwavering presence while human trafficking in South Sudan is also prevalent. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) documented 224 cases of sexual violence affecting 133 women, 19 men, 66 girls and six boys in 2019. Past violent incidents in the country, taking place between 2014 and 2018, affected 55 women and 26 girls, according to the Conflict-Related Sexual Violence Report of the United Nations Secretary-General.

The Republic of South Sudan has yet to make significant progress in eliminating the human trafficking problem that threatens the country. This has caused the nation to remain in the Tier 3 category according to the United States Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons report for 2020. Countries that fall within the Tier 3 category risk possible restrictions and the loss of U.S. assistance. The following are five facts about human trafficking in South Sudan that can help motivate action, as well as raise awareness of the threats and dangers that so many throughout the country experience.

5 Facts About Human Trafficking in South Sudan

  1. Traffickers most frequently sexually exploit women in South Sudan’s capital–Juba–as well as Nimule, a city in the country that borders Uganda. Beyond this, South Sudanese women and girls are vulnerable to domestic servitude throughout the country. It is not uncommon for male occupants of the household to sexually abuse the women of the house or force them to engage in commercial sex acts.
  2. Both domestic and foreign victims are at risk of human traffickers exploiting them in South Sudan. Organized networks of traffickers cut across North, Central and East Africa and leave East African migrants and those transiting through South Sudan vulnerable to abduction, sex trafficking and forced labor.
  3. Orphaned children in South Sudan experience an increased risk of trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation. For example, unaccompanied minors in refugee camps or internally displaced children are particularly in danger of traffickers abducting them.
  4. Some factors prevent victims from reporting traffickers. Internal factors such as social stigma and fear of punishment can often discourage victims of trafficking from reporting the crimes and transgressions that traffickers committed against them to the government’s law enforcement officers.
  5. The government of the Republic of South Sudan thus far has had limited success in implementing proper strategies to address the dangers of human trafficking. Increasing the rule of law and ensuring that investigations translate into arrests and prosecutions is just one step the government must take to eliminate its trafficking problem. As the Conflict-Related Sexual Violence Report of the United Nations Secretary-General noted, “Strengthening the capacity of national rule of law institutions is critical in order to advance credible and inclusive accountability processes for past crimes, as well as for prevention and deterrence of future crimes.”

Looking Ahead

Despite persistent challenges, progress in combating the human trafficking problem in the Republic of South Sudan occurred in 2019. With support from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, over 700 officers of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, as well as 150 SPLA-IO/RM (the pro-Riek Machar Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition) officers, received training focused on legal frameworks prohibiting the use of sexual violence. The SPLA-IO/RM also issued four command orders, with one of these orders instructing its commanders to form committees to investigate cases of sexual violence.

UNMISS continues to work with local commanders to encourage the release and referral of abducted women and children to appropriate support structures. Political advocacy is persistent and ongoing to secure the release of all female and child trafficking victims and reduce human trafficking in South Sudan.

 – Elisabeth Petry
Photo: Flickr

Domestic Violence in TongaDomestic violence in Tonga, specifically against women, has become the leading type of law infringement. The most prevalent instance occurs in the home, which is especially alarming during a pandemic forcing everyone inside. However, Tonga is taking measures to fight this issue. One way is through the Women and Children Crisis Center (WCCC).

Domestic Violence in Tonga

The amount of reported cases of domestic violence in Tonga has risen over the past five years. Between January and June of 2020, there were about 537 domestic violence reports and 117 issued police safety orders. Out of those, only 99 assaulters faced prosecution.

Tongan women report experiencing physical coercion and control, sexual assault, emotional abuse and physical assault. Police officials state that the chief problem is related to a cultural belief. Tongan men believe they are in a position of power at home and can act however they please because of this entitlement. As a result, women are often scared to report their abuse cases. This is particularly true when husbands, brothers or sons are the perpetrators, as is typical.

Pacific Women reports that three out of four women in Tonga have experienced physical and sexual violence. Relationships can involve abuse as early as day one and continue on for decades, which women often endure. Furthermore, about 85% of women who have suffered from domestic violence are likely to return to the same environments as their attacks. To combat this, the WCCC in Tonga offers an escape for the abused to ensure women are given the protection they need from abusers.

The Women and Children Crisis Center in Tonga

The WCCC was established in 2009 by Director Ofa Guttenbeil-Likiliki with a group of women and male supporters. The aim was to help those who have suffered from violence. In turn, they gave free counseling and support to victims of domestic violence in Tonga. Further, the WCCC provides 24 hours of free housing to both women and children in the Mo’ui Fiefia Safe House.

When a woman reports her case to WCCC, the volunteers at the organization help guide the victim through the legal process. They explain the amount of time it will take for the victim’s case to reach court and provide information about how and when the police will contact the victim for testimonies. They also educate the victim on the importance of having a medical record when reporting cases like rape. If the woman is willing, the WCCC offers her a platform to voice her experience. The organization focuses on sharing the stories of victims who have used WCCC’s services and how they have benefitted from those services.

Male Advocacy Training

Violence prevention was another main reason for WCCC’s founding. In 2017, the WCCC launched male advocacy training to end violence against women and children and encourage gender equality. The purpose of the training is to educate men on three key ideas: men have control over how they behave in a sexual manner, all sexual activity can only be performed after there is consent on both sides and men are equally responsible for the transmission of sexually active diseases.

The men receive many lessons from knowledgeable speakers to help end the domestic violence in Tonga. Director Guttenbeil-Likiliki said, “In a situation where a woman does not want to have sex but you continue to persist and persuade her to have sex, this is a high-risk situation, as it is considered to be sexual assault or rape.” Melkie Anton, a lead trainer, explains proper relationship roles to male participants. Anton states, “Women are often used as sexual objects,” and when a woman is in a relationship, she must follow all of her partner’s orders. As a result, the man ends up controlling the relationship and may treat the woman’s feelings with disregard. Another learning directive is toxic masculinity. WCCC members detail how issues, such as proving masculinity and competing with other men encourage domestic violence.

Looking to the Future

WCCC members are working toward expanding their organization’s influence throughout Tonga,  particularly through collaboration. The WCCC has partnered with other organizations, such as the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and the Vanuatu Women’s Crisis Centre. The organization even reaches out to Tongan government agencies, including the Ministry of Education. The work of the WCCC, from aiding victims to education to advocacy, is a step in the right direction. With continued efforts, there can be an end to domestic violence in Tonga.

Sudiksha Kochi
Photo: Flickr

CBT Eliminating ViolenceAlthough providing for basic needs helps break the cycle of poverty, consider those who have already been affected by unstable conditions. How do we help them? What effect do they have on future generations? How do we break the cycle of crime and violence? These questions plague Liberia. However, one answer comes from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) eliminating violence in Liberia.

What Is CBT?

According to the American Psychological Association, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that aims to change behavioral and thinking patterns. CBT understands that complications in our psychological makeup result from learned behavior and thought processes.

People treated using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work on improving their self-confidence, adopting effective coping mechanisms and altering harmful patterns of thinking. Clients also exercise modifications in habits, such as confronting rather than avoiding difficult situations. Additionally, they practice self-control and prepare for real-life scenarios that they may find challenging.

One of the distinguishing factors of CBT is its focus on the current and future aspects of the client’s life. Although this method takes a person’s past into account, it aims to create effective techniques that deal with the client’s present issues.

The Situation in Liberia

The Overseas Security Advisory Council’s (OSAC) Liberia 2020 Crime and Safety Report states that violent robberies and home invasions have increased. The Council also reports that “[s]exual assault and rape are the most commonly reported violent crimes.” Simultaneously, Liberia also faces a rise in social upheaval due to escalating difficulties in the economy, healthcare and employment.

As urban poverty surges in Liberian cities, so has homelessness, pollution and deteriorating infrastructure. Impoverished citizens face a lack of opportunity and inequality. Discrimination, poor education and epidemics such as Ebola all have the hardest impacts on the poor. Overall, these unstable environments catalyze the high rates of crime and violence, especially among young Liberian men.

CBT Eliminating Violence in Liberia

A study in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, revealed the benefits of CBT eliminating violence in Liberia. More than 1,000 men participated in this experiment, all of whom were at risk for crime and violence. The men were placed in one of four different groups. These included receiving only therapy, only cash,  both therapy and cash and nothing at all. The cash provided enough to start a small business. As such, it was an incentive for participation.

Therapy alone improved behaviors significantly, and much of participants’ objectionable behavior decreased. However, the men who received both therapy and cash saw the longest lasting results. These men could practice what they learned in therapy while feeling like a “normal” member of society. Providing them with means, motive and opportunity helped improve their lives and their place in their communities.

CBT eliminating violence in Liberia is not the only approach necessary to ending poverty. However, it does contribute to progressive change. It also highlights the importance of the long-lasting and widespread measures that can help communities plagued by violence.

Amy Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

instability in the CongoThe Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Over the past decades, war, gender imbalances and lack of political development, as well as conservation issues, have contributed to the country’s vulnerability. Instability in the Congo has been a challenge, but citizens continue to strive for peace and security.

With a population of 84,068,091 in 2018, 50.1% of the Congo’s population are women, while 49.9% are men. The population has a nearly equal gender ratio, though women face significant challenges in gender equality. As in many developing countries, women are not respected equally and typically do not hold positions of power. In the Congo, beginning in 1996, sexual violence has been used as a war weapon to intimidate and control women during and after the war.

According to the U.N., women in the Congo suffer drastically from a lack of rights and increasing vulnerability during the rise of military operations in 2018. With cases and reports of sexual violence increasing by 34% in 2018, the need for change is apparent. The U.N. quickly addressed these issues, working with the Congolese government to negotiate for peace with the Patriotic Resistance Front of Ituri. This brought about a decrease in sexual abuse cases committed by such military groups. Though the issue remains, there was a reported 72% decrease in sexual abuse cases following the UN’s intervention.

Poverty and Poaching

A decrease in the Congo’s poverty line has also occurred over the past two decades, although according to the World Bank, 72% of the population remains under the poverty line, living on less than $1.90 a day. With more than half of the Congo’s citizens struggling to make ends meet, poaching is an increasingly significant issue. Conservation is particularly essential in developing countries in which biodiversity and wildlife create tourist attractions that provide crucial economic income. Much of the country’s wildlife, such as elephants and primates, are subject to dangerous conditions. Primates are particularly vulnerable to threats such as the bushmeat trade and the pet trade. These trades are directly linked to poverty and instability in the Congo. This is because the industry provides a source of income and food. Therefore, in order to end poaching, baseline levels of infrastructure, employment and socioeconomic stability must be attained. Until this happens, many conservation establishments, such as the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), Kahuzi National Park and Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center are working to eliminate poaching and protect endangered wildlife.

Protection and Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center was established in 2002 by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles (CRSN). Following the establishment of Lwiro, Coopera NGO stepped up to support the center’s rehabilitation and educational practices. Lwiro gained the support of the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance (ICWCA) and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP). Two women now run Lwiro: Lorena Aguirre Cadarso works as the country director, and Itsaso Vélez del Burgo works as the technical director. These two women strive to ensure that Lwiro is actively addressing cultural and conservation issues in the Congo.

The fact that Lwiro is run by women is unusual, as women in the Congo have been subject to significant gender inequality for decades. They are breaking gender barriers while protecting at-risk wildlife and helping improve instability in the Congo.

Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Center

Lwiro is home to 92 chimpanzees and 108 monkeys, adding up to a total of 13 different species. Rehabilitation and preservation of primates in the Congo mean saving the lives of the endangered animals, whether they have been injured due to poaching or other reasons. Typically young primates are brought to the center because their families have been taken from them and they will be unable to provide for themselves. Lwiro offers multiple dormitories for the chimpanzees and monkeys and includes a five-acre enclosure for the primates to play while the staff ensures that the dormitories are safe and clean. The rehabilitation of primates requires care and attention, just as the care of humans requires. Infant primates are treated with particular love and attention. Caretakers strive to teach social skills to primates that might have lost their families and would not otherwise be socialized. Lwiro’s mission is to ensure that resident animals acquire the necessary social skills for reintegration into wild chimpanzee communities after completing rehabilitation.

Sexual Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation

Along with primate rehabilitation, Lwiro also offers rehabilitation and treatment for local sexual abuse victims. Sexual abuse is a pervasive issue in the Congo. The center provides treatment for victims ages 2 to 18 years old. Treatment can be modified to meet the needs of particular victims. According to Cadarso, the center helps “victims of sexual violence, victims of gender violence and widows.” The staff uses methods such as Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), meditation and prayer. Lwiro focuses specifically on survivors’ mental health. “You need to give psychological support that aims to provide the tools to resolve their trauma and skills to promote their resilience,” Cadarso stated. Lwiro has worked with nearly 350 victims and counting, most being women and children. The center also provides therapy for individuals for three months and three weeks. It reports an 85% patient improvement rate after treatment. Lwiro’s therapy offerings reveal that addressing instability in the Congo can start at the level of individual people.

A New Psychological Reference Center

Lwiro is expanding its center in 2020, starting a new project to build the first Psychological Reference Center (PCR). In the past, victims have not had a physical place to conduct their psychotherapy sessions. Therefore, this project will be massively impactful. Additionally, the Psychological Reference Center (PCR) will implement new practices such as training primary healthcare workers training to recognize mental disorders like PTSD, depression and anxiety. The second phase will provide similar training specialized for teachers, teaching “skills to recognize children with severe problems so they can be referred for more specialized treatment,” Cadarso states, and “providing listing resources available in their communities.” This initiative will enable individuals to recognize and assist those who are struggling physically and mentally. They will be able to determine proper care or treatment.

The project’s implementation and funding would not be possible without the support of many NGOs, such as the Jane Goodall Institute, the Ivan Carter Wildlife Foundation and more. To address instability in the Congo, multiple approaches are required, and Lwiro ensures that no person — or chimp — is left behind.

Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

#metoo movement in EgyptEgypt has consistently struggled with sexual assault, an issue that goes hand-in-hand with poverty. A United Nations study showed that 99% of all Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual assault. Additionally, another study in 2017 declared Cairo the most dangerous city in the world for women. Learn about the history and reasoning behind the #MeToo movement in Egypt.

Egypt’s History of Sexual Violence

The #MeToo movement in Egypt may be contemporary, but Egypt’s sexual assault problem has been around for many years. In an attempt to replace the president of Egypt with a more democratic figure, people took to the streets in early 2011 in what is known as the Arab Spring. Although the protests succeeded in orchestrating the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, any dreams of a democratic ruler failed to come true, and women faced worsening sexual violence.

Under Mubarak’s rule, sexual assault was covered up by the president’s own police force. After these aggressive authorities were removed, Egypt’s sexual assault issue was thrust into the world spotlight when stories emerged of several women being sexually assaulted in a public square in Cairo. The perpetrators faced no consequences, and the women were blamed for their own assaults. This paved the way for future sexual assaults to go unpunished in Egypt.

The Allegation that Reignited the Movement

Despite protests and performative legislative changes, the sexual assault of lower-class citizens in Egypt continues to occur at alarming rates. Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a 22-year-old former student at the American International School and the American University in Cairo, was accused of sexual assault by over 100 women in June 2020. The schools Zaki attended are regarded as some of Egypt’s most elite universities for wealthy families, which is what makes his case so unique. For the first time, an upper-class male was held responsible for sexual violence.

Zaki has been officially accused of blackmail and rape, with one of his victims being just 14 years old. Combined with several other stories of sexual assault that emerged in the last decade, this story contributed to the resurgence of the #MeToo movement in Egypt. The country’s campaign is supported by an Instagram account called Assault Police, where Egyptian women have shared their stories of assault. Zaki’s story clearly demonstrates that, regardless of age or social standing, sexual harassment is a rampant issue throughout Egypt. Although this concept applies to countries worldwide, the Egyptian government’s choice to ignore this problem has earned Cairo its reputation as an unsafe space.

Change Is on the Horizon

The Egyptian government has prioritized its presently unstable economy over many of its other problems, including sexual violence. Although Egyptian women have protested this issue in the past, their protests have failed to gain traction due to the dangers they face in public places. Furthermore, the default response to a woman’s sexual assault story in Egypt is to place the blame on her for dressing or behaving a certain way. Both of these considerations have essentially barred women from coming forward to share their stories, until now.

Women have embraced the opportunity to finally share their stories, and the prosecution of wealthy men like Zaki is a powerful step in the right direction. In response to Egypt’s #MeToo movement and the Assault Police Instagram page, current president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has enacted a law that increases protections for sexual assault victims. Although the country still has much work to do, the #MeToo movement in Egypt has made one thing clear: the country’s women refuse to be silenced any longer.

– Natalie Tarbox

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in GrenadaGrenada, an island country in the Caribbean Sea, is known for its beautiful tourist attractions and flourishing spice trade. Unfortunately, poverty in Grenada affects almost one-third of its 107,000 residents.

The World Bank estimates that 32% of Grenada’s residents live below the poverty line. In addition, 13% of the population is considered “extremely poor.”

Dr. Elinor Garely of eTN notes that Grenada’s poorest residents are located in the rural regions of the country. She explains that this is due to inadequate access to the mainstream economy.

The mainstream economy is based on tourism and spice exportation, among other products. Grenada also depends on foreign aid. Without suitable access to the main cities and these economic opportunities, the rural communities suffer.

Youth in Grenada

Grenada’s demographic is quite young, with one-fourth of the population under the age of 14. The poverty in Grenada impacts youth most of all. In fact, Garely explains that 66.4% of the poor are under 24 years of age.

Due to a lack of birth control resources, there are high numbers of teen pregnancy, which often correlates to violence against children.

Physical and sexual abuse have emerged as the main issues facing the children of Grenada. More than one-third of children in Grenada have suffered from sexual violence. Women and children experience significant abuse due to the lack of laws against physical punishment.

Causes of Poverty in Grenada

Poverty in Grenada is linked to a number of different factors. With inadequate defenses against natural disasters, ineffective education and unprepared workers, poverty is “entrenched in the very fiber of the country.”

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, frequently threaten the small island. The last two hurricanes occurred in 2004 and 2005. Hurricane Ivan hit first and devastated the majority of Grenadian homes. A year later, Hurricane Emily swept through the area, furthering the damage not yet repaired from Hurricane Ivan. However, significantly fewer lives were lost, as the Grenadian people took important precautions that had been neglected during Hurricane Ivan.

Education and unprepared workers are two other causes of poverty in Grenada, and they go hand in hand. Without proper education, the youth do not have the necessary skills to get jobs that offer livable pay. The jobs that are available, mainly agricultural, do not appeal to the youth because of “perceived instability, [the youths’] lack of interest in physical labor and very low wages,” according to Garely.

It would be more beneficial for the Grenadian youth to work in the tourism sector, but, unfortunately, it requires skills that many residents lack.

Efforts to Reduce Poverty in Grenada

The government is making strides to alleviate many of the issues that stem from or cause poverty in Grenada.

While it currently lacks enough funds to be effective, Grenada does have “a system to place orphans and children with domestic problems with other families.” In addition, laws are in place to protect girls from sexual assault. However, boys still remain vulnerable.

The country has taken important steps to defend against natural disasters. Creating a plan for natural disasters became a priority after the devastation of Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Emily. The change was seen immediately in how the people of Grenada reacted differently to Hurricane Emily after experiencing Hurricane Ivan; “the rush contrasted with the attitude before Ivan, when Grenadians took few precautions.”

While Grenada is still improving its ability to defend against natural disasters and internal issues such as violence, it has wonderful potential.

Abbey Lawrence
Photo: Flickr