Sex Trafficking in Mozambique
Located in southeastern Africa, Mozambique is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. Traffickers deceive girls migrating to Mozambique by promising education and employment opportunities to coerce them into sex trafficking. As a result, women are exposed to drugs, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and violence. Free the Girls is one of many organizations fights sex trafficking in Mozambique.

About Free the Girls

Dave Terpstra, a priest at Duneland Community Church in Denver, and Kimba Langas, a church member, co-founded Free The Girls. This international nonprofit aims to help victims of sex trafficking by collecting bra donations. Originally starting as a Facebook page, Free The Girls quickly gained popularity and success.

Every six weeks volunteers gather at Duneland Community Church or “The Bra Church.” This is where they sort new and gently used bras and send them to Mozambique. Upon receiving these donations, survivors can start their own businesses selling bras at local second-hand clothing markets while they recover and build a new life.

Free the Girls fights sex trafficking in Mozambique by creating a pathway to economic freedom, restored health, social well being, education and opportunity for a more hopeful future.


In 2015, volunteers packed 833 boxes containing 166,600 bras and shipped 769 boxes overseas containing 153,800 bras. Donations to correction facilities, domestic violence shelters and trafficking shelters totaled approximately 2,000 bras. In addition, the organization reached 23,400 supporters on social media. Through the help of the program, nine women bought land, three women bought or rented a house and one woman enrolled in university.

In 2016, donations totaled 183,000 bras, volunteers sent out 685 boxes and 59 boxes of bras went to women’s correctional facilities, shelters and pregnancy assistance centers. Likewise, Free the Girls gained 27,040 social media supporters. Most importantly, 13 women graduated from the program, seven pursued educational opportunities and four built a home or purchased land.

Selling bras has tremendously impacted the lives of women in Mozambique. It provides the opportunity for women to become financially and spiritually independent. Free the Girls has launched an empowering approach for women to reintegrate into society and take control of their futures.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Right to a ChildhoodIn the last two decades, international organizations and nonprofits have turned their attention toward the right to a childhood. Children are vulnerable not only due to their age but also due to their lack of resources, low education and inability to effectively communicate. This combination has left children susceptible to child labor, child marriage and sex trafficking, forcing them to grow up quickly without a childhood. More must be done to harmonize regional, international and local laws to clearly define the age of a child in order to prevent confusion and children slipping through the system in order to allow every child the right to a childhood.

Prioritizing children’s right to childhood in Malawi has a significant meaning for many young women combatting forced marriage. Child marriage, with parents’ consent, is common in Malawi for children between 15 and 18 years old. In 2015, Malawi amended its marriage law to increase the minimum age to 18. The constitution allows marriage at 15 years with parental consent.

Malawi’s Protection and Justice Act defines an adult at 16 years of age. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child define an adult at 18 years. Harmonizing these laws would reduce confusion and decrease forced marriage by increasing the age of eligibility to marry. If this harmonizing of laws and redefining of age proves successful, this could be an example used for other countries combatting childhood labor, child soldiers and early childhood marriage, increasing availability of the right to a childhood.

The protection of a child’s innocence, as well as their right to a childhood, should start much earlier than marriage. Right to Play was founded in 2000 by four Olympic gold medalists and an entrepreneur. The nonprofit focuses on protecting a child’s critical years. “While food, water and shelter are essential, so is a childhood, complete with education and opportunities to actively engage with other children,” its website states. The organization teaches children life skills, which will help them overcome inevitable conflict and disease as they grow up.

Games engage children to participate in the programs, while the “Reflect-Connect-Apply” approach forces the children to examine their life experiences. Then they relate those experiences to their education. They finally apply this technique to their daily lives. “Reflect-Connect-Apply” focuses on creating positive, sustainable change in three areas: education, health and living in peace.

In some parts of the world today, children are not able to experience the benefits of a right to a childhood. Organizations and NGOs working on the ground level of local villages are teaching communities the value of play combined with an international movement to harmonize laws and clearly define an age for a child could help. Protecting the right to a childhood is good for the immediate community and generations to come.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr

women_in_bangladeshBangladesh is a small South Asian country which borders India, Myanmar, and the Bay of Bengal. Since it gained independence in 1971, Bangladesh’s economy has been growing about 6% annually. However, while the economy in Bangladesh is becoming more progressive, socially, Bangladesh still has room for advancement. Patriarchal customs mean that many women in Bangladesh face threats of violence.

Some main acts of violence committed against women include dowry killings, rape, sexual harassment and stalking, acid attacks, physical and mental abuse and sex trafficking. Nearly two out of every three women in Bangladesh are victims of some form of violence.

Gender based violence is on the rise. In 2004, there were 2,981 cases of dowry related violence; women are beaten or killed because their parents fail to pay the dowry that her in-laws request. This number rose to 4,563 cases in 2012.

Gender discrimination also leads to women having less opportunities. The literacy rate for women in Bangladesh is only 43.2%, while 61.0% of Bangladeshi men are literate. The unemployment rate for women is 70.7%, much higher than the 12.4% unemployment rate for men. Even though many women help in the agricultural sector, 73% of those women contribute what is considered as unpaid ‘family labor’ and do not receive a salary. This is problematic because even if women work for their family, patriarchal values dictate that many of the women are not given control of the property or the family income, and therefore the women are not able to spend the money they earn as they see fit.

Many women in Bangladesh fail to report violence committed against them because there persists a stigma surrounding rape, abuse, and domestic violence in the country. The police are also likely to blame the victim and favor the side of the abuser. From 2010 to 2012, the Bangladeshi police received 109,621 complaints about violence against women. However, the police determined that only 6,875 of these complaints were ‘genuine’ and should be further investigated. The inspector-general of police, who is responsible for investigating crimes involving violence against women, told the Inter Press Service news agency that “On many occasions . . . the law was used to harass the accused. It does seem that not all complaints are genuine”.

The stigma surrounding violence against women means that many women do not get the justice they deserve. In 2011, there were 420 recorded cases of rape in Bangladesh, and only 286 reached the prosecution stage.

Luckily, there are laws and programs being implemented to help reduce the amount of gender based violence that is taking place in Bangladesh. A joint program with the UN has instituted a three-tier strategy to help reduce this violence. The first part of the UN’s program is designed to enhance the capacities of the government and to support NGO’s in order to help prevent violence against women and protect victims. The program also aims to protect survivors of violence and to change social attitudes, which lead to much gender based violence.

Some important achievements of the UN’s program have been increased access to healthcare for women, a decrease in the rate of child-marriages and dowry-killings and more awareness about the lesser-known forms of gender based violence, such as sexual harassment in the workplace.

There are also specific laws which have been instituted by the Bangladeshi government in an effort to prevent violence against women. Some of these laws include the 2010 Domestic Violence Act and the 2000 Suppression of Violence against Women and Children Act.

The 2010 Domestic Violence Act criminalizes domestic violence. This was a landmark act because many Bangladeshi women face cruelty by their husbands. A 2007 report stated that 53% of married women in Bangladesh were physically and/or sexually abused by their husbands. If the court deems that domestic violence is likely to occur, it can either relocate the victim to a shelter or evict the perpetrator of the violence.

The Suppression of Violence against Women and Children act was passed in 2000 and makes clear that there will be harsh punishment for those convicted for committing violent crimes. The law targets rape, trafficking, and kidnapping.

Though legislation is an important step toward ending violence against women in Bangladesh, in order for significant change to occur, societal attitudes must change in order to end the stigma and victim-blaming that women face when they report violence carried out against them.

– Ashrita Rau

Sources: MDG Achievement Fund, IPS News Odhikar, Department of Women’s Affairs, Bangladesh UN, CIA CIA World Factbook, OHCHR
Photo: Women Deliver

Ranked the third largest source of slaves in the Western Hemisphere behind Mexico and Colombia, Brazil‘s human trafficking situation is grim. In 2009, the Brazilian Federal Police estimated that 250,000 to 400,000 children are exploited by domestic prostitution. An estimated 75,000 Brazilian women and girls work as prostitutes throughout neighboring South American countries, the United States, and Europe–most of them are trafficked. Additionally, around 25,000 Brazilians, mainly rural workers, are enslaved domestically each year.

As Brazil emerges as an economic powerhouse, it’s human trafficking situation only worsens. More migrants from neighboring countries and as far away as Asia are increasingly attracted to the promise of jobs in Brazil. Many of them are duped by traffickers into exploitative work situations. Preparations for the upcoming Olympic games and World Cup are significantly driving up labor needs and fueling exploitative labor practices. Just last month, an investigation into the expansion of Sao Paulo international airport discovered migrant workers in “slave-like” conditions.

Fortunately, this has not gone unnoticed by the Brazilian government. The government announced its first anti-trafficking plan in 2008 and introduced its second this year. The new plan includes tougher border controls, a revision of the penal code, and the training of 400 staff for victim services.

However, many are skeptical that the government’s funding and efforts will be enough. Enter: the Slavery, No Way! campaign. Since its launch in 2004, the Slavery, No Way! campaign has trained and provided on-going support to more than 2,200 educators and community group leaders, ultimately reaching over 60,000 people. Together with partners Reporter Brasil, Pastoral Land Commission, and Free the Slaves, Slavery, No Way! works to “enable communities to prevent trafficking of workers into slavery.”

In response to teachers’ asking for innovative approaches to engage children on the issue, Slavery, No Way! created a board game to teach children about trafficking and how to address it. In order to win, players must utilize dialogue, strategic thinking, and reason to end slavery outbreaks. The game emphasizes cooperation over competition and entails three lines of action: preventing vulnerable populations of Brazilians from becoming enslaved, aiding those already enslaved, and combating the root causes of slavery. Characters in the game include justice officials, activists, slaves, and traffickers.

Reports of human trafficking in Brazil have risen 1,500% in 2013 alone, according to government figures. Such a dramatic rise in reporting suggests that campaigns like Slavery, No Way! are bearing fruit in confronting Brazil’s stark slavery issue.

Kelley Calkins

Sources: Free the Slaves, U.S. State Department, In Sight Crime, BBC, UNODC, Slavery, No Way!

UN Women is an organization that was created in July 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly. The organization’s full name is the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women; its mission is to promote gender equality throughout the world and champion women from all walks of life.

Many women in the world face discrimination in the workplace, and receive fewer opportunities when it comes to career and educational advancement. UN Women sees this kind of gender discrimination happening all over the world, and makes it a part of its agenda to ensure that women have basic and equal human rights. Women are often denied access to health care, and even worse, they lack the political voice to change such conditions because of their stark under-representation in governmental decision making.

One of the major issues on the UN Women’s agenda is the end to violence against women. In a 2013 global review, published by the World Health Organization, it was reported that 35 percent of women in the world have experienced some kind of violence from an intimate partner. UN Women also focuses on the different aspects that are associated with violence against women: sex trafficking, child brides, rape, and sexual harassment in the work or education place.

Partnering with government agencies is an effective way that UN Women is able to take action against the various forms of discrimination against women. UN Women channels its efforts on implementing laws that will help protect women against threats like violence. It also advocates for policies that will open up more economic opportunities for women.

The wage gap between men and women is something that UN Women takes very seriously and seeks to bring to a close by implementing policies that argue for fairness in the workplace. A large part of the organization’s mission to empower women comes from its dedication to spread awareness in response to the AIDS epidemic. Women make up 54 percent of all people living in the world with HIV. UN Women has made it a job to spread awareness on the factors connected to the spread of HIV/AIDS. With the help of its partners, and resources UN Women has been able to broadcast the voice of women living with AIDS and it takes steps to help prevent the spread of the disease.

UN Women is gaining momentum and acquiring more support. Actress, Nicole Kidman, showed her support for the organization during an acceptance speech at the Variety Magazine Power of Women Awards event. Kidman encouraged her audience to see the desperate need for women’s equality in the world.

– Chante Owens

Sources: UN Women, Daily Mail