Today, July 30, we’re commemorating the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. Designated by the United Nations in 2013, this day is meant to help raise awareness about the problem of human trafficking around the world, to help mobilize the political will to address the problem, and also to celebrate achievements. This year’s theme is a focus on the first responders. According to the UNODC:
“These are the people who work in different sectors – identifying, supporting, counselling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of the traffickers.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the essential role of first responders has become even more important. Particularly as the restrictions imposed by the pandemic have made their work even more difficult. Still, their contribution is often overlooked and unrecognized.”
Who Are First Responders
The most obvious first responder is, of course, law enforcement officers who investigate cases, help rescue victims, and collect the evidence necessary to bring perpetrators to court. However, first responder can really be broadly interpreted to include the social workers who help meet survivor’s needs, providing essential security (housing, food, health care upon rescue) as well as deeper emotional needs in trauma-informed care (in partnership with law enforcement providing the buffer to prevent re-traumatization as police build the case against the perpetrator, helping the survivor on the path toward healing, and providing the material and psychological support for successful reintegration into society).
“First responders” can also include health care professionals, school teachers, airline personnel, truckers–anyone who might come in contact with a person who has been trafficked and who, having learned to recognize the warning signs, can help get the survivor to safety. This is why broad awareness of trafficking is so important–because so often trafficking happens in plain sight.
A really undervalued and overlooked first responder is the survivor-leader. People who have themselves survived trafficking and have committed themselves to helping others avoid or recover from trafficking and exploitation provide invaluable contributions to understanding how best to meet survivors’ needs (which can vary widely from case to case), to understanding what “justice” means for the survivor, and to understanding what can help make society more inclusive to survivors.
The Impact of COVID-19 on First Response
The pandemic has wreaked havoc not only on global health or the world’s economy, it has also taken a toll on the ability of first responders to help victims of trafficking. It has contributed to a rise in trafficking and especially online exploitation. And it has made it more difficult for victims to access help. Contrary to what people might think, online exploitation doesn’t just happen on the dark web. It happens blatantly on the surface web, on social media. But lockdowns made it difficult for victims to escape abuse that happens in the home, and made it difficult for victims to access shelters or other places where they might find support.
Where Things Stand Now
Thankfully in Thailand, where we work, COVID-19 cases are really minimal and many restrictions have been lifted. This has made it possible for us to re-open our Resource Center, so children near us now have access to a safe place to play, learn, and receive support. There will still be many challenges, especially as we navigate supporting families in the economic fallout of the pandemic’s effect on their jobs and livelihoods and try to stem economic desperation, which we know so often perpetuates trafficking and exploitation.
To that end, we are so grateful for the support we’ve received to our relief fund. We couldn’t have achieved the wide reach in distributing masks, hygienic supplies, and food relief without the help of generous donors like you.
Join our Special Webinar!
If you want to learn more about our impact, we’d love to invite you to a special webinar with Lucy and Veerawit, our Directors in Thailand, and Rachel, our CEO and co-founder of The Freedom Story to share with you about how The Freedom Story prevents child trafficking in Northern Thailand even during these challenging times.
Join us to hear directly from our team about:
- The root causes of child trafficking in Northern Thailand, and how COVID-19 has impacted these causes.
- How we use evidence to know that our intervention is working.
- Our vision for the future of The Freedom Story.
- Stories of impact and hope.
When: Tuesday August 4th at 6pm PDT (SFO), 7pm MDT (Denver) 9pm EDT (Washington DC). Wednesday August 5th at 8am ICT (Bangkok), 11am AEST (Melbourne).
The webinar will be approximately 45 minutes in length, including Q&A time.
Where: Attend online via Zoom. Register in advance at this link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
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Thank you for joining us in trying to build a world where children are protected from abuse and exploitation, and are free to pursue their dreams. We couldn’t do it without your support!