Human Trafficking Doesn’t Discriminate

Certain events over the last couple of weeks have sparked many in house conversations regarding the youth that we serve at DEPDC/GMS. More specifically, the boys that we serve and why it was important that our services were extended to include all genders. Although in its inception 26 years ago Daughters Education Programme (DEP) brought in all girls, the subsequent years have seen a rise in the number of boys that go through our programs. As awareness and recognition of the vulnerability of boys increased and resources became available, the evolution of including boys in DEPDC’s mission was implemented as a strategy to more effectively combat human trafficking and exploitative labor.

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Often when people think of human trafficking they envision women and young girls. Although women and girls do comprise the majority of persons trafficked we can not lose sight of all that are affected as when we do we cast a dark shadow of hopelessness over the thousands of others that remain victims and vulnerable to the tragedy of exploitative labor and trafficking. According to the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes’s report, men and boys account for an estimated 24% of persons trafficked and this includes sex trafficking and exploitative labor.

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After 27 years of experience in the field of human trafficking our founder, Sompop Jantraka, also feels that while the risk of girls and women fallen victim to trafficking is statistically higher than boys and men, boys and men often face higher risks in other areas that contribute to the decline of personal, familial, and societal health. Through his observations he feels that boys are more at risk for developing drug and alcohol problems as well as being lured into gangs and street violence. DEPDC can not claim this as factual evidence rather as observations of over 27 years of front line experience in investigating and preventing human trafficking. Furthermore, Khun Sompop emphasizes that the traditional stereotype of only a husband being strong and providing, while the wife stays at home and cares for the family is antiquated. However, this old mindset is still strong and must be adapted to fit modern day reality.

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Not only do our programs create more opportunities for these at-risk boys they also provide them the awareness to understand trafficking, dangerous influences, and their roles in society. The programs give them the tools to avoid falling prey to trafficking, as either a victim or perpetrator. Often young men (and women) are presented with employment opportunities that seem less harmful such as driving trafficked persons to and from destinations, advertising girls, or working at hotels that serve as compliant agents. Our program teaches them about equality, to respect, value, and honor women as well as to understand the intricacies of trafficking and the consequences of actions.

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At DEPDC we consider boys to be influential change agents in the prevention of trafficking as all members of the community and society are needed to shift the paradigm. Family structure and community are the backbone of real change for they shape the ways in which we see ourselves and how we relate to the world around us.

As we fight to empower our girls we must also fight to educate our boys and in so doing, we empower all.

The Report Is In: Update on Human Rights Issues in Thailand

The U.S Department of State recently released it’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015. As you all know human rights are at the core of DEPDC/GMS’s mission to prevent human trafficking through education and awareness raising. Although the report highlights certain areas of progress in the vast, ongoing issues of human rights in Thailand it also illustrates that many of the causal factors that lead to the high prevalence of human trafficking remain and there is much more work to be done.

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In the past, many of our posts have been written to portray the underlying causes of human trafficking. A couple of the issues we address quite frequently are the lack of citizenship and statelessness within many of the hill tribe members in Northern Thailand and the surrounding areas. Lack of citizenship and statelessness present an array of problems that perpetuate the cycle of poverty and under education in Thailand. This cycle of poverty and under education is deeply connected to the commodification of women and children and the reason DEPDC/GMS continues in the battle of prevention. In the 2015 report these specific issues were addressed and it is clear that these problems continue to exist and how they correlate to human trafficking and exploitative labor.

 

“Noncitizen members of hill tribes faced restrictions on their movement, could not own land, had difficulty accessing bank credit, and faced discrimination in employment. Although labor laws give them the right to equal treatments as employees, employers often violated those rights by paying them less than their citizen coworkers and less than minimum wage. The law also limited noncitizens in their choice of occupations. The law also bars them from government welfare services, such as universal health care.”

In a different section the report also states:

“Stateless persons had difficulty accessing credit and government services, such as health care. Although education was technically accessible for all undocumented and stateless children, it was usually of poor quality. School administrators placed the term “non-Thai citizen” on these individuals’ high school certificates, which severely limited their economic opportunities.”

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From this information it is then no surprise that the report also concluded that child prostitution remains a problem. More specifically, children from poor families, especially boys and girls coming from migrant populations and ethnic minorities, are more vulnerable to the persuasion tactics of human traffickers.

While this information is discouraging and saddening it strengthens our resolve at DEPDC to continue our work in education, community awareness, and empowerment for the population of at-risk youth that we serve. Our many programs and activities directly target these specific human rights violations by providing opportunities that would otherwise not exist for the majority of these children.

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From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for supporting us and our mission. The fight is far from over but we stand strong in knowing our international community stands with us. If you’ve ever considered getting involved and volunteering, please don’t hesitate to visit the volunteer information page on our blog and get in touch. Or if you can’t volunteer but feel like you’d like to make a contribution, please visit our GlobalGiving donations page here to pick which of our programs you’d like to contribute to. Thank you for reading and we wish you all the best.

To view the entire Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015 for Thailand please follow this link: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2015&dlid=252803#wrapper

Happy Songkran!

Being on of the hottest months of the year, April here in Thailand brings relief from the scorching heat for a few days. Mid-April is when the Songkran Festival is celebrated all across Thailand to mark the new year. “Songkran” literally means ‘to pass’ or ‘to move into’, perfect to sum up the changing and new time in the year.

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The most obvious and well-known celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water, becoming one large water flight where no one is left dry. Throughout the three day festival, water is splashed and thrown in all directions and on everyone to cleanse people of their bad luck and sins as well as bring good luck for the new year. The celebrations take place from rivers to canals, even in the streets where buckets, hoses, and water guns are everywhere!

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More traditionally, Songkran is a time to visit and pay respects to elders; family members, monks, friends and neighbors. It is also a time to worship and cleanse the Buddha images, visit temples and hope for good karma in the upcoming year. If you would like to learn a little more about Songkram, visit the Songkram webpage located here.

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This year, the festival started on Wednesday the 13th of April and will continue through to the 15th. In theory, the festival only lasts for three days, but festivities begin a few days before and continue for a few days after the official dates of Songkran.  All of the DEPDC/GMS family are enjoying the Thai New Year festivities. The staff and students are away with their families, friends and communities enjoying the holiday. We hope that you all have a great Songkran holiday and we wish you the best of luck for this year: Sawadee Pee Mai Muang 2016 – Happy New Year Thailand 2016!

A Look into the Swimming Home by our two new volunteers

Hello, we are students from Ireland. Currently we are on our university work placement with DEPDC. The next five months will be spent working at the organisation’s “Swimming Home” shelter in Mae Chan. This shelter provides accommodation to a number of at risk children, as well as swimming and English lessons. They also provide the necessities to attend the local school.

The centre also offers these swimming lesson to local children. Affordable English lessons, taught by volunteers are available to the public. We are currently working on flyers and posters to advertise the English courses and will start teaching in just over a week’s time.

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At present, it is the summer holidays, so most of our duties involve fundraising and preparing the public English lessons, however our responsibilities will alter once the children return in a few week’s time.

There are only two boys staying at the swimming home right now as unlike the other children who live in the centre during the school year, they have no family to take care of them during their holidays. We spent a few days playing with them and getting to know them better. Having done so, it is safe to say that they are kids just like any other and crave the same things – attention and affection.

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A few days ago, we visited the Ban Klang Na shelter, which provides women and families at risk accommodation and teaches them sustainable living by providing them with agricultural inputs such as land and seeds so they can grow crops. The living conditions there are very basic but they have everything they need; a safe place to live and food. It is located in quite an isolated area in order to protect the women, as many of them come from a human trafficking background.

Overall, the last week, even though quiet, was very helpful in helping us gain a better understanding of the human trafficking issues prevalent in the Northern part of the country, how it affects people and how DEPDC assists these individuals in accessing the tools for a better future.

Meet an International Volunteer: Francesca

The International Department would like to introduce Francesca. She joined our organization this past month. Francesca is from Massachusetts, USA and is a recent graduate in International Studies and Business from Muhlenberg College. She has taken the year off from beginning her career search in order to explore the world and herself. Francesca has had previous experiences volunteering in South East Asia with children and is looking forward to the new opportunities DEPDC/GMS will bring her. During her first few weeks in Mae Sai, Francesca has worked on writing grant proposals, managing social media accounts, and started teaching dance classes. She is eager to have the new term begin and to see how she can further help DEPDC/GMS to grow, and how the DEPDC/GMS can help her grow.

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“My college career had been focused through lenses on human issues. Though my studies began as a pre-medical student, that evolved into overall human issues and looking for ways to help those who did not necessarily have the abilities to help themselves due to their given circumstances. Throughout my studies I have explored issues of black-market economics, the issues of trafficking, as well as women and children’s rights, and the international laws that are being made to prevent these situations. When I was in my junior year I had the opportunity to live abroad and decided at that point that I would live abroad at some point after graduation. Once I saw the opportunity DEPDC/GMS offered I knew this was where I wanted to be.

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“As soon as I found and began looking into DEPDC/GMS, I knew that it was a good fit for my interests. I was excited by the idea of volunteering at an organization that has played a hands-on role in preventing sex trafficking and other forms of exploitative labor, and would allow me to do the same. I also have seen the benefits of prevention through education and was intrigued by the possibility that I could be one of those people to truly make a difference in someone’s life.
I am very eager to have the opportunity to contribute to DEPDC/GMS and learn from the organization and staff here. I love working with the few students who are here during the term break and cannot wait until school is back in session. I am excited to continue to get to know my coworkers, the village and Mae Sai, and work towards achieving as much as possible for DEPDC/GMS over the next coming months!”

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Today, March 21, is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This is a serious issue that affects lives all throughout the Greater Mekong Sub-region and around the world, so we feel it’s important to talk openly about it and what we’re doing to curb it.

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Like anywhere, you find racial discrimination throughout the Greater Mekong Sub-region. This can be between people from different countries, as well as between people of different ethnic backgrounds within the same country, both of which you find in Mae Sai, a town on Thailand’s northern border with Myanmar. Of course, it’s not that people in Mae Sai or anywhere else which features racial discrimination are uniquely bad people. On the contrary, you find racial discrimination all around the world in basically the same form. What unifies this experience is that poverty and competition for resources in general often lie at the heart of the conflicts which create and provoke racial discrimination.

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Mae Sai is home to HDS, where we’re fortunate to have children from within the town and from across the border in Tachilek coming to study with us. Apart from our Burmese daughters and sons, our Thai students also come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, such as Thai Yai, Shan, and Akha. Being such a melting pot, you might expect divisions between students to arise and cause problems at centers such as the HDS. But at DEPDC/GMS we’re all one family, and discrimination like that doesn’t exist within our walls. Though of course the kids do find other things to disagree about!

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For their wider communities, however, the walls of HDS alone aren’t enough to eliminate the discrimination which many of them have faced and will face throughout their lives. The key to addressing this, we think, is building economic stability in order to reduce conflicts and facilitate solidarity between people and groups. To do this, we at DEPDC/GMS focus on education and life skills training to provide children with the ability to live stable, independent, self-sufficient lives. In doing this, the next generation can lead the way in improving and developing their communities from the inside out, slowly but surely building towards a better, happier, less discriminatory future.

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It’s not an easy job, and it takes commitment to gradual improvement and change. But there are no quick fixes for problems such as these, and we feel that with a deep commitment to our program, our daughters and sons can lead the way in creating a brighter future in which discrimination is a shadow of its former self – and rightly so!

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If you’d like to help us realize this goal, we’d love to have you on board! If you’ve ever considered getting involved and volunteering, please don’t hesitate to visit the volunteer information page on our blog and get in touch. We always love having more members in our international family, and your help will go further than you can imagine. Or if you can’t volunteer but feel like you’d like to make a contribution, please visit our GlobalGiving donations page here to pick which of our programs you’d like to contribute to. Thank you for reading and we wish you all the best.

HDS’s Camping Trip

 

Just one week after HDS’s school term was over, our students went for the annual life-skill training camping trip. This year’s camp took place at the Tum Luang-Khun Naam Naang Norn Forest Park.

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This year not only our Half Day School’s students joined the camp, but also the older children from the Swimming Home Shelter at Mae Chan. Altogether 29 students participated in the camp and had a chance to learn valuable skills that will benefit them later in life.

During the time of the camp, students and teachers stayed in tents at a meadow in the jungle close to the park’s headquarters. For the five days of the camp the students and teachers did all tasks themselves; setting up the camp, cooking, cleaning, and getting supplies.

Furthermore the time at the camp was filled with different activities and trainings. This year’s training focused on public speaking and community studies that will enable the participants to become self confident community leaders for their own home communities.

Additional life skills are obtained during the daily routine of camp. The students honed their cooking skills and practiced responsible behavior while planning and following their food schedule. They got their food ration once at the beginning of the camp and were responsible for planning and preparing their food on their own. This required good planning and discipline.

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The group life in the camp requires the students to cooperate, show community friendly behavior, and find peaceful conflict resolving solutions. All these are skills that our students will benefit from in the future.

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Even though education fills a major part of the schedule, fun activities like games and nature trips are an important part of the camp and make our children enjoy the time out in nature.

Meet an International Intern: Loung!

I am Mr. Aik Loung Hseng, originally from Keng Tung, Eastern Shan State, Union of Myanmar. I am studying at Rangsit University’s, department of the “Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies (IDIS)”, majoring in “International Relations and Development (IRD)”. I have been doing my internship here at DEPDC/GMS for over one month. I will be here until the end of April to complete my three month internship for my Bachelor Degree.

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I travel across the Thai-Burma border at Mae Sai-Tachileik very often but I didn’t know that there is such a good organization like DEPDC working on preventing human trafficking and providing education for migrant children and children who have family problems, their parents separated, and some don’t have enough money to send them to school. Until one day when I was at university and started research on the internet for an organization in Mae Sai that accepts volunteers.  I found the DEPDC Blog, and I became really interested to volunteering here. I was especially interested in the program that teaches children at the Half Day School in the morning and working in the office in the afternoon. So I applied and I was lucky to get a chance to do my internship here.

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I really like working here at DEPDC/GMS because I have met such nice, kind, lovely and friendly staff, teachers, and students. And I am so happy to see children have a chance to study, even though they are migrant children and some of them don’t have an ID Card. Normally, these kinds of children face difficulties in having opportunities to study because many schools will not easily accept them. It’s a good opportunity for children to have a center or school like DEPDC. It’s a place that can change the children’s future for the better. Some people have asked me, “If you want to help your people why do you go to do it in Thailand, why not in Myanmar?”. I told them that the organization where I work now, even though it’s located in Thailand,  most of the students have heritage from the Shan State who migrate to Thailand and some of them come directly from the Myanmar side to the school every day. So working here can not only help Myanmar migrant children but also can help Thai children too.

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My job as an intern here is to help the director of administration, help with the agriculture project in the evening, repair the building in my free time, sometimes help the international department teach English at the Half Day School, write reports to donors, attend meetings, and help the Half Day School if there is work.  I have learnt a lot and gained many new experiences from doing my internship at DEPDC/GMS.

 

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