In 2007, the UN declared February 20 to be the World Day of Social Justice. In UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s words, it’s a day to remind us to “strive to build a world of social justice where all people can live and work in freedom, dignity and equality.” We here at DEPDC/GMS couldn’t agree more.
As we’ve spoken about before, poverty is a fundamental cause of human and child trafficking around the world, including here in Thailand and the Greater Mekong Subregion. For impoverished people with few opportunities, the things which divide us can often loom larger and be more provocative than those which unite us. Differences in class, ethnicity, religion and gender can become sources of antagonism and animosity.
Unfortunately, this can readily lead people to violate others’ rights if they feel it’s what they have to do in order to survive, while just as readily leading others to accept these violations if they feel that their circumstances afford no alternatives. In this way, people act against their better nature in order to get by, often with the terrible consequence that women and children are viewed as commodities from which individuals and families can extract the financial benefit they need. Once reached, this type of environment is the river mouth from which human and child trafficking then flows.
Ban Ki-moon is right to link social justice with people’s right to live and work in freedom, dignity and equality. The threat that poverty therefore poses to social justice and the downstream effects that it has on human trafficking are plain enough to see. Which is why it’s been the major focus of our anti-trafficking program here at DEPDC/GMS for the last 25 years.
The question then becomes, how do you address poverty in order to interrupt this cycle of social injustice? As you all know, at DEPDC/GMS we believe that the answer is to use education to build the independence, self-sufficiency and empowerment of at-risk individuals and impoverished communities. For us, that means targeting at-risk children in order to prevent the next generation of trafficking victims from ever being ensnared, especially young girls. As Benjamin Franklin said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Here at HDS, for example, that means the kids come to a safe place to learn, eat, play, and grow. They gain the knowledge of history, science, maths, and language that they need to be informed citizens of the world. They practice the life skills that will enable them to look after themselves and live independently and self-sufficiently, such as cooking, understanding nutrition, sewing, building and repairs around the house. And they learn that they are all members of the same human race, equally entitled to the same rights and opportunities as each other. This is extremely important for all of our children, especially our young daughters.
Can we end poverty in Thailand? No, of course not. But can we teach, guide and empower our children, especially our daughters, so that they’re strong, independent and self-sufficient in the face of people who try to violate their rights and induce them into industries of slavery and exploitation? Yes, absolutely we can, it’s what we’ve done for 25 years, and with your help it’s what we’ll do for the next 25 years as well.
With that in mind, 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, like our lunch program or our Half Day School. Thank you for reading and all the best!