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.
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.
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.
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.
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.