Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bill Gates on Creative Capitalism

A Creative Capitalist- Social Enterprise at Work

From PBS:

BRAZIL- Fabio Rosa is a charismatic, charming Gaucho -- a guitar-playing cowboy with the energy and vision of a corporate titan who is determined to bring electricity and new farming opportunities to millions of rural Brazilians, allowing them to enjoy sustainable livelihoods while preserving the environment for future generations.

Rosa first came to the Brazilian state of Rio Grande Do Sol in the early 1980s, when much of the rural population lived without electricity because they could not afford the installation costs. He saw that by using a single wire system instead of the ususal three wire he could bring affordable electricity to most the people in the region and create a model for bringing it to all Brazilians and people of other countries. Rosa's first effort in the countryside outside the town of Palmeras was wildly successful — bringing hundreds of families electric powered pumps, refrigerators and lights for the first time in their lives. Rosa spread his idea to thousands of families, and eventually to more than half a million Brazilians.

Recently, in one of Rosa's most unexpected victories, the Brazilian government announced it will use his single wire model to bring electricity to millions of Brazilians.

From How to Change the World by David Bornstein:

When asked why he does the kind of work he does and why he doesn't want to just make a lot of money, Fabio responded:

I am trying to build a little part of the world in which I would like to live. A project only makes sense to me when it proves useful to make people happier and the environment more respected, and when it represents a hope for a better future. This is the soul of my projects.

Looking back, many times I have asked myself exactly the same question- since there are easier things to do. But this has been the only way I feel happy. And I also believe that persistence and coherence are virtues and I like to see that I have them.

Working on the kind of projects I do means to dream with a new world in mind. My projects always renew my faith in an harmonic way of living, without misery. With our intelligence, knowledge and culture, it is not necessary to destroy the environment to build. When people work together they are powerful; there is friendship. In the end, there is peace, harmony, tranquility, optimism.

If there is a deeply human motivation in all of this, it is that my projects are related to practical, doable work. We need to actuate and cause change. Even if the inspiration is romantic, it desires material results, a re-colored reality.

About money- I need money. Money is very important to accomplish my projects. But money only matters if it helps to solve people's problems and to create the world I described above. My projects help people around me to acquire wealth and in some ways this comes back to me.

It has been an intellectual and creative challenge to build models that can be used by excluded and deprived people, to create sustainable livelihoods and promote social inclusion.

Creating projects, implementing them and succeeding, witnessing one's dreams come true, is happiness. Money just makes it easier.

For all these reasons, I work the way I do. I am a slave to my dreams, thoughts and ideas.

That is all.

Vietnam Police Make Trafficking Arrest

From Thanhnien News:

Vietnam- Police in An Giang Province have detained a man allegedly involved in a women trafficking ring which was busted recently in the Mekong Delta, a local official said Monday.

Thai Nham Ty, vice director of Tai Loc Construction Company in An Giang, obtained passports for the trafficked women, director of Can Tho City’s Social Security Criminal Investigation Department Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Thanh Nha said. The ring had sent at least 20 women to Malaysia, Cambodia and Singapore by January 10, when the police arrested its leader following leads from one of the victims.

Rural Vietnam

The women were mainly from the Mekong Delta, including Can Tho City, An Giang and Hau Giang provinces. Ty earned US$200-250 for each passport. He also admitted introducing some women to the ring leader for selection.

The police said they were investigating whether Ty had colluded with migration officials to get the passports. The ring leader, Hua Thi Thuy Trang, was arrested on January 10. She was a prostitute and had often gone to Malaysia, Cambodia and Singapore for work, the police said.

Other members in custody were Nguyen Thi Nua and Lu Hue Phuong. The police reported the ring had “agents” in different provinces who had enticed young women to go to Malaysia as waitresses with high salaries. Trang paid the women’s families US$800 each, saying it was a deposit. Each agent, meanwhile, got $400 for each woman.

Some of the victims who managed to return to Vietnam, however, said they were sent to bars and restaurants soon after they arrived at a Malaysian airport. They were kept hostage and forced to work as prostitutes at night. The investigation continues while police hunt for the agents.

Human trafficking carries jail terms of five to 20 years in Vietnam.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Philippine Airlines Fights Trafficking

*It's good to see the private sector getting involved and collaborating with NGOs.

From the Philippine Inquirer:

This year, the Philippine Airlines (PAL) Foundation is embarking on a new campaign- helping to stop human trafficking, specifically through air travel.

Maria Carmen Sarmiento, PAL Foundation executive director, said the PAL Foundation had tied up with the
Visayan Forum Foundation, an anti-trafficking nongovernmental organization in the Philippines, to develop information materials on the laws against human trafficking in the country.

Sarmiento added that PAL personnel, especially the cabin attendants, would undergo training on spotting and helping likely victims of human trafficking on board the airline.

“Estimates show that there are about half a million victims of human trafficking within Philippine borders and about 100,000 who go out through the airports. That is still a lot and we will do what we can to help these people,” Sarmiento said.

Child Trafficking in Spain

Madrid, Spain

From EITB:

There are 1.2 million child victims of human trafficking per year around the world, according to data given by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Children are used as an economic profit source by organized crime. Trafficking of minors is a prosperous business, which moves 40 billion dollars a year. For under age children alone, the profit reaches 23.5 million euros a year.

"Children are easier to recruit, convince and move and therefore, due to the low costs, they generate an enormous economic profit."

"A child begging in Vienna or Madrid can earn a hundred euros a day, while girls who are forced to prostitute themselves generate profits of 1,000 to 3,000 euros a week. If we take into account that a procurer pays around 3,000 euros a day for each girl, he will have paid off the purchase in a week and he will obtain profits from then on."

In declarations to journalists before taking part in a child trafficking congress organized by Save the Children, Liliana Orjuela, who is in charge of the organization has explained that child exploitation does not only happen in the Global South but also in Europe, especially in poor countries like Romania or former Soviet republics, where there are many at risk minors.

According to local police, in Spain there are around 20,000 minors who have been forced into prostitution, begging or who have been victims of international crime nets which have used them for labor exploitation, illegal adoptions or even organ trafficking. According to Save the Children and Spanish Net against human trafficking data, 50,000 women and girls are victims of human trafficking in Spain. They come from Morocco, Sub-Saharan Africa, eastern countries, Brazil and Central America, and are brought to Spain where "there is great demand."

*Edited for readability

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

From Nepal to India: Trafficking and the HIV/AIDS Crisis

From the American Chronicle:

Nepal is certainly an important country globally for urgent HIV/AIDS interventions? UNAIDS predicted two years back that Russia and India were going to be the two largest centers for the future AIDS epidemics, though both countries are able to expertly handle any kind of pandemic when push comes to shove. In fact India's projected rate of 50 million next to South Africa's 56 million, is now hugely diminished re-totaling to only 21 million, but still a large figure nonetheless. China too has nearly 27 million known HIV infections. Both countries are capable of intensive AIDS patient care and produce their own anti-retroviral treatment based total health care packages.

Where would that leave Nepal, which is the only country that India shares an open border with? Has anyone thought about it seriously? The alarming fact appearing to both Indian and Nepali media these days is that a large number of Nepalese girls and women are trafficked to India and known to be engaging in the commercial sex trade in Indian brothels substantiating a decade old ILO estimate. There are only a handful of NGOs that work in this sector among the 6,500 registered at the national level.

Just imagine this likely scenario. A quarter of Nepal's female commercial sex workers numbering around 100,000 of a total 200,000 were infected with HIV or had full blown AIDS (a 2005 estimate that is quoted in You and AIDS, UNDP web portal), came back and got married into Nepalese communities, gave birth to Nepalese children, and infected their Nepalese spouses.

According to the UN website, "a major challenge therefore is to control HIV in the country is the trafficking of Nepali girls and women into commercial sex work in India, and their return to practice in Nepal. About 50 percent of Nepal's FSWs previously worked in Mumbai, India and some 100,000 Nepali women continue to engage in the practice there. The National Network against Girls' Trafficking, an Indian coalition of approximately 40 NGOs initially established to tackle the problem of girl trafficking, has also begun to address the issue of HIV/AIDS".

But many of the remaining have got married to Indians in Indian cities and stayed back. What kind of crises would Nepal and India jointly face in the future? Certainly, on of the most staggering geo-strategic cross-border security and human development challenges facing any two countries in the world requiring 'quick brew' interventions, availability of an international pool of knowledge bank experts, vast quantity of ART drugs, hospitals and hospices, 'stand-by' financial resources and workable intervention strategies comparable to a hidden, springing math formula.

It would be a major diversion from the two countries' development budgets and a loss of human lives as more people died of AIDS related illnesses. Are we capable of handling such a scenario in Nepal? The answer again is NO!"

The author of this stark and alarming article is Surya B. Prasai, a Nepali national who has written extensively on issues of the environment, HIV/AIDS, the United Nations, and migration, often with inclusion of Nepal's issues. The scenarios and figures Mr. Prasai discusses, however, are not only concerns he has. The Journal of the American Medical Association produced a report in August 2007 entitled "HIV Prevalence and Predictors of Infection in Sex-Trafficked Nepalese Girls and Women," which produced the following results among 287 repatriated Nepalese victims:
  • 38% tested positive for HIV,
  • Girls who were trafficked prior to the age of 15 were at increased risk for HIV with over 60% of this group testing positive for infection,
  • Girls who were trafficked prior to the age of 15 were also at greater risk of being detained in multiple brothels with longer periods at each one,
  • Additional factors associated with HIV positivity included being trafficked to Mumbai and longer duration of forced prostitution
In a New York Times article, written at the time of the release of the report, Dr. Jay G. Silverman, professor of human development at Harvard's School of Public Health as well as the lead author of the AMA report had this to say:

Girls from China's Yunnan Province sold to Southeast Asian brothels, Iraqi girls from refugee camps in Syria and Jordan, and Afghan girls driven into Iran or Pakistan all appear to be victims of the same pattern, he said, and are presumably contributing to the H.I.V. outbreaks in southern China, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"Most authorities fighting human trafficking don't see it as having anything to do with H.I.V.," Dr. Silverman said. "It is just not being documented."

Brothel owners pay twice as much for young girls, Dr. Silverman said, and charge more for sex with them, sometimes presenting them as virgins, because men think young girls have fewer diseases or believe the myth - common in some countries - that sex with a virgin cures AIDS.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking, "Dr. Silverman said. "Some of them are just shells - and shells of very young human beings. It's every father of a daughter's worst nightmare."

"About half of those tested had been lured to India by promises of jobs as maids or in restaurants. Some were invited on family visits or pilgrimages and then sold - sometimes by relatives. Some were falsely promised marriage. Some were simply drugged and kidnapped, often by older women offering a up of tea or a soft drink in a public market or train station," Dr. Silverman said.

Anti-Trafficking Drive Launched in UK

From the BBC:

The Blue Blindfold initiative, named after images on campaign posters, will be welcomed by MPs and peers at an event at the House of Commons.

The UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) says the crime often goes unnoticed and wants people to be aware of what is happening in their communities. The centre has put the key victim signs to look out for on a new website.

Target Areas
These include uncertainty or timidity, loss of freedom at work, loss of personal freedom, physical injury and poor living conditions. The campaign started before Christmas and posters have already been displayed on buses across the UK. The message will also be put across through DVDs, postcards and fact sheets.

The Blue Blindfold campaign is targeted at four groups - law enforcement bodies, the general public, other agencies and victims.

Victims Frightened

Nick Kinsella, head of the UKHTC, said a combination of the seriousness of the crime and the hold traffickers have over their victims means it is not visible to the public. He said: "This is criminals selling people in the same way that they sell any other commodity. "With people there's an inexhaustible supply and there's good money to be made. If the traffickers are caught they will go to prison for a long time."

Control Method

Mr Kinsella said victims do not necessarily have to be kept under lock and key to be under the control of the traffickers. "It's just as an effective method of control to know that a victim has a sister back home and tell them that she will be next," he said. Mr Kinsella added: "I don't think it's possible to explain the trauma a victim of trafficking goes through. You're frankly treated as a modern day slave."

Anthony Steen, chairman of the MPs' All-Party Group on Trafficking, welcomed the campaign. He said: "Congratulations to the UKHTC on their splendid initiative which will create greater awareness of modern-day slavery using contemporary and eye-catching advertising."

Education Push Yields Little for India’s Poor

From the New York Times:

LAHTORA, India — With the dew just rising from the fields, dozens of children streamed into the two-room school in this small, poor village, tucking used rice sacks under their arms to use as makeshift chairs. So many children streamed in that the newly appointed head teacher, Rashid Hassan, pored through attendance books for the first two hours of class and complained bitterly. He had no idea who belonged in which grade. There was no way he could teach.

Another teacher arrived 90 minutes late. A third did not show up. The most senior teacher, the only one with a teaching degree, was believed to be on official government duty preparing voter registration cards. No one could quite recall when he had last taught.

“When they get older, they’ll curse their teachers,” said Arnab Ghosh, 26, a social worker trying to help the government improve its schools, as he stared at clusters of children sitting on the grass outside. “They’ll say, ‘We came every day and we learned nothing.’ ”

Sixty years after independence, with 40 percent of its population under 18, India is now confronting the perils of its failure to educate its citizens, notably the poor. More Indian children are in school than ever before, but the quality of public schools like this one has sunk to spectacularly low levels, as government schools have become reserves of children at the very bottom of India’s social ladder.

The children in this school come from the poorest of families — those who cannot afford to send away their young to private schools elsewhere, as do most Indian families with any means.

India has long had a legacy of weak schooling for its young, even as it has promoted high-quality government-financed universities. But if in the past a largely poor and agrarian nation could afford to leave millions of its people illiterate, that is no longer the case. Not only has the roaring economy run into a shortage of skilled labor, but also the nation’s many new roads, phones and television sets have fueled new ambitions for economic advancement among its people — and new expectations for schools to help them achieve it.

That they remain ill equipped to do so is clearly illustrated by an annual survey, conducted by Pratham, the organization for which Mr. Ghosh works. The latest survey, conducted across 16,000 villages in 2007 and released Wednesday, found that while many more children were sitting in class, vast numbers of them could not read, write or perform basic arithmetic, to say nothing of those who were not in school at all.

Among children in fifth grade, 4 out of 10 could not read text at the second grade level, and 7 out of 10 could not subtract. The results reflected a slight improvement in reading from 2006 and a slight decline in arithmetic; together they underscored one of the most worrying gaps in India’s prospects for continued growth.

Education experts debate the reasons for failure. Some point out that children of illiterate parents are less likely to get help at home; the Pratham survey shows that the child of a literate woman performs better at school. Others blame longstanding neglect, insufficient public financing and accountability, and a lack of motivation among some teachers to pay special attention to poor children from lower castes.

“Education is a long-term investment,” said Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission and the government’s top policy czar. “We have neglected it, in my view quite criminally, for an enormously long period of time.”

Looking for a Way Up

Education in the new India has become a crucial marker of inequality. Among the poorest 20 percent of Indian men, half are illiterate, and barely 2 percent graduate from high school, according to government data. By contrast, among the richest 20 percent of Indian men, nearly half are high school graduates and only 2 percent are illiterate.

Just as important, at a time when only one in 10 college-age Indians actually go to college, higher education has become the most effective way to scale the golden ladder of the new economy. A recent study by two economists based in Delhi found that between 1993-94 and 2004-5, college graduates enjoyed pay raises of 11 percent every year, and illiterates saw their pay rise by roughly 8.5 percent, though from a miserably low base; here in Bihar State, for instance, a day laborer makes barely more than $1 a day.

“The link between getting your children prepared and being part of this big, changing India is certainly there in everyone’s minds,” said Rukmini Banerji, the research director of Pratham. “The question is: What’s the best way to get there, how much to do, what to do? As a country, I think we are trying to figure this out.”

She added, “If we wait another 5 or 10 years, you are going to lose millions of children.”

Money From the State

India has lately begun investing in education. Public spending on schools has steadily increased over the last few years, and the government now proposes to triple its financial commitment over the next five years. At present, education spending is about 4 percent of the gross domestic product. Every village with more than 1,000 residents has a primary school. There is money for free lunch every day.

Even in a state like Bihar, which had an estimated population of 83 million in 2001 and where schools are in particularly bad shape, the scale of the effort is staggering. In the last year or so, 100,000 new teachers have been hired. Unemployed villagers are paid to recruit children who have never been to school. A village education committee has been created, in theory to keep the school and its principal accountable to the community. And buckets of money have been thrown at education, to buy swings and benches, to paint classrooms, even to put up fences around the campus to keep children from running away.

And yet, as Lahtora shows, good intentions can become terribly complicated on the ground.

At the moment, the village was not lacking for money for its school. The state had committed $15,000 to construct a new school building, $900 for a new kitchen and $400 for new school benches. But only some of the money had arrived, so no construction had started, and the school committee chairman said he was not sure how much local officials might demand in bribes. The chairman’s friend from a neighboring village said $750 had been demanded of his village committee in exchange for building permits.

The chairman here also happens to be the head teacher’s uncle, making the idea of accountability additionally complicated. One parent told Mr. Ghosh that their complaints fell on deaf ears: the teachers were connected to powerful people in the community.

It is a common refrain in a country where teaching jobs are a powerful instrument of political patronage.

The school’s drinking-water tap had stopped working long ago, like 30 percent of schools nationwide, according to the Pratham survey. Despite the extra money, the toilet was broken, as was the case in nearly half of all schools nationwide.

From Development As Freedom by Amartya Sen:

For a variety of historical reasons, including a focus on basic education and basic health care, and early completion of effective land reforms, widespread economic participation was easier to achieve in many of the East Asian and Southeast Asian economies in a way it has not been possible in, say, Brazil or India or Pakistan, where the creation of social opportunities has been much slower and that slowness has acted as a barrier to economic development.

A poor economy may
have less money to spend on health care and education, but it also needs less money to spend to provide the same services, which would cost much more in the richer countries. Relative prices and costs are important parameters in determining what a country can afford. Given an appropriate social commitment, the need to take note of the variability of relative costs is particularly important for social services in health and education.

The Different Paths of India & China
Beijing, China

The contrast between India and China has some illustrative importance in this context. The governments of both China and India have been making efforts for some time now (China from 1979 and India from 1991) to move toward a more open, internationally active, market-oriented economy.

While Indian efforts have slowly met with some success, the kind of massive results that China has seen has failed to occur in India. An important factor in this contrast lies in the fact that from the standpoint of social preparedness, China is a great deal ahead of India in being able to make use of the market economy. While pre-reform China was deeply skeptical of markets, it was not skeptical of basic education and widely shared health care. When China turned to marketization in 1979, it already had a highly literate people, especially the young, with good schooling facilities across the bulk of the country.

In contrast, India had a half-illiterate adult population when it turned to marketization in 1991, and the situation is not much improved today. The social backwardness of India, with its elitist concentration on higher education and massive negligence of school education, and its substantial neglect of basic health care, left that country poorly prepared for a widely shared economic expansion.

*During my research in the Philippines I repeatedly came face to face with the vulnerability created by low education and unemployment. While the majority of higher education is privatized in the Philippines, and therefore inaccessible to all but the wealthy, there exists an under funded, yet functioning lower, middle and secondary school system.

The reality for a young child, however, is that rather than attending school, he/she will seek a job to help their family, which then creates a large population of young people with no skills desperate for jobs who are vulnerable to trafficking. One of the common frustrations of the NGOs I worked with was the inability to help trafficking victims once they were rescued, rehabilitated and finally reintegrated back into their home communities. What often ends up happening once they arrive home is they will go and apply for another job and take the risk of being trafficked all over again because the economic need is so great.

At the end of the day the lesson is simple economics- school is not an option when there is no food on the table. At the same time, an educated population is one of the cornerstones of development that will ultimately lead to increased jobs, higher quality of life, and decreased susceptibility to trafficking.


Read “Cooking Up Profit” for more about the relationship between development and trafficking.

Read “International Labor Migration & Human Trafficking” for more on how education can help stimulate development and decrease vulnerability to trafficking.

Monday, January 28, 2008

African Cup of Nations '08 May Be Fertile Ground for Human Trafficking

From All Africa:

The African Cup of Nations (ACN) tournament, Ghana 2008, is just around the corner. With thousands of Africans expected from all over the continent to attend the biennial soccer fiesta, much more has to be done to protect vulnerable children and women who may end up as victims of another boom for modern day slave merchants and their collaborators.

Reports clearly state that human trafficking is a major problem in the West African sub-region, and the cross-border nature of the menace makes it even more worrisome. As the tournament, approaches, law enforcement agencies have to be on their toes to combat the plans of human traffickers who may have perfected their acts to turn the football fiesta into another jumbo harvest field for their illicit trade. Human trafficking, according to the United States' State Department report, is the third most lucrative business in the world after drugs and trading in arms, with an estimated annual earning of $5-$7 billion. The United Nations estimates that about 706,000 to four million women and children are trafficked every year. Out of this figure, 50 percent are children with some as young as under six years.

The ECOWAS secretariat estimates that not less than 300,000 children have fallen victim to trafficking in the sub-region, citing an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report. The ECOWAS Commission already has a protocol among member states that makes trafficking an offence. Member states are currently being encouraged to embark on reforms of national laws with a view to harmonising them with international and regional conventions and protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

Only recently, the Ghanaian government was called upon to put adequate measures in place to prevent human traffickers from having their ways. This followed the disclosure by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service and some organisations that some people have perfected plans to recruit children for prostitution during the tournament.

The secret association of commercial sex workers in Accra and Takoradi had earlier expressed concern, though for selfish reasons, about media reports of invasion of prostitutes from neighbouring Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire in the run up to the African Cup of Nations tournament.

Bright Appiah, an activist with the Children Right International, an NGO also said he had information from Kumasi that some "underground agents" have been paid to recruit sex workers, with children as some of their targets.

Speaking at a two-day workshop organised by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) and sponsored by the British High Commission at Senchi near Akosombo in the Eastern region of Ghana recently, Appiah said as the security agencies beef up their watchdog role in host cities and surrounding towns of Ghana 2008 tournament, children could also be protected if government imposed a curfew on children during the tournament.

While this may appear a sincere suggestion, observers are not in any way in support of this as it will definitely be an infringement of the rights of the child to free movement.International sporting events, no doubt, have become fertile ground for human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children.

The case of Ghana 2008 cannot, therefore, be an exception. Adu Poku, Director General of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ghana Police Service confirmed this as well. "The international sporting events have become a fertile ground for human trafficking for sexual exploitation, the documented patterns of frequent trafficking of children for force prostitution during World Cups and others as well as the increase of recruitment of children for prostitution in South Africa for the upcoming World Cup create a dire picture. We need to fight it to ensure zero tolerance for human trafficking," said the Ghana CID boss.

Tatiana Kotlyarenko, Executive Director of Enslavement Prevention Alliance West Africa, however, puts the challenge at hand in proper perspective. "In South Africa, there are media reports of how street children as young as nine years old are being lured and prepared for prostitution for World Cup 2010," she said and warned: "With no preventive measures in place and relatively easy border crossings for other ECOWAS members prior to and during the CAN 2008, it is highly probable that thousands of women and children will be trafficked into Ghana for the purposes of exploitation, as well as recruited internally."

Organisations around the world are currently expressing sincere and serious concerns about the problem of human trafficking into the Southern African region in the run up to the World Cup 2010.

The need to adequately prepare for the upcoming World Cup was on of the topics on the agenda at a conference held by the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW) in Bangkok, Thailand last November.

The Nigerian government passed an Anti-trafficking Act shortly after the UN Protocol came into force. Some states in the country have also localised the Child Rights Act.

The National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) was also established in 2005 to prevent human trafficking and protect victims of trafficking as well. Under the leadership of Carol Ndaguba, its Executive Secretary, NAPTIP has successfully prosecuted 9 cases resulting in 11 convictions while 35 more cases are ongoing.

* This article does a good job of providing perspectives from multiple stakeholders on the problem of sex trafficking and child trafficking at large international sporting events in Africa, such as the ACN tournament, yet fails to mention anything about tangible initiatives or actions to address the issue. While this may have been a limitation of the reporting, it may also be that there are is no set plan of action at the current time; however, if the latter is true the reporter should have mentioned it.

Read the full article

Domestic Abuse Rampant in Jordan

Amid Claims of Widespread Abuse, the Philippines Bans its Citizens from Migrating to Jordan for Work

From the BBC:

The Philippines has banned its citizens from going to Jordan to work amid claims of widespread abuse of domestic staff by Jordanian employers.

The move affects Filipinos who want to go to Jordan for the first time, not those already working in the country. The ban, which came into force on Monday, is only now becoming public.

Inside the Philippine embassy in the capital, Amman, more than 150 Filipino workers, most of them women, have taken refuge from abusive employers. The notice posted on the front door of the embassy is clear: no more workers will be allowed to come from the Philippines to Jordan until further notice.

Unpaid wages

The crimes committed against them include non-payment of wages, physical abuse and even rape. Meetings between officials from the Philippine embassy and the Jordanian government are being held to try to solve the problem. According to Jordanian government statistics, there are 70,000 foreign domestic workers in the country. About 15,000 of them come from the Philippines.

From Business Week:

The Philippines has imposed an indefinite ban on the deployment of workers to Jordan because of growing reports of maids being mistreated and abused there, officials said Wednesday.

Ban Imposed

The ban took effect Monday on the order of Labor Secretary Arturo Brion, said Rosalinda Baldoz, head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. "I received an order to stop the deployment of (workers) to Jordan, and this is because of the growing number of Filipinos in distress," Baldoz told a press conference. She said the country's labor attache in Jordan has reported that between 120 and 150 Filipino workers, mostly maids, have fled their employers and sought refuge at a Philippine-run center in Amman.

The ban is only for newly hired workers and does not apply to workers returning to "good-standing" employers in Jordan, Baldoz added.

There are 16,274 Filipinos currently working in Jordan. Some 8 million Filipinos -- or nearly 10 percent of the Philippines' population of about 90 million -- work overseas. Aside from Jordan, the Philippines has also banned the deployment of workers to Nigeria, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

From GMA News:

Jordan Government Uninformed of Ban

Jordanian labor ministry officials said Wednesday that the Philippine government did not inform them of the decision to ban the deployment of Filipino domestic workers to Jordan.
A report by the Jordan Times said that Labor ministry secretary general Majed Habashneh met with Philippine ambassador to Jordan on Wednesday to discuss the issue on abuse that resulted in dozens of Filipino workers seeking refuge at the embassy.

The Parliament Building in Amman, Jordan

In that meeting, ministry officials reminded the Philippine ambassador of the importance of coordination in addressing the workers’ complaints in a way that is beneficial to all parties involved, the report said. The report quoted Habashneh as saying, "We also briefed the ambassador on the Jordanian domestic helper recruitment agency and the Jordanian employers."

Culture Shock

The Philippine ambassador expressed his understanding and willingness to work for a compromise in the interest of all parties, the report added.

An official of the Domestic Helpers Agencies Association (DHAA) said that most common complaints of the workers were ill-treatment and work overload.
But the DHAA believed that the real reason why the helpers wanted to leave their employers were homesickness and cultural differences between Jordan and the Philippines.

The group said that since early 2007, a total of 200 Filipino domestic helpers, on several occasions, sought refuge at their embassy, and that majority them had been working in Jordan for less than a year.

History of Abuse

In 1990, the Philippines also imposed a deployment ban to Jordan due to high cases of maltreatment and exploitation committed by Jordanian employers.

However, in 2005, the labor department ordered the lifting of the ban with the opening of a Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Amman and the implementation of a “special work contract" which provides liberal welfare provisions to foreign household service workers.

The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration are preparing for the possible repatriation of the 120 to 150 distressed OFWs in Jordan.


1) Why is international labor migration important to the Philippines (and developing countries around the world)?

2) How does international labor migration relate to trafficking?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

*I know this post is late, but it took me a while to put together and I wanted to make sure it was comprehensive. It is inspiring to see, thanks to the efforts of freedom fighters like Martin Luther King Jr., how far we have come, yet, in light of the present day thriving trade in persons, humbling to know there is still much work left to be done. A salute to all those working to uphold civil rights and end modern day slavery around the world, happy (belated) Martin Luther King Jr. day!

From Wikipedia:

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929April 4, 1968), was one of the main leaders of the American civil rights movement. King was a Baptist minister, one of the few leadership roles available to black men at the time. He became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955 - 1956) and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1957), serving as its first president.

His efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Here he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. Martin Luther King Day was established as a national holiday in the United States in 1986. In 2004, King was posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.

At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. It was observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, and is called Martin Luther King Day. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, around the time of King's birthday. In January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 U.S. states.

March on Washington, “I Have a Dream” speech

Read more

The African-American Civil Rights Movement

From Wikipedia:

In the late 19th century, Democratic-controlled states, mainly in the South, passed racially discriminatory laws. In the South, but also elsewhere in the United States, racial violence aimed at African Americans mushroomed. This period is sometimes referred to as "the nadir of American race relations." Elected, appointed, or hired government authorities began to require or permit discrimination, in the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Required or permitted acts of discrimination against African Americans fell mainly into four categories: (1) racial segregation—upheld by the United States Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896—was legally mandated by southern states and by many local governments outside the South; (2) voter suppression or disfranchisement in the southern states; (3) denial of economic opportunity or resources nationwide, and (4) private acts of violence and mass racial violence aimed at African Americans, which were often encouraged and seldom hindered by government authorities.

The combination in the southern states of these issues became known as "Jim Crow". The southern "Jim Crow" regime remained almost entirely intact into the early 1950s and contributed to the Great Migration, a steady northward flow of African Americans from 1910-1970. The situation for African-Americans outside the South was somewhat better, as they could vote and have their children educated. They faced discrimination in housing and jobs

The Civil Rights Movement prior to 1955 confronted discrimination against African-Americans, chiefly in the South, with a variety of strategies. These included litigation and lobbying efforts by traditional organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The crowning achievement of these efforts was the legal victory in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which overturned the "separate but equal" legal doctrine derived from Plessy and made segregation legally impermissible but provided few practical remedies.

Private citizens, simultaneously invigorated by the victory of Brown but frustrated by its lack of immediate practical effect, increasingly rejected gradualist, legalistic approaches as the primary tool to bring about desegregation in the face of "massive resistance" by proponents of racial segregation and voter suppression. In defiance, they adopted a combined strategy of direct action with nonviolent resistance known as civil disobedience. Acts of civil disobedience produced crisis situations between practitioners and government authorities. The authorities of federal, state, and local governments often had to respond immediately to crisis situations, and the results were often in the practitioner's favor. Some of the forms of civil disobedience employed included boycotts, beginning with the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956) in Alabama; "sit-ins" such as the influential Greensboro sit-in (1960) in North Carolina; and marches, such as the Selma to Montgomery marches (1965) in Alabama.

Rosa Parks sits in the front of a bus

Noted legislative achievements during this phase of the Civil Rights Movement were passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (minor in its effects, but the first anti-discriminatory federal legislation since Reconstruction), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned discrimination in employment practices and public accommodations, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that restored voting rights, the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965 that dramatically changed U.S. immigration policy, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 that banned discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.

Slavery in the United States


Nearly 4 million slaves with a market value of close to $4 billion lived in the U.S. just before the Civil War. Masters enjoyed rates of return on slaves comparable to those on other assets; cotton consumers, insurance companies, and industrial enterprises benefited from slavery as well. Such valuable property required rules to protect it, and the institutional practices surrounding slavery display a sophistication that rivals modern-day law and business.

Not long after Columbus set sail for the New World, the French and Spanish brought slaves with them on various expeditions. Slaves accompanied Ponce de Leon to Florida in 1513, for instance. But a far greater proportion of slaves arrived in chains in crowded, sweltering cargo holds. The first dark-skinned slaves in what was to become British North America arrived in Virginia -- perhaps stopping first in Spanish lands -- in 1619 aboard a Dutch vessel. From 1500 to 1900, approximately 12 million Africans were forced from their homes to go westward, with about 10 million of them completing the journey. Yet very few ended up in the British colonies and young American republic. By 1808, when the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the U.S. officially ended, only about 6 percent of African slaves landing in the New World had come to North America.

Central to the success of slavery are political and legal institutions that validate the ownership of other persons. A Kentucky court acknowledged the dual character of slaves in Turner v. Johnson (1838): "[S]laves are property and must, under our present institutions, be treated as such. But they are human beings, with like passions, sympathies, and affections with ourselves." To construct slave law, lawmakers borrowed from laws concerning personal property and animals, as well as from rules regarding servants, employees, and free persons. The outcome was a set of doctrines that supported the Southern way of life.

The English common law of property formed a foundation for U.S. slave law. The French and Spanish influence in Louisiana -- and, to a lesser extent, Texas -- meant that Roman (or civil) law offered building blocks there as well. Despite certain formal distinctions, slave law as practiced differed little from common-law to civil-law states. Southern state law governed roughly five areas: slave status, masters' treatment of slaves, interactions between slave owners and contractual partners, rights and duties of non-contractual parties toward others' slaves, and slave crimes. Federal law and laws in various Northern states also dealt with matters of interstate commerce, travel, and fugitive slaves.

Market prices for slaves reflect their substantial economic value. Scholars have gathered slave prices from a variety of sources, including censuses, probate records, plantation and slave-trader accounts, and proceedings of slave auctions. These data sets reveal that prime field hands went for four to six hundred dollars in the U.S. in 1800, thirteen to fifteen hundred dollars in 1850, and up to three thousand dollars just before Fort Sumter fell. Even controlling for inflation, the prices of U.S. slaves rose significantly in the six decades before South Carolina seceded from the Union. By 1860, Southerners owned close to $4 billion worth of slaves. Slavery remained a thriving business on the eve of the Civil War: Fogel and Engerman (1974) projected that by 1890 slave prices would have increased on average more than 50 percent over their 1860 levels. No wonder the South rose in armed resistance to protect its enormous investment.

From Wikipedia:

The American Civil War, beginning in 1861, led to the end of chattel slavery in America. Not long after the war broke out, through a legal maneuver credited to Union General Benjamin F. Butler, a lawyer by profession, slaves who came into Union "possession" were considered "contraband of war". General Butler ruled that they were not subject to return to Confederate owners as they had been before the war. Soon word spread, and many slaves sought refuge in Union territory, desiring to be declared "contraband." Many of the "contrabands" joined the Union Army as workers or troops, forming entire regiments of the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT). Others went to refugee camps such as the Grand Contraband Camp near Fort Monroe or fled to northern cities. General Butler's interpretation was reinforced when Congress passed the Confiscation Act of 1861, which declared that any property used by the Confederate military, including slaves, could be confiscated by Union forces.

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 was a powerful move that promised freedom for slaves in the Confederacy as soon as the Union armies reached them, and authorized the enlistment of African Americans in the Union Army. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves in the Union-allied slave-holding states that bordered the Confederacy. Since the Confederate States did not recognize the authority of President Lincoln, and the proclamation did not apply in the border states, at first the proclamation freed only slaves who had escaped behind Union lines.

Still, the proclamation made the abolition of slavery an official war goal that was implemented as the Union took territory from the Confederacy. According to the Census of 1860, this policy would free nearly four million slaves, or over 12% of the total population of the United States.The Arizona Organic Act abolished slavery on February 24, 1863 in the newly formed Arizona Territory. Tennessee and all of the border states (except Kentucky) abolished slavery by early 1865. Thousands of slaves were freed by the operation of the Emancipation Proclamation as Union armies marched across the South. Emancipation as a reality came to the remaining southern slaves after the surrender of all Confederate troops in spring 1865.

There still were over 250,000 slaves in Texas. Word did not reach Texas about the collapse of the Confederacy until June 19, 1865. African Americans and others celebrate that day as Juneteenth, the day of freedom, in Texas, Oklahoma and some other states. It commemorates the date when the news finally reached slaves at Galveston, Texas.

Legally, the last 40,000 or so slaves were freed in Kentucky[42] by the final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in December 1865.

* What other advocates of freedom and civil liberty around the world do you think should be recognized? Send in suggestions with relevant links and I'll post them.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Joint UK/Romanian Operation Busts Romanian Child Trafficking Ring

Police believe they have smashed a Romanian criminal gang smuggling children as young as five into the country to beg and steal.

Officers from several forces, including the Metropolitan Police, raided 17 addresses across the county. At least 25 adults were held, on suspicion of immigration breaches, deception, fraud, theft and pick-pocketing.

Police suspect poor families in eastern Europe may be forced into allowing gangs to take their children into the UK to carry out offences such as pick-pocketing and thefts near cash machines. They estimate that each child is worth £100,000 a year to the gangs and the Romanian authorities estimate there are up to 2,000 children who have been smuggled into Britain.

The human trafficking trade now generates an estimated £5bn a year worldwide, making it the second biggest international criminal industry after the drugs trade.

Figures from the Met showed that before Romania joined the EU, its nationals were associated with 146 crimes over six months in Britain. A year after it joined, the figure had leapt to 922 within the same period. Police believe about 70 people are behind the majority of the trafficking...

Karl Davis, from education and children services, told BBC News: "We carried out individual assessments on all these children and five children remain in our care."

"Five families have come forward and we are satisfied that the arguments made were sufficient and we were happy for them to return to their families. We assessed them fully in terms of what the children and families told us. Some of the families were in the homes that were raided but some traveled from outside of Slough."

"Some of the children were too young to tell us much. The youngest is two years old and there are two 14-year-olds. The two-year-old is still in our care."

The same article has an interview with Christine Beddoe of ECPAT, a global network of organizations working on eliminating child exploitation. She speaks a bit more to the areas the UK will need to improve on in order to help children suffering from exploitation.

According to Reuters, the operation was codenamed "Caddy" and Commander Steve Allen stated that more arrests are expected. Other articles seem to confuse trafficking with smuggling, and others yet call into question whether the children were actually unaware of what was happening. I'm sure the two-year-old gave consent for the family to sell him/her and then viciously hit the streets to steal. I apologize for the sarcasm, but child trafficking targets the most vulnerable group in society and even if or when the children are saved, they are faced with the lifelong burden of their experience. According to a 2005 article on Turkey's efforts to combat human trafficking, only 30 percent of victims of human trafficking recover to the point of leading a normal life. This is of course, the identified victims that organizations and governments are able to document. I can only hope the children who were returned to their families in Romania will not be sold again.

This article also details another cost of human trafficking that I think is striking as I tried to find other articles on the case and found many had some sort of condescending or doubtful tone to it.
"Another human cost of migrant smuggling is the damage that is done to the image of migrants, and an increase in xenophobia. Up until now, unmanaged migration flows in destination countries have resulted in a perception by the general public that migrants are to blame for the growth in organized crime. But migration is an issue that affects us all; it is and always has been a natural human phenomenon. That is why it cannot be left to criminals to manage migration for us."
Even the BBC was ready to point out how crimes by people of Romanian origin was quick to increase in the UK after Romania's accession to the EU so the article makes an important statement. Human trafficking is still not a phenomenon we completely understand and until we realize the extent of the damage it is doing, a complete solution will not be reached.

Friday, January 25, 2008

New Halfway House for Trafficking Victims Built in the Philippines

From the Sun Star:

Zamboanga, Philippines - A Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) halfway house, a shelter that serves as a sanctuary for victims of human trafficking, is set to be operational in February.

PPA information officer Karen Kay Rivero said that a team from the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF) will manage the halfway house.

The halfway house, or Bahay Silungan sa Daungan as it's known in Filipino, is a facility that will serve as a temporary shelter for women and children who are victims or potential targets of forced labor or sexual exploitation.

As a top priority program of PPA's Gender and Development Focal Point arm, the halfway house under the supervision of VFF provides services such as counseling, legal assistance, skills training, medical and other psychosocial assistance.

The halfway house will also have a hotline where human trafficking victims can call for assistance, according to Rivero.

The PPA, as part of its corporate social responsibility, has been working on the Bahay Silungan sa Daungan project since 1996, prompted by the numerous cases of stranded passengers in ports who have become victims of exploitation.

Other major ports in the country such as Manila's North and South Harbors, and the ports in Davao, Batangas, and in Matnog, Sorsogon have had halfway houses established.

Dizon emphasizes the inspiring fact that PPA's anti-trafficking program greatly aids countless women and minors. In the last six years, PPA halfway houses across the country saved 18,600 victims and potential targets of trafficking.

Rivero said the PPA financed the construction of halfway houses culled from its corporate funds, while its partner agency, the United States Assistance for International Development (USAID), finances its management and operation.

Afternoon Update:

*I worked closely with the Visayan Forum Foundation (VFF) during my Fulbright research in the Philippines and was always impressed with their collaborative, inclusive and innovative approach to combating trafficking.

The reality of combating trafficking is often messy: the government, law enforcement, and criminal justice system all have the potential to be corrupt, uninformed, or lack the motivation/pressure from the public, the media, or the international spotlight to make any real impact. There are certainly many skilled, well-intentioned individuals working within bogged-down government and law enforcement agencies (and also non-governmental organizations of course) that do want to make a difference, but may not know how or have the resources to do so on their own.

But the situation is far from being all fire and brimstone.

VFF created the halfway houses to intercept trafficking victims en route to exploitation and, through forging cross-sector partnerships, is making a sizable difference- the article states that halfway houses in sea ports across the Philippines have rescued 18,600 potential trafficking victims in six years of operation.

Trafficking is not a simple issue- it is a problem created by a complex stew of social, cultural, economic and political factors and, as would fit the chemistry of the problem, there is no one person or organization or economic sector that can handle trafficking on its own.

It is by learning about the collaborative relationships that VFF has developed with stakeholders like the Philippine Police, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Philippine Port Authority and private shipping companies (that’s the public, private, and citizen sector working together for those keeping track) that I saw true hope in an otherwise murky situation.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Indian Police Receive Training for Dealing with Trafficking Survivors

Prostitutes in India

From the Times of India:

Maharashtra - Around 40 police officers vowed to develop a more human outlook towards the victims of the flesh trade at a workshop on anti-human trafficking laws organized by the Pune police on Thursday.

Commissioner of police Shobha Ohatker said the two-day workshop was aimed at sensitizing the police officers towards victim of prostitution.

"Certain case-studies were presented before the cops. They were also told about the precautions to be taken while recording statements of victims, especially minors," Ohatker said. Project Co-ordinator of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) P.M. Nair and Preeti Patkar from Mumbai-based Prerna took the sessions.

Nair said that the UNDOC has been conducting sessions for policemen and public prosecutors on the anti-human trafficking act. To date, it has trained around 10,160 police officers and public prosecutors in five states - Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh - in a span of last one and half years.

"The aim is to bring out quality manuals for the law enforcers along with establishing an anti-human trafficking set-up. The workshop also tries to form an NGO-police network," Nair said.

Nair expressed satisfaction at the results of the workshop. "There has been a sea of change in the way cases related to human trafficking and prostitution are being handled. 'Buyers' were held and brothel homes closed," Nair said. The UNDOC also works for rehabilitating the rescued girls, he added.

Nair said that several police officers, who attended the workshop, admitted that they were unaware of certain provisions of law. "We just tried to explain to them the prominent features of anti-human trafficking laws. It is all about looking at victim as a victim and not as an accused," he added.

Around 592 cases of human trafficking were registered in the five states last year. "In 104 operations, 933 victims were rescued of which 136 were minors. Around 1,295 traffickers along with 419 customers were arrested in all," he informed. The UNDOC has undertaken 54 sessions in Maharashtra and trained 1,772 policemen till date.