Monday, April 30, 2012

Asian American Trafficking Outreach Project: Survey Results!

The Asian American Trafficking Outreach Project (AATOP) survey results are here! Through AATOP, IOFA seeks to build the capacity of Asian American-serving organizations in Chicago to better identify and serve Asian American victims of human trafficking. The survey was an effort to understand the currently existing resources available.

Thank you for those who filled out the survey. A total of seven Asian American-serving organizations in the metropolitan Chicago area participated. While the pool was small, the results nonetheless provided us with a good starting point for AATOP.

First, we found out that the ethnic groups the organizations work with the most are: Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino. In fact, all organizations that participated in the survey reported having served Chinese clients.

We also found that a great variety of services were available amongst the 7 organizations that participated. 6 out of 7 organizations provided counseling and legal advocacy to their clients. ESL and vocational skills training were commonly provided as well. Other answers included: community outreach, FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center), GED classes, and Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Center.

However, only two organizations reported having worked with Asian American trafficking victims.

The two organizations had multiple similarities in serving the trafficking victims. Both said they provide linguistically and culturally competent legal services, collaborate with other Asian-American-focused organizations to raise awareness of human trafficking, and conduct outreach to potential victims of human trafficking.

Both organizations identified the lack of services specifically available for Asian American trafficking victims as a challenge. Additionally, both organizations rated their current outreach efforts as “inadequate” and stated that they are in need of appropriate staff training for Asian-focused information.

Overall, the survey illustrated a serious lack of services for and outreach effort to Asian American trafficking victims. Thankfully, four organizations have expressed their interest in collaborating with IOFA on AATOP. Furthermore, the rich spectrum of other services these organizations provide serve as a solid starting point for AATOP.

In the next few weeks, IOFA plans to solidify the structure of AATOP by bringing together those who have expressed interest. In the meanwhile, we would like to reiterate our invitation to join AATOP for all organizations that have participated in the survey as well as to any other organization that may be interested. Please be a part of this opportunity to build a cohesive anti-trafficking initiative for Asian American trafficking victims in Chicago!

Meesoh Kim, Intern

Monday, April 16, 2012

Asian American Trafficking Outreach Project (AATOP)

IOFA is pleased to announce the launch of the Asian American Trafficking Outreach Project (AATOP)! Through AATOP, we seek to work with Asian American-serving organizations in Chicago to better identify and serve the Asian American victims of human trafficking.

While Asian Americans are a small minority of trafficking victims, the need to focus on this particular population is nonetheless significant, especially since the largest number of people trafficked into U.S. come from East Asia and the Pacific.[i] Unfortunately, there currently exists a critical cap in the outreach efforts to potential trafficking victims in Asian American communities in Chicago. This is evidenced by the fact that, while agencies serving trafficking victims have been receiving considerable numbers of Asian clients, Asian American-focused organizations are underrepresented in anti-trafficking coalitions and task forces.

AATOP aims to fill this gap by 1) providing Asian American-serving organizations in Chicago with strategic training and technical assistance and by 2) integrating them into existing anti-trafficking networks. We envision a solid program that, in partnership with various cultural organizations, will have the organizational capacity, technical knowledge, cultural competency, as well as the linguistic skills to effectively identify and serve the unique needs of Asian American trafficking victims.

Our first step is to understand the currently existing outreach efforts in Asian American communities in Chicago and to get a comprehensive picture of the available resources out there. As part of that effort, we have sent out a survey to a number of Asian American-serving organizations in Chicago to inquire about their past and/or current involvement in anti-trafficking work as well as their interest in collaborating with IOFA on AATOP. We will keep you posted on the results. In the meanwhile, if you are interested in participating in AATOP or in learning more about Asian American victims of human trafficking in general, feel free to post a comment below! You can also email me at

Everyone here is eager to get AATOP going. It will be the first time ever for an Asian American-focused anti-trafficking initiative to be launched in Chicago. Check back frequently for more information about this exciting project!

Meesoh Kim, Intern

[i] U.S. Department of Justice, 10 Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, available at (June 2004).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The International Day for Street Children 2012

Mark your calendars: Tomorrow, the Consortium for Street Children (CSC) is urging fellow child advocates, NGOs, policymakers, kids and concerned citizens around the world to speak ‘louder together’ to realize the rights of street children worldwide. Officially called the International Day for Street Children, this 24-hour call to action aims to provide a platform for millions of street children around the world to speak up for their rights.

Youth around the world face multiple vulnerabilities. Their lives are often shaped by economic, political and cultural contexts unique to their country of origin. However, according to a 2007 State of the World’s Street Children report, street children’s experiences are still strikingly similar, including those in wealthy nations with child protection systems. These kids' lives are often plagued by the dangers and imminent risks that come hand in hand with life on the streets. The report further recognizes that violence is a core theme underpinning children’s presence on the streets, where they experience traumatizing and marginalizing events such as abuse, exploitation, abject poverty, erratic and exclusionary access to educational and health services, and general stigmatization by mainstream society.[i]

As is the case with other disadvantaged populations, sound statistics are difficult to
find. According to the 2012 State of the World’s Children report, estimates suggest that tens of millions of children live or work on the streets of the world’s towns and cities – and the number is rising with global population growth, migration and increasing urbanization. [ii] However, this number is up for debate.

Several countries have their own statistics. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, there are estimates of 10,000 to 20,000 street working children. In Ethiopia, the government estimates that 150,000 children live on the streets, with around 60,000 in Addis Ababa alone. And 1 million children are believed to be on the streets of Egypt, most in Cairo and Alexandria. [iii]

In Nicaragua, the situation is equally grim. According to a survey of 300 street children conducted by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Family, over 80% had engaged in prostitution to survive.[iv] Others were caught in a spiral of violence, and often addicted to drugs such as glue to curb hunger. I saw this firsthand in Managua when I shadowed a local street outreach team as they talked to afflicted youth and attempted to form vital support networks.

Events for this April 12th seem largely symbolic - agencies like the Hope Foundation are releasing balloons with messages for street children - but there are other ways to take action too. CSC is asking people to sign their pledge so they can affect change on the policy level via a meeting with the UN in June. You can sign the pledge here: And, if you are of the volunteering ilk, nonprofits dedicated to street children continue to need help. At IOFA, we are dedicated to improving the lives of young people worldwide. So speak up, take action and help us champion the rights of youth across the globe!

-Summar Ghias, Program Development Intern

[i] Thomas de Benitez, S.(2007). State of the World’s Street Children: Violence, Consortium for Street Children Retrieved from http://
[ii] The State of the World’s Children (2012). Children in
an Urban World. UNICEF. Retrieved from
[iii] Consortium for Street Children: Statistics.(2009) Retrieved from
[iv] Street Children in Nicaragua. Casa Alianza. Retrieved from

Friday, April 6, 2012

When Victims Treated as Perpetrators: Afghanistan and America

Human Rights Watch recently released a harrowing report about the imprisonment of Afghan women and girls for “moral crimes.” These moral crimes are primarily the crimes of “running away” and “zina” (sex outside of marriage). In many cases, the women who have run away are fleeing forced marriages or abusive homes, or the sex outside of marriage was the result of rape or sexual abuse. Regardless of the circumstances, these women and girls face prison time and retaliation from their families and communities for having committed these “moral crimes.” While the women are clearly victims of crime, the justice system treats them as perpetrators.

After reading HRW’s report, it would be far too easy to believe that such an upside down approach to treating victims of crime “doesn’t happen here.” But if we look at trafficked and exploited youth in America, we would see that 46 states of our 50 states persist in arresting and imprisoning youth in the sex trade. (Illinois, by contrast, has enacted the Illinois Safe Children Act, that protects youth in the sex trade from detention and prosecution.) Runaway and homeless youth across the country, who are often fleeing abusive homes or maltreatment, are often drawn into the sex trade to meet basic survival needs. Many of those have been turned out by their families for their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. These young people, despite the fact that they are often victims of crime, abuse, and systemic discrimination, are subject to criminal laws that punish them for engaging in prostitution, skipping school, violating curfews, and other crimes that, like Afghanistan’s running away and zina, are clearly our version of “moral crimes.”

Our treatment of runaway and homeless youth in the sex trade and the treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan are clearly two points on the same spectrum of deficient, exclusively criminal justice oriented responses, which simply cannot address the root causes of complex social problems. Pieces of legislation like the Illinois Safe Children Act are important first steps in reframing our response, but we must continue to insist that victims of exploitation receive the support they need and deserve, before they become victims again of an ineffective system.