Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Asian American Trafficking Outreach Project blog

Hello IOFA Talkers!

The Asian American Trafficking Outreach Project (AATOP) is an up-and-coming IOFA initiative that is focusing on gathering agencies and organizations in Chicago that are invested in the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community to:

  1. Increase identification of Asian American victims of trafficking in the Chicago metropolitan area
  2. Build the capacity of Asian American-serving organizations to provide appropriate mental health and offer services to victims of trafficking in the Chicago metropolitan area
  3. Increase participation of Asian American organizations in anti-trafficking coalitions and task forces

AATOP held its first community forum last Wednesday with potential partners to brainstorm ways to move ahead with this program as trafficking among the API population is an issue that does not garner enough collaborative attention or support from API-serving organizations in a city with a large Asian American population.

Check out AATOP's blog here to keep updated on our next steps and future plans!

Esther Liew
AATOP Program Development Intern

Monday, October 29, 2012

Using Cricket to Confront Gender Inequality in Mumbai

While in Mumbai this past summer on my study abroad program, I learned from the residents living in “slums” about the systemic mistreatment of girls. The giving away of girls in marriage at the age of 16 is very commonplace. Additionally, there is a significant number of girls who are forced to drop out of school when puberty hits simply because there are no bathroom facilities for girls. Unfortunately, this basic oversight contributes to their lower educational achievement. Although girls and women play a huge role in holding up the community, they are very often dismissed as less than human beings.
Disparity in gender equality has created practices such as child marriage, high incidences of domestic violence, bodily mutilation, and constraints on a woman’s education or freedom outside the home. Harmful practices toward children can often be based upon tradition, culture, religion, or superstition. However most of these practices are rooted in individuals taking advantage of vulnerabilities faced by girls and the lack of ability to consent or refuse consent themselves. 1 While there are initiatives that exist to protect and empower girls and women, they sometimes place less importance in addressing the male counterpart of this issue because there is less consensus on how to approach it.

Here is one account of a community organization’s effort at addressing this gender issue beginning at childhood. The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) executed a program in Mumbai, India called Parivartan, which means “transformation” in Hindi. This initiative gathered boys from the ages of 10 to 16 to play the enticing game of cricket and simultaneously challenged them to think about women’s roles and their roles as males in their communities.  These young boys spanned the economic spectrum; some came from middle and upper class families, and others were from Shivaji Nagar, a large slum community that was one of my field work locations. Of course, the cricket coaches as role models would first have to confront their personal views of gender inequality before they taught their boys about a manhood that conferred respect and equity to girls and women.

Their traditional views of men such as one of machismo and views of women as submissive helpers kept in the homes were challenged. Across the span of the program, Parivartan did see changes in the boys: they were less supportive of the physical abuse of girls. For example, most boys in the program agreed that a girl should not be hit if she did not finish her homework. However, the program hasn’t shown evidence that the little change that began here in young boys will continue to develop as they grow older, but is a launching point for other similar programs to address gender inequality. Violence is so commonplace in India, especially in poorer communities that the lessening of it will be gradual and will necessitate a difficult transformation in the heart and mindset that shifts from one of rigid and oppressive patriarchy to one of supportive gender equality. The commitment of boys and men to confront this difficult problem is redemptive to the girls and women in their community. What seems as simple to us in the U.S. as gaining support and respect from the male figures of their families already speaks a great deal about the worth of females in their eyes.

Read more about the Parivartan project 
International NGO Council on Violence Against Children, Violating Children’s Rights: Harmful Practices Based on Tradition, Culture, Religion or Superstition, (October 2012)

Esther Liew
AATOP Program Development Intern

Monday, October 22, 2012

Crossroads: Human Trafficking and Immigration

There are between 14,500 and 17,500 foreign men, women, and children trafficked into
the U.S. every year. Many come under the false pretense of work in America, a way to free
themselves and their family of extreme poverty or other circumstances. However, as they step off
the plane or out of a bus, ready to embark on a new life they are told they have a fee to pay back
to those who offered them a way out. Passports are taken and threats made against their families
back home, and so these young immigrants are forced into domestic servitude, prostitution,
restaurant work, and exploitive labor. With the fear of deportation, angst over the safety of family
members, and no connections in America besides those who brought them over, immigrant
women, men, and children are forcibly trafficked within the country.

In the U.S. detention, a very real threat to immigrants subjected to human trafficking, is a
billion dollar business. The purpose of detention is to deport those with severe criminal offenses.
In the past 4 years over 396,000 people have been deported from the U.S. However, according to
Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) records 45% of those deported had no criminal
records. Detention centers across America, especially those run by companies such as
Corrections Corporation of America, are places where many human rights violations occur. Lack
of medical attention, access to a lawyer or pastor, and contact with family is denied, in addition,
physical and sexual abuse by guards is not uncommon. Young people who came to the U.S. with
their parents as children are sent to countries they do not know or remember after being detained
and deported.
The fight for immigrant rights is strong in the country and with the success of the No
Crete Detention Center campaign, and new immigrant federal law and policy, activists work is
slowly making strides. However, immigrants who have been trafficked into the county and find
themselves in detention centers with their human rights being denied further is a group for which
more advocacy and awareness is needed. Right now, there is a T-Visa for which undocumented
immigrants subjected to human trafficking may apply for stay in America if they adhere to
certain obligations, such as helping to prosecute their trafficker. Yet, there are still thousands of
individuals who are unaware of this opportunity or may not qualify. The crossroads of
immigration, detention, and trafficking is one that is unique and requires the assistance of human
rights activists, social justice seekers, policy makers, and social workers. As rates of human
trafficking continues to rise a stronger response will be needed by those who are able to advocate
 for immigrants whose human rights are being thoroughly denied.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Barriers to Education for Conflict Affected Youth

The story of young Malala Yusoufzai captured the attention of many across the world for her courageous stance against the Taliban’s ban on educational attainment for girls. Her struggles represent the daily hardships that youth face growing up in the midst of conflict zones. For the international community, Malala sheds light on the millions of children living in conflict zones that cannot go to school safely. In fact, weeks before Malala’s incident, UNICEF endorsed an urgent call to action to ensure that these vulnerable youth can access quality education by protecting schools from attack, increasing humanitarian aid for education, and budgeting for emergencies beforehand. Malala’s incident brought the importance and significance of this issue at the forefront.
            One might wonder, how significant is the lack of education for youth in conflict zones and what is the long-term impact? According to UNESCO’s 2011 Global Monitoring Report, conflict affected areas have only a 79% literacy rate among youth compared to a 93% literacy rate among adults. Moreover, 28 million children of primary school age are out of school in conflict-afflicted countries—about 42% of the world total.  One of the many reasons attributed to the high number of kids out of school is the lack of safety; schools and schoolchildren are viewed as legitimate targets for combatants. The consequence is a growing fear among kids to attend school, among teachers to teach classes, and among parents to send their kids to school. As a result of a lack of education, UNESCO reports a high probability that these kids will grow up in poverty without skills necessary for social mobility.
            International organizations pose protecting schools from harm as the solution to an interrupted school system. However, the focus on youth in conflict zones needs to be approached more holistically, looking at the wider impacts of violence on society. First, the breakdown of social structures in society can cause deprivation of basic services, care, and safety that children need. Second, violent conflicts destroy social support networks for youth, creating a massive amount of orphans. According to the World Bank, in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, there are about 13 million orphans, primarily under the age of 15. Finally, reports by the UN continue to provide evidence that rape and sexual assault is still prevalently used as a tool of war in many countries such as Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Sudan to break the family unit. Most of the targets are young girls. For those affected, rape not only brings physical harm, but psychological trauma and stigmatization within society. It also creates a sense of fear and insecurity within a victim, making them scared to leave their homes. Boys are also subject to participate in the violence as child soldiers. According to the World Bank, over 300,000 children under the age of 18 take part in armed conflicts across 30 different countries. The combined impact of all of these variables significantly reduces a child’s life chances to grow up as a healthy adult with developed cognitive and non-cognitive skills.
            While school safety is vital for the future success of these kids, it is important not to forget and work to address other deleterious effects of war that might be a barrier to a kid’s education. Only by addressing all of these concerns can kids like Malala be able to live long and healthy lives.  

Follow the link to access the full UNESCO Global Monitoring Report for 2011 titled
The Hidden Crisis: Armed Conflict and Education

Aatifa Sadiq
IOFA Program Development Intern