Education or anti-trafficking?
You might wonder what connection education has to anti-trafficking efforts... Well, as you can see from the testimonies below, it has a huge connection!
In the Philippines, a big part of our work is in prevention of trafficking through education programmes. Child soldiers and children of militant leaders are given the opportunity to go to school, fees and supplies taken care of, and the risk of being coerced into fighting diminished through our cooperation with local rebel groups. For these children, education is a dream come true, and opens up a wider world than they've ever known.
Ali*, one of the children in our education program says,
“For children like us living in conflicted zones where our families are not only torn by conflicts but also poverty, it seemed to take a miracle to get to school. Most of the time kids as young as seven has been open to the realities of either fighting for their safety, joining military camps or working at farms and other ways to fight against poverty and hunger and provide food for our families.”
We encourage them to consider the alternatives to participating in the fighting - by empowering themselves to contribute to society in a healthier and more sustainable way. Education not only changes their lives, but the lives of their family and wider community.
Nora* shares, "Going to school seems like an impossible dream yet this seemingly impossible dream has become a reality... Aside from rescuing at risk and hopeless kids, the program has helped us fight poverty through the education that we receive and supported our families’ dreams in the future. It also contributes to peace-building efforts and fight injustices in various forms due to illiteracy. Aside from that it encourages other kids like me no longer to consider serving in the insurgent camps in exchange of food. It has built hope in my heart and for many of us and has created a rippling effect of changes in our little villages. In the past, this educational assistance has proven that is doable and possible to make our environment free from the agonies of war by sending more kids to school and educating our parents and communities about pursuing justice in a peaceful way."
For such a dramatic change to occur through providing education, it seems like a worthy investment towards the fight against human trafficking and recruitment of child soldiers. Thankfully, it has proved successful and effective, supported by the wider community in contributing to positive change for the next generation. In fact, if education had been provided to the previous generation in these remote villages, it is something that may have changed their lives.
One of the village elders reflects,
"Some of us never had the chance to go to school; we grew old fighting in the jungles and joined so many battles. We were never told, nor encouraged nor given any opportunity to make a different path—like getting an education. Illiteracy and lack of opportunity and ignorance including deceptions when we were younger and other factors like being victims of torture, and being accused that were part of the insurgents without due process of the laws of the land just because were poor and illiterate has pushed us to join the military camps of our tribe. Then it has become our way of living but we do not want all our children to be like us—fighting for a cause we sometime did not understand all we knew is that we need to obey commands because that’s what soldiers’ do - obey commands. Now that our sons and daughters has become a part of this education program, it has given has a new hope."
The evidence is clear - education is a strategic approach to the prevention of human trafficking. This is why it forms a large part of our programs in all the areas we work. It not only protects children from the risk of being trafficked, but it empowers them, as well as their families and communities, to avoid the traps of trafficking and exploitation. Without education, we would struggle to make a lasting impact, but through it we can build communities that are safe and empowered to have no part in trafficking.
You can support our prevention efforts in Philippines by making a donation here.
*Names changed to protect identities.