Visayan Forum Foundation | Skoll Award 2008

Visayan Forum Foundation | Skoll Award 2008


My name is Aileen.
I survived human trafficking. My name is Rubilin
and I survived human trafficking. My name is Samriada
and I survived human trafficking. Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing
illegal businesses in the world today, with $32 billion in annual profits. Every year, traffickers lure millions of people
into this modern form of slavery, with the promise of paid work
in another city or country. But when they arrive, they’re forced into
prostitution, pornography or compulsory labor. Most of them are young and poor, and more than 300,000
come from the Philippines. The people are really poor and that provides a fertile ground
for a trafficker to manipulate, to deceive
and to lure people. The task had become part of
the culture that, if you’re poor,
the solution is migration, and that’s where
a lot of trafficking takes place. In Manila, the Visayan Forum Foundation
– or VF is determined to end
human trafficking through an innovative,
multifaceted strategy. What we did was to study
how traffickers operate. We intervene in the most critical aspects
of the trafficking process. They’re using this island
as a backdoor. So we try to break
the business model of trafficking. We try to fight traffickers, essentially,
in their own game. To start, VF decided to
disrupt the traffickers’ business, by intercepting their victims
in transit. It is the very strategic point
for us to intervene, becasue the victim is not yet sold. So wherever there are a lot of
people being transported, Visayan Forum is there. But to implement its strategy,
VF needed partners. In 2001, it formed the first
anti-trafficking taskforce in the Philippines, at the Port of Manila. It now includes
the Port Authority, the Coast Guard, the Police, the Departments of
Justice, Labor and Social Welfare, and the shipping lines. This is a concrete example of a networking of many Government agencies,
private corporations and non-governmental organizations, working together under one mission. VF trains its partners to recognize
potential trafficking victims in transit. Traffickers try to load the average cost, so they traffic them in groups. More often than not, they don’t know each other
or where they’re going. Once the employees of a shipping line
see anything suspicious, they’re going to coordinate
with the Coast Guard, and say, “We have spotted this group.” They will call us and tell us, yes,
we have suspected trafficking victims on-board. If VF confirms the crew’s suspicions, they have legal authority to
take the children into protective custody. So I think what we can do is just to
bring them to the shelter first and then we can just
process them there. For children who are
intercepted in transit, it’s the first step on a new journey. VF transfers boys it rescues
to partner agencies and takes girls to an
on-site facility, where it determines whether it’s safe to
reunite them with their families. If not, they’re moved to VF’s residential home
– the Centre of Hope, where they join other girls
who have been rescued. Centre of Hope is a place
where they can feel safe. It is a place where
they can re-confer. It is a place where they can, ultimately,
be trained and be empowered. It is a place for them to
acquire a new life. This is my dream in the future,
to become a lawyer some day, after I finish my studies. The Centre of Hope helps girls
develop job skills, by working with partners,
like Microsoft, which funds a training program
called Step Up. It initially worked only with
trafficing victims, but its focus soon shifted. We realized that, instead of working on
rebuilding the lives of the victims, another importnat piece of work was
to actually prevent trafficking from happening,
in the first place. Step Up now has programs in
more than 40 at-risk communities throughout the Philippines. Trafficking is an economic activity
for many of these communities. We have to show them that,
given the right skills, they don’t have to
send their children off, they don’t have to
give up hope. Beyond changing attitudes
at the grass-roots level, VF works to end
modern-day slavery, by making sure
traffickers are brought to justice, which, until recently,
rarely happened. In 2009, the Philippines landed on the
US State Department’s watchilist because of it’s lax
approach to trafficking. The watchlist means
two years in a row you have not made
significant progress. If it comes to a third year,
then the United States, by law, must cut off
some of our assistance. There was a wake-up call,
coming from Washington, particularly, telling us the assistance
could be affected. As a result, the Philippine Government
reinvigorated anti-trafficking efforts And there was a stepping up
– intensification of prosecution. In 2011, after the number of
successful prosecutions doubled, the US removed the Philippines
from the watchlist. In terms of advocacy and
awareness raising, Visayan Forum were
vital players. We could not have attainted
that kind of success if the Visayan Forum was not
part and parcel of the efforts of
the Government. VF is a part of a high level,
inter-agency, policy-making group, chaired by the Vice President, which ensures that the fight to end
trafficking remains a national priority. It’s Visayan Forum which had
really opened the eyes of relevant Government agencies
on how huge the probelm is. VF’s transit hub strategy
has been so successful, it has now spread from Manila to
six other sea ports and three airports. The US State Department has cited VF’s
partnerships with the Port Authority, shipping lines and Government, as an example of international
best anti-trafficking practices. VF’s efforts have attracted
hundreds of partner organizations and increased public awareness. We have to end exploitation
and human trafficking. They’ve also helped rewrite
Government policy and given tens of thousands of young people
new opportunity. What I really hope
for the future is that what we started here,
in Visayan Forum, ending trafficking and slavery
in the country, can be scaled up and
replicated by our different partners. The model is simple, in a way, because we’re harnessing things
that people are already good at. We have done it successfully
in the Philippines. I don’t see any reason why it could not
be done in other countries. Trafficking is one of the many evils
that we face in our generation, but this is one evil that
we can end in our generation. My name is Rosalyn
and I survived human trafficking. My name is Janet
and I survived human trafficking. I’m Arlene and I am a survivor
of human trafficking.

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