Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Congo: Grim Fate of Street Girls

LUBUMBASHI, CONGO -- Bijou, 16, speaks in a soft, low voice as she paints a grim picture of what life is like for a young girl living on the streets of Lubumbashi, the second largest city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.

On her first day away from home, men older than her but also living on the streets shaved her head and ripped her clothes off. These “big brothers”, as she calls them, also tortured her by putting melted plastic bags on her skin and then raped her.

“This continued until all the men had had me,” she recalled. “This is the baptism ritual. It happens to everyone who is new.”

Bijou was then sent out on to the streets to earn money as a prostitute. When she returned, she says she was beaten up and the money taken from her.

She was only 11 when she began this way of life.

Many hundreds of girls are forced to live this way across the city, where poverty and unemployment are rife. Family life has often broken down and divorce has increased in the wake of two wars in the 1990s, which has led to many children leaving home or being thrown out.

The exact number of street children in the city is not known, but a 2006 study by Lubumbashi University suggested a figure of nearly 17,000. Lubumbashi has an estimated population of around 1.2 million.

Since then, the global financial crisis has exacerbated the widespread poverty and unemployment in the country...

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Guatemala: Shocking Femicide Rates

Gang-related violence has increased in recent years alongside a rise in drug-trafficking activity

GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA -- A white sheet covers another victim of Guatemala City's violence in District 16.

Jocelyn was shot dead while walking home. She was only 17-years-old.

Her family has no idea why she was killed. Her murder, like so many others in this country, will probably remain unpunished.

Situations like this one have become regular in Guatemala as violence against women - termed "femicide" - continues to increase.

The savage methods being used by street gangs in their fight against each other are now being used against women.

Gang-related violence has increased sharply here in recent years, amid an increase in drug-trafficking activity.

But while the murder rate cuts evenly across both sexes, women's groups point out that females are often killed simply because of their gender.

In 2007, more than 700 women and girls were murdered...


Eaves UK: Male-Ordered Brides & Trafficking

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - Eaves is a London-based charity that provides high quality housing and support to vulnerable women. They also carry out research, advocacy and campaigning to prevent all forms of violence against women.

As part of Eaves, the Poppy Project was formed to research, educate, campaign and train to prevent sex trafficking and assist women exiting prostitution. Their latest publication is entitled:

Male-ordered: the mail-order bride industry and trafficking in women for sexual and labour exploitation

Click the above title for a PDF of the full report: An exploration of servile marriage and the ways in which it overlaps with trafficking and violence against women and girls, especially those brought to the UK.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

INT'l: The Women's Crusade

Katy Grannan for The New York Times

Saima Muhammad, shown with her daughter Javaria (seated), lives near Lahore, Pakistan. She was routinely beaten by her husband until she started a successful embroidery business.

WORLDWIDE -- In the 19th century, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape.

Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. “Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.

One place to observe this alchemy of gender is in the muddy back alleys of Pakistan. In a slum outside the grand old city of Lahore, a woman named Saima Muhammad used to dissolve into tears every evening. A round-faced woman with thick black hair tucked into a head scarf, Saima had barely a rupee, and her deadbeat husband was unemployed and not particularly employable. He was frustrated and angry, and he coped by beating Saima each afternoon. Their house was falling apart, and Saima had to send her young daughter to live with an aunt, because there wasn’t enough food to go around...




Thursday, August 13, 2009

UK: Many Unaware of Child Trafficking

Many Britons do not realise the scale of child trafficking in the UK and may be making it worse, campaigners say.

A poll of 1,255 people for campaign group Ecpat UK and the Body Shop found one in 10 did not know that children are trafficked into the UK.

The survey also found that 22% admitted buying fake DVDs or visiting brothels, which can perpetuate child trafficking.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre identified some 325 potential victims in 2007 to 2008.

The Home Office said the hidden nature of the trade in children made it extremely difficult to estimate the scale of the problem.

'Hard to spot'

The study showed 34% of people believe trafficked children end up in foreign countries, not in Britain.

However, a government Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) report in April found that victims had come to the UK from 52 different countries...


Monday, August 10, 2009

US: Fantastic Resource - Trafficking Laws by State

Screenshot of CWPS' State trafficking laws interactive feature

The CENTER FOR WOMEN POLICY STUDIES (CWPS), as part of their US PACT (US Policy Advocacy to Combat Trafficking) program feature an interactive US map with state trafficking laws, task forces and more on their website.


Peter Buffet + Akon Anti-trafficking Music Video: Blood Into Gold

Blood Into Gold is the compelling new song from Peter Buffett featuring Akon, pinpointing the issue of human trafficking and slavery. The poignant video, produced by UNICEF, is a powerful visual representation of the songs message, utilizing moving images and video from around the world that depict the severity of this issue. As a complementary advocacy tool to the song, the hope of the video is to call attention to the issue and inspire others to help bring an end to the atrocities associated with human trafficking.

VISIT IsThereSomethingICando.com

Mexico: Girls Missing in Ciudad Juarez

Posters seeking information on missing persons hang on a pedestrian bridge in Juarez. The disappearances, which include two promising university students and girls as young as 13, have stirred dark memories of the killings of hundreds of women that made Ciudad Juarez infamous a decade ago.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO - The streets of Juarez are swallowing the young and pretty.

Monica Alanis, an 18-year-old college freshman, never came home from her exams. That was more than four months ago.

Across town, 17-year-old Brenda Ponce didn't return from a job-hunting trip downtown. That was a year ago.

Hilda Rivas, 16, was also last spotted downtown. That was 17 months ago.

Two dozen teenage girls and young women have gone missing in this violent border city in the last year and half, stirring dark memories of the killings of hundreds of women that made Ciudad Juarez infamous a decade ago.

The disappearances, which include two university students and girls as young as 13, have some crime-novel touches: mysterious dropped calls, messages left by third parties and unsubstantiated reports of the women being kept at a house.

There is no clear evidence of wrongdoing or links among the cases, which have been overshadowed by a vicious drug war that has killed more than 2,500 people in Juarez since the beginning of 2008. But relatives of the young women say it is highly unlikely that they would have left on their own.

Monica Alanis' parents say she was seldom late returning from the campus. That day in March, Olga Esparza says she called her daughter to find out why she was three hours late. Monica reassured her: "I'll be home later."

Desperate family members have hung missing-person banners and taped fliers to telephone poles all over the city in hope of getting leads on the whereabouts of loved ones. They've checked hospitals and combed dusty canyons in the impoverished fringes of the city. They've badgered state investigators, but complain that authorities have no solid leads to explain why so many young women would drop from view at once.

"There is no theory. There is no hypothesis," said Ricardo Alanis, Monica's father, his voice thin with pain. "They don't have anything concrete after four months."

The vacuum has prompted parents to envision their own disturbing story lines. Several say they believe their daughters have been seized and forced into prostitution, perhaps in the United States, by the same criminal bands that have turned this border city into the bloodiest front in the drug war...


Cambodia: Precious Girl Magazine

CAMBODIA - Roathanak is an 18 year-old girl working in a garment factory in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. She grew up in the countryside but left school early and came to the big city. She hoped that the money she made would support her parents and her younger brothers and sisters back home.

Away from the security of ther family, Roathanak misses home, even though she shares her small bedroom with five other girls. On a good month, she can earn $68 with maximum overtime and bonuses, and sends $30 of this back to her family. With basic living expenses costing over $30, there is barely enough money for her to eat well, let alone buy books.

Roathanak is just one of about 300,000 young women working in garment factories in and around Phnom Penh. Clothing manufacture is an important industry in Cambodia, generating income for this developing country and providing employment for the daughters of poorer families.

Precious Girl is an affordable quarterly magazine which aims to be a blessing to these vulnerable young women. It is designed to encourage and inspire its readers and impress on them a sense of their immense value. Most Khmer magazines for young women are expensive, celebrity-laden and morally questionable, but Precious Girl is invariably wholesome and uplifting.

The glossy, full-colour pages are packed with health and beauty tips, creative ideas, inspirational stories and practical help for girls facing real-life dilemmas. The factory worker's photos, comments and letters are also printed - the only stars in this magazine are the readers themselves!

Precious Girl is run by a young vibrant team of local Christian girls. In producing this magazine, they want to celebrate the richness of the factory worker's lives and encourage thousands of girls like Roathanak to find meaning and happiness within.

CHECK OUT PreciousGirl.co.uk

Friday, August 7, 2009

Eastern Europe: PriceOfSex.org, Women Speak Out in Multimedia Projects

Photographer Mimi Chakarova spent seven years delving into the world of sex trafficking in Eastern Europe, even going undercover to document the situation. The result is an intimate multimedia portrait of these women's lives.

EASTERN EUROPE - Jenea saw 50 customers a day the year she worked in Turkey.

She wasn't a bank teller or a hairdresser.

Jenea was one of the estimated 1.39 million people trafficked each year into the sex trade industry, according to the Geneva-based International Labor Organization.

She is also one of the subjects of an intimate multimedia portrait series by photojournalist Mimi Chakarova called "The Price of Sex: Women Speak."

For the seven-year-long investigative series, Chakarova delved deep into the murky world of sex trafficking, interviewing dozens of women--and even posing as a trafficked woman herself. The result is a handful of profiles, narrated through photography, video and audio, which paint a picture of what these women must endure.

Chakarova, in conjunction with the Center for Investigative Reporting, based in Berkeley, Calif., brought these stories to the public in May of this year. They launched www.priceofsex.org, a Web site that unites these women's stories with resources on the issue, allowing people to take action, donate or learn more.

Over the course of the project, Chakarova estimates that she spoke with up to 50 women from Eastern Europe who had been trafficked. At times, her subjects were so traumatized that she could not bring herself to continue interviewing...