Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Human Rights
at home, abroad and on the way...


Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women

Human Rights
at home, abroad and on the way...

Events and News

e-Bulletin June 2015: News from the GAATW International Secretariat

Our work in 2015

This year, the GAATW International Secretariat (IS) is continuing to focus on three key thematic areas of work: Accountability, Power in Migration and Work and Access to Justice.

The research project carried out by 17 GAATW members in the Asian, European and Latin American regions under the Accountability theme is currently being evaluated. This project looked at assistance programmes from the perspective of the trafficked person. Through semi-structured interviews, GAATW members sought out trafficked persons’ views on their own assistance work. Several research partners have carried out national-level follow-up activities and colleagues from the Latin American and Caribbean region have produced a joint report. The insights from the evaluation will help the IS and the members decide on the next phase of the programme.

The Power in Migration and Work programme currently has a South Asia focus. In conjunction with members and partners we are strengthening the capacity of community workers who interact with women migrating from India, Nepal and Bangladesh to the Middle East as domestic workers. We also work in collaboration with local partners in Chhatisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand states of India on rights to education, health and information for migrating women and girls.

We are excited to be reviving our Access to Justice programme this year with a focus on South Asia and the Middle East to enhance the rights protection of trafficked migrant workers at destination sites.

The IS will also continue to carry out its core functions such as research and training/participatory learning, communications and publications, international advocacy and alliance strengthening. Having just celebrated our 20th anniversary, this is a key moment for the future of the alliance. We have much to look forward to in the future, with so many interesting projects and new opportunities to grow our work.


Anti-Trafficking Review update

This year, GAATW’s peer-reviewed academic journal the Anti-Trafficking Review goes bi-annual! The journal has been so well received by members, academics, students and partners that we decided to start publishing two themed issues a year.  In 2015, the two issues will look at ‘15 Years of the Trafficking Protocol’ and ‘Human Trafficking and Forced Labour’.

GAATW launched the Trafficking Protocol issue in April at the UN Crime Congress and the full issue can be viewed at You can also read our press release ‘Landmark legislation on human trafficking adopted 15 years ago, but harmful anti-trafficking laws and practices persist and are set to continue’ and a news article in Reuters.

If you would like to write for the Anti-Trafficking Review, please check our calls for papers for two upcoming issues: ‘Prosecuting Human Trafficking’ (papers due 15 July 2015) and ‘Trafficking Representations’ (papers due 8 January 2016). 


Goodbyes and welcomes

Between December 2014 and April 2015, we have bidden goodbyes to Jebli Shrestha, Gemma Sadler and Kate Sheill, three colleagues who had worked on research  and advocacy programmes at the IS. We thank them for their invaluable contributions to the work of the alliance and wish them the very best in their future endeavours.

We are delighted to welcome Amy Testa, Katya Richardson and Marie-France Boyer at the IS. Amy is joining us as a programme officer for the Access to Justice programme and Katya and Marie-France will spend three months with us as interns to support the programme.

Amy is an attorney who was previously working on forced migration issues and refugee rights in Bangkok, Thailand, including roles at Asylum Access and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network. Katya is second-year law student at Western University in Canada and is involved in a number of pro bono projects, including volunteering at a community legal aid clinic. Marie-France is a Juris Doctor student at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa, Canada. She is also completing a Master of International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson.

July will bring two more colleagues to the IS. Dr Gundi Dick will join us on secondment from our financing partner, Bread for the World. Her work will focus on organisational development and fundraising. Maria Jesus Alvarez (Chus) will be our new programme officer for the Latin America and Caribbean region.

The International Board

Earlier this year we said goodbye to International Board Member Ratchada Jayagupta, who served on our board for more than three years. We thank Ratchada for all her help and dedication to the alliance.

We also extend our warm welcome to our new International Board Members, Elaine Pearson (Australia Director, Human Rights Watch) and Professor Dr. Supang Chantavanich (Director of the Asian Research Center for Migration - ARCM). Professor Chantavanich’s work has focussed on refugees, migrant workers, and human trafficking issues. She was the first chairperson of the Asia Pacific Migration Research Network (APMRN) during 1998-2002 and a member of the Advisory Committee of the International Refugee.

Here’s a message from Professor Chantavanich as she starts her new term as an International Board Member of GAATW

Ajarn Supang‘My GAATW journey started 15 years ago when ARCM partnered with the organisation to develop an anti-trafficking curriculum. I have always been impressed by the global nature and rich resources of the alliance, and I think Thailand is very honoured to have the secretariat here. To be an international NGO based in Thailand is very exceptional. Local NGOs can benefit a lot from GAATW’s expertise in building networks and partnerships.

‘I was similarly impressed by the diversity of the movement and wealth of knowledge at the International Members’ Congress. It was amazing to have this gathering of leaders in this field from around the world. Through research, advocacy, media work and direct assistance, GAATW members are able to influence the global anti-trafficking and migrant rights agendas.

GAATW must continue to critique the anti-traffickingframework. In one case here in Thailand, a woman from Cambodia was prosecuted for trafficking her child into forced begging. This prosecution is an example of anti-trafficking measures. But, the social and economic context to these kinds of actions is largely ignored. These situations are not only about crime. They are also about survival.

‘This is where I see GAATW has a role to play. Through raising awareness and publishing critical research, GAATW can help highlight the role of public economy and its links with the human trafficking phenomenon. I am honoured to join this alliance as Board member and look forward to working on our strategy for future work.’


If we call everything 'trafficking' whose purpose does it serve? GAATW-IS comment

‘Trafficking’, ‘slavery’ and ‘clamping down on traffickers and smugglers’. These were the words and phrases used widely and interchangeably in recent media coverage of the people adrift on sea in Europe and Asia. As people struggled to survive in their rickety boats and fought over the water bottles and food packets airdropped to them, most of us watched helplessly and hoped that somehow a solution would be found. 

While civil society made statements and reminded the states of their human rights and humanitarian obligations, most policymakers responded by wanting to punish the traffickers and smugglers who they insisted are at the root of these tragedies. Headlines and statements said things like: 'It is just trafficking,' 'it is the failure of trafficking prevention programmes', 'we need to crack down on the smugglers and traffickers'.

Agreed, most of the people on those precarious boats had sought help from or were lured by unscrupulous third parties. Many of those agents could be smugglers or traffickers. We can only know the facts if and when each case is investigated in detail. The evidence from detention camps in Southern Thailand and the few interviews with survivors clearly show that criminal gangs were involved in transporting people with false promises and torturing them to extract more money.

So it is not the assumptions or analyses, but the response to the situation and the self-serving use of the anti-trafficking discourse that are worrying. If the people are indeed victims of trafficking, is it not the duty of all states to protect their rights?  What comes first, deploying military to clamp down on the ‘criminals’ or providing assistance to the stranded people?

Sadly, when it comes to fulfilling their obligations to trafficked persons, states are quickly changing their tune and describing the people on the boats as ‘refugees’, ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘economic migrants’. As far as the Rohingyas are concerned, they do not even have a state identity to fall back on. 

Despite numerous ‘anti-trafficking’ initiatives around the world, confusion abounds over the identification of trafficked persons and protection is still very weak even for those who are identified as trafficked. As a matter of fact, various protection frameworks created to uphold the rights of specific groups of people such as ‘refugees’, ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘trafficked persons’, seem to be inadequate to meet the needs of people on the move. A large number of people in many parts of the world are experiencing multiple discriminations and human rights violations. Many work places fail to protect the rights of the workers. Often categories and frameworks created to protect the rights of people get co-opted by states to advance completely different agendas.

This is where GAATW’s concern lies. With this huge focus on traffickers and smugglers, very few are asking why so many people are risking their lives and leaving their ‘home lands’. It only shows the shallowness of our analysis if we indeed believe that the ‘criminal trafficking gangs’ are the cause of these tragedies. Governments are clearly not doing enough to examine and address the contexts which spur people to migrate, or the impossible situations they face. 

This is a critical moment for those who believe that people should be able to move freely and seek livelihoods wherever they want to and that their rights should be protected regardless of their legal status. This is a moment for social activists working on different but interconnected issues to join hands with each other and push for fundamental social changes. Quite simply, this is the moment when we need to remind ourselves that we are all human beings.

In his compelling speech at the Carnegie Council earlier this month the High Commissioner for Human Rights made a point that many of us have always believed in: ‘Our planet is indivisible. There is no longer such a thing as a small, faraway country. No such thing as an acceptable level of discrimination, against any group. ... We must build respect, and acceptance, and not just tolerance into our societies – tirelessly, beginning again and again, repairing constantly the rule of law and the bonds of empathy.’

Read more about this issue…

‘When spring comes, smugglers are in the news’, Inka Stock, OpenDemocracy

‘The danger of conflating migrant smuggling with human trafficking’, Natalia Paszkiewicz, Middle East Eye



GAATW International Members Congress 2014

On 22-26 September, more than 120 participants from 40 countries around the world gathered in Bangkok, Thailand, for the Intentional Members' Congress (IMC) hosted by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women International Secretariat. Together members of the Alliance, as well as partners and friends, celebrated GAATW's 20th anniversary, shared collective successes and setbacks in the realisation of the rights of trafficked and migrant workers, and began planning for the future.

Participants discussed topics on three themes: women, migration and work; funding for anti-trafficking efforts; and accountability in anti-trafficking work. 

A special anniversary video message was deliverd by Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the new UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, where she highlighted that access to justice and remedies are crucial in regaining freedom and ownership over the lives of victims. She also called on different stakeholders to join forces in order to address trafficking in persons. And to commemorate the journey of the Alliance, GAATW-IS prepared a short film called 'GAATW@20'

Throughout the IMC, many fruitful discussions centred on: international/regional advocacy opportunities; understanding trafficking in persons through a range of frameworks including human rights, women's rights, migrants' rights, labour rights, and development; recognising domestic work as work covered by labour laws; and challenging the 'end demand' agenda and decriminalising sex work. We also looked at our focus on accountability, and presented early findings from our research project looking at trafficked people's perspectives on anti-trafficking services and initiatives.

Alliance members discussed new opportunities for regional and origin-destination collaborations. For example, this was the first IMC where members and allies connected with migrant support groups from the Middle East. One of the sessions highlighted the need to work more with trade unions, including to strengthen self-organised groups; expanding our work on migrant rights to involve labour rights; and looking beyond GAATW's focus on women to consider others who are trafficked - such as men, LGBTI people and indigenous peoples. The launch of issue 3 of the Anti-Trafficking Review also prompted us to think about how we can ensure greater transparency on the impact of anti-trafficking money.

One of the most important outcomes was a call for continuing collaboration - within the Alliance and with external partners - and for relationship building between NGOs and donors.

All these useful discussions will inform GAATW's strategy in the future. GAATW-IS would like to thank all Steering Committee Members, the International Board and all the participants who made this year's IMC such a memorable and successful event.


Strategic Thematic Direction

During 2011-13, through our Power in Migration and Work thematic programme, we engaged more directly with the migrant rights and labour rights movements. During 2014-2016 our work will build on the work of previous years; we will continue to push for a human rights based approach in anti-trafficking policies and practices.  We will also deepen our engagement with the issue of migration and labour.

The three thematic strategic issues outlined below are continuations of our work during 2011-13.

ACCOUNTABILITY Increasing the accountability of all anti-trafficking stakeholders involved in the design or implementation of anti-trafficking responses, towards the persons whose human rights they purport to protect.

ACCESS TO JUSTICE Broadening spaces for trafficked persons and migrant workers to practice their human rights by improving access to justice and combating all forms of discrimination that impact women’s ability to exercise their human rights as they relate to trafficking.

POWER IN MIGRATION AND WORK Centring an analysis of women’s power in their labour and migration to better assess migration and labour policies’ impact on women, and to work towards labour and migration processes that reflect migrants’ needs, aspirations and capabilities.