(Summary of a conversation between Usa Lerdsrisuntad of Foundation for Women, Thailand and Jiraporn Saetang)
Governments and many non-governmental anti-trafficking stakeholders have yet to achieve 'genuine participation' of trafficked persons in anti-trafficking policy and programme implementation.
In FFW’s work, how do you ensure that there is representation and participation of trafficked persons and returnee migrants in designing plans and action to address their needs?
In general, some steps have been taken to get trafficked persons and migrant returnees to participate in anti-trafficking interventions. Facilitation of victim testimonies to gain public attention on the issue of trafficking and by encouraging victim and witness cooperation with law enforcement against their alleged trafficker/s are two examples. However when we look at “participation” more deeply, I think there is an essential need to challenge stakeholder’s understanding of this concept and integrate victim participation in all program planning, implementation and monitoring
FFW believes that participation of trafficked persons and returnee migrants in designing the plan of action is important to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of anti-trafficking interventions and programs. Through years of work with women, trafficked persons including returned migrants in distress have valuable knowledge about the real needs of victims.
In our work, we allocate our own resources to provide assistance and empowerment program for women to enable them to understand their situation and the circumstances that they are into. We respond to their immediate needs and legal assistance, and more importantly, we help them realize their capacities to be able to help others who are in the same situation. The result of this approach can be seen in the women who received the assistance programs. Through this program survivors are able to participate in various activities for protection and prevention of trafficking.
FFW also promotes the formation of self-help groups of trafficked persons and migrants. The groups would organise open forums among members to talk about assistance programs and how to overcome suppression and other challenges during reintegration period. The group also becomes a collective voice and power of trafficked and migrant women. This initiative will enable members to gain more acceptance and cooperation when seeking provisions and legal protection.
For us at FFW, a progressive state of victim participation and self-representation is to see the role of trafficked and migrant women’s groups in advocacy towards policy change and the proper implementation and monitoring of all interventions. A group of trafficked and returnee women called “live our lives -LOL” that we helped to come together, now takes a proactive role in collaboration with various agencies and authorities to ensure access to legal protection and adequate provisions for trafficked victims. However, we would like to see more groups like LoL to be officially and legally accepted in government bodies for planning, implementation and monitoring of anti-trafficking interventions.
How much of the assistance services are actually reaching trafficked persons and returnee migrants in distress?
Although there are significant developments in social and legal provisions for trafficked victims in Thailand, access to these services has remained a challenge for trafficked women. The provisions are not applicable for all trafficked persons as it depends on knowledge, attitude and skill of the proper authorities to identify such case as trafficking. There was a significant incident that the victims were not able to access any protection and assistance because the authorities failed to identify their case as trafficking. This proves that there is still a gap in accessing assistance for trafficked persons.
We think it is important to create a body that will bridge this gap in service provision. FFW’s experience affirms that this body should be represented by self-help groups of trafficked and returnee women. Collaboration between different stakeholders and self-help groups to represent the voices of trafficked persons to ensure access to adequate provision schemes as stated in laws and policies.
As a member of GAATW, how do you see the role of the Alliance in promoting victim participation and representation at the national and regional levels?
GAATW should ensure that self-help groups of trafficked persons and migrant returnees in distress are represented in the membership. GAATW can facilitate a joint advocacy program for members in all regions.
GAATW International Secretariat should support and develop shadow reports in cooperation with members. The strength of the report will be the full participation of trafficked women in the process and to have better understanding of anti-trafficking strategies from different national contexts.
The Secretariat should work with member organisations in each country to promote the formation of trafficked women’s group and their role in national government bodies responsible for planning, implementation and monitoring of anti-trafficking programs. GAATW should also facilitate more study/research by the trafficked women’s groups.
Foundation for Women (FFW) is an NGO working on the issue of violence against women and other development/social issues as they relate to women in Thailand. FFW provides information, support, referral and emergency financial assistance to women who have been victims of exploitation, violence and trafficking. FFW works with villagers in the North and Northeast to oppose coerced prostitution and domestic violence. FFW offers small-scale credit schemes for alternative economic projects and conducts research on international migration and trafficking, adolescent sexuality, and domestic violence.