The Beginning to an End

Where does this systemic issue of human trafficking even begin? If we take a look at the situations that people live through prior to entering the forced sex or labor industry, then we can see that most of their past is comprised of poor living conditions. These people are so vulnerable that they are almost willing to do anything to receive the proper “care” they need. In the case of Vietnam, we can look at the history and the progress they’ve made. Poverty is a direct correlation to human trafficking. In order to keep cases of human trafficking down, we need a solution to keep poverty rates down.

Since 2010 the poverty headcount ratio at national poverty lines was 20.7%. The most recent data captured was in 2012 and the poverty headcount had dropped to 17.2%. At the same time in 2010, more than 85,000 workers travelled abroad to work. The government had reported that there were fourteen cases of labor trafficking, 153 cases of sex trafficking were prosecuted, and 274 individuals were convicted for sex trafficking offense. If we take a look in 2014, the Global Slavery Index shows us that 0.3592% of the population is involved in modern day slavery. Compared to 2010, the population involved in human trafficking was much higher. Already we can see the correlation between poverty and human trafficking. What are the next steps?

Diminishing the prevalence of human trafficking in Vietnam means we need to do something to improve the quality of life of those who can’t afford or who just don’t have it. The ability to decrease poverty rates is one of many solutions needed to take. If we take a look at countries like India, Nepal, and Ghana, Kevin Bales has done research to find that the solution to ending poverty coincides with ending human trafficking; there is no way to end poverty without ending human trafficking. In the case for India, Bales writes in his book, “Ending Slavery,” that a rescued boy, Ashaf starts a movement to end human trafficking in his little village, Bochi. Under Indian law, Ashaf had benefits kick-started the beginning of the end. With $5,400 put into the village, Ashaf and the other boys were able to make a productive asset. It’s the saying that goes, “it takes money to make money.”

It only took a community of antislavery activists that had already been through this hell to make a productive village. Vietnam can look at India as an example. If the people of Vietnam or even the government took time to make sure their people are employed and well-abled to support themselves first, then there is a solution in the making. Programs that help train recent survivors with their technical skills can help them get so far. A survivor making their own money is a symbol to them as their own freedom. Being able to offer this feeling by reducing poverty is the key to ending human trafficking.

Setting an Example

Preventing human trafficking can start with as little as a penny or even a conversation. Other tactics may involve government implementation. With a push against human trafficking every year, Vietnam has, nonetheless, made nothing but progress. From being on the Tier 2 Watch List in 2011 then upgrading to Tier 2 by 2015, Vietnam has been integrating many prevention programs to steadily reach to Tier 1.

Survivors are the ignition to this movement. Telling people of their story, they gain support from others as well as awareness for human trafficking. As Minh Dang wrote in her letter, there are six principle numbers for the anti-trafficking movement. One of the principles is “Survivor Stories Are Not Enough to Sustain This Movement.” This principle is saying that one story isn’t enough; Minh Dang’s story is not a story strong enough to capture reinforcements to enhance the anti-trafficking movement. According to Minh Dang, “Empathy and understanding is the difference between surviving and thriving… Empathy counteracts an “us” versus “them” mentality.” Minh Dang is a survivor making a difference. We need to be able to “build relationships through stories” as Tim Mousseau would say. The ability to create relationships will make storytelling a catalyst for change.

To reinforce survivor stories, the Asia Foundation in Hanoi, Vietnam has set up one of many programs that reintegrate trafficked victims as well as a program on prevention, education and communication (PEC). Like Minh Dang, the PEC Program’s primary awareness-raising strategies include advocacy, mass media campaigns, distribution of posters, flyers, ads, and public speaking events. Making it aware to the public enables fluidity of communication: one friend tells another and then it spreads like wildfire. If we can reiterate this strategy, then we can see a decrease in human trafficking for all countries. Now that technology is readily available to us, spreading the word is as easy as sending a tweet. The Reintegration of Trafficking Victims Program carries out a project designed to protect trafficked survivors’ rights and assist them in making a new life. They offer courses in social work skills and technical training. From there survivors were offered jobs at textile factories or other businesses, allowing them to make a stable income.

Our culture is connected in so many ways. We need to be able to change human trafficking into a topic we are not afraid to talk about. If we are comfortable to talk about it, then the anti-trafficking movement will only be easier. Vietnam has been able to succeed. Vietnam can be a example for others.