By Supahrat Juramongkol, Microsoft Philanthropies Thailand.
Slavery may have been abolished but the heinous crime persists. Today, we know it as ‘human trafficking’, and in the Mekong region, Thailand is a key source, transit and destination region for human trafficking. The problem is complex, it claims victims from a diverse range of circumstances, but one of the most compelling factors is indubitably: poverty. In Thailand, one highly vulnerable group are youth who suffer from chronic poverty and lack educational and economic opportunities.
As trafficking is often the intersection of multiple factors including economic, social, and cultural, combating it requires strategies for protection, prosecution, and prevention, which robust interagency collaboration can help deliver.
In our latest initiative ‘Microsoft YouthSpark: Computer Science and ICT Education to Empower Youth at Risk of Trafficking’, we brought together multiple partners to achieve a comprehensive youth training programme. We teamed up with non-governmental organisations National Council for Child and Youth Development (NCYD) and World Vision Foundation of Thailand, as well as inter-governmental agencies United Nations Action for Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT) and International Organization for Migration’s anti-trafficking campaign IOM X.
Organisations came together to combat human trafficking
The main goals were to educate the public and raise awareness of human trafficking, and at the same time reduce the vulnerability of potential victims through skills development. The training in digital skills was to be mediated by the use of trafficking-related content. In this way, participants acquire an essential academic and workplace skill at the same time as they delve into the trafficking issue.
The initiative comprised:
Train the Trainer (ToT) workshops
Trainers from the different partner organisations conducted workshops on the following:
- Trafficking situation in Thailand (by UN-ACT)
- Anti-trafficking mechanisms to support victims and people at risk (by NCYD and World Vision Foundation of Thailand)
- Developing media messages (by IOM X)
- Digital technology training in creating promotional materials and video to raise awareness (by Microsoft and employee volunteers)
By having the participants create and share content on trafficking, the children and youths are provoked into imagining a role larger than being passive recipients of information: with their knowledge and skills, they can protect themselves and help their communities.
Over 220 youth in six border provinces, including the southern Ranong and the western Tak province, took part in the workshops by April 2016. The project is driven by NCYD and World Vision Foundation of Thailand, and aims to empower 1,325 youth in the risk area.
Students in Tak province
Student Jeerawan Pornbanchongkul feels more able to protect herself now. She said, “We learned not to trust strangers in our community as they might be part of a human trafficking network.”
A participant presents his work