Extreme poverty and exploitation affect women deeply.
A year after Typhoon Haiyan, a group of women in the Philippines finds solidarity in standing together against human trafficking in their community.
Author Shayne Moore writes from the Philippines.
“When the true history of the antislavery cause shall be written, women will occupy a large space in its pages, for the cause of the slave has been peculiarly [a] woman's cause.” –Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass wrote these words almost two hundred years ago. After escaping from slavery, he became a cementing force in the abolitionist movement against the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Today, we face another kind of slavery, and it is not new and it is not abolished. The pursuit of wealth at the exploitation of other human beings goes back to the beginning of recorded history. However, unlike in the past, slavery is now illegal everywhere in the world, yet it thrives. There are an estimated 27 million men, women, and children in slavery today – more than ever in the history of the world.
Of these 27 million slaves, 80 percent are women and children.
This week, I am in the Philippines seeing first-hand the transforming work of World Vision. One year ago, Typhoon Haiyan violently tore apart the city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte and its surrounding areas. World Vision’s emergency response staff describe the destruction as similar to an enormous bomb going off. Houses, businesses, livestock, and, unthinkably, families all swept away or swept into the rubble of what Haiyan left behind.
I am humbled to meet and visit with women and families who courageously survived this traumatic and life-changing event. We smile and exchange pleasantries, but I can never comprehend what they have seen, experienced, and lost.
I am sobered yet inspired by the spirit of resilience and faith I see in the Filipino mothers I have met. And I am inspired by their solidarity. They are in this together. They will recover, heal, and move on together.
This was evidenced today as I visited a Barangay (village). Our van lurched up a rocky road still in need of repair to a community center that serves about 500 families. In scorching sun and oppressive humidity, I found my seat at the table. I was introduced to a team of volunteers tasked with educating their community about the risk of human trafficking since Typhoon Haiyan.
With the help of a translator, I learned about their initiative in partnership with USAID to implement an advocacy and education campaign, designed to raise up leaders in the community that monitor at risk families and children. I also learned about their goals to provide sustainable livelihoods for those left vulnerable after the storm – those who are likely to be targeted by traffickers because of their desperation.
It is not lost on me that everyone at the table is a woman and a mother, except for one man. Extreme poverty and exploitation affect women deeply. The innate desire to protect and stabilize motivates women and mothers everywhere. We can all relate to the desire to mobilize and organize for the good of our community and families.
Today, I am in a very poor community. After Haiyan, they truly had nothing left. Crops, livestock, building supplies, everything – washed out to sea. Many families are in need of financial assistance and are susceptible to believing the men who come to them claiming that they have good jobs for their children.
After training from World Vision staff, this group of dedicated women identifies dozens of children whom they now believe fit the description of having been trafficked. They document names and report the suspected abuse; with the help of authorities, several of the children have been returned to their homes and are back in school.
I found solidarity with these women and mothers who are aware of the reality of human trafficking in their midst and fight against it. They explain to me that it is complicated because the people connecting the children to the traffickers are often known and trusted in the community. I am in awe of these women’s courage to stand up for what is right even when it may cause them trouble.
Not only is this courageous group of community organizers the eyes and ears on the ground, they also help target families who need assistance with livelihood. With the help of World Vision, better farming techniques are provided along with seeds and tools. Vulnerable households are supported with backyard gardens and livestock such as goats and chickens, and ongoing education and training is encouraged for the prevention of human trafficking.
As a longtime World Vision supporter who has casually chosen a goat to give from the Christmas Gift Catalog for many years, I am almost embarrassed at how little I understood the profound impact of this seemingly small gesture. Gifts that provide sustainable livelihoods are needed immediately to come alongside these vulnerable communities and the women who work and hope for a better future.
Child sponsorship is one of the best ways to protect vulnerable children and keep them safe from threats like exploitation and trafficking, as well as to strengthen communities. Sponsor a child in the Philippines today!
Help a child in need. Consider sponsoring a child in Guatemala today.
See what our other bloggers wrote about our first day:
Shelby Zacharias: "Guide Mother"
Jamie Wright: "Fighting Poverty is like so 2012"
Zack Hunt: "Losing Your Future Before You Ever Had One"
Jessica Shyba: "Guatemala, Day One: Exposed"
Matthew Paul Turner: "Proof that God Exists..."
Roo Ciambriello: "Hope in an Unexpected Place"
Caleb Wilde: "Poverty Pornography"
Follow the Guatemala bloggers this week as they gather firsthand stories of the children, families, and communities whose circumstances have been changed for the better by World Vision’s sponsorship programs.
Meet our other bloggers and see what they're writing from the field:
Jennifer James: "Survivors Mark One-Year Anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan"
Matthew Paul Turner: "Rebuilding After a Monster Typhoon"
Jeana Shandraw: Coming soon!
Follow the Philippines bloggers trip as they visit the World Vision's community development and sponsorship programs first-hand!