SAAHTT Newsletter 2nd Edition goes live tomorrow. Here is a teaser!!

We launched our email newsletter two months back. The second edition will be posted tomorrow. Here is a teaser

SAAHTT Newsletter Edition 2 Teaser!

We hope you will enjoy reading this tomorrow. If you would like to receive our newsletter straight to your inbox, please subscribe on this blog. Your email will only be used for the purposes of receiving this email newsletter. If at any time you feel you you do not want to receive any more news, updates or newsletters from us you can immediately unsubscribe.

Gilbert Makore

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Ashton Kutcher to UN: Twitter, Facebook can be Great Weapons in Fight Against Human Trafficking

By Pam BristowHuffington Post

I was fortunate enough to be present at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on November 4 for the launch of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons. To be managed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the fund will provide humanitarian, legal, and financial aid to victims of human trafficking. The initiative is a central element of the new UN Global Plan of Action adopted by the UN General Assembly this past July.

Having worked on other UNODC projects, I can personally attest to how much weight this UN agency throws behind combating one of the great atrocities of our time. This meeting was no exception. Alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sat the meeting’s moderator — two time New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning author-journalist Nicholas Kristof — and actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher whose humanitarian work in the arena of human trafficking was being highlighted. The couple’s organization, DNA, is working to abolish modern-day slavery in the United States and abroad. The meeting took an interesting turn when the conversation shifted to Kutcher’s mastery of social networking and how he was channeling his online prowess to serve his nonprofit’s mission.

 

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

After sobering opening remarks by the Secretary-General on the current scope of the 32 billion dollar international human trafficking trade, Kristof introduced Kutcher, humorously pointing out Kutcher ‘s 6 million Twitter followers versus the UN’s 140,000. In response, Kutcher offered new insight to Kristof’s leading question “Why the internet?”

The actor-activist argued that, while having fueled the sex trade with its built-in anonymity, speed, and ease of access, the internet has also given law enforcement and activist groups a strong weapon with which to combat trafficking and offer aid to victims. Kutcher pointed out that part of what makes dismantling and exposing trafficking networks so challenging is the industry’s global nature. For example, in just one transaction, several countries will likely be involved. The “broker” will be in Country A, the victim may be abducted from Country B, the transaction will take place in Country C, and the final customer will return home to Country D with his new acquisition. Additionally 76 percent of these child trafficking transactions happen on the internet. The internet, Kutcher argues, is a global solution to a global problem, allowing us to fight and expose human trafficking across borders.

Victim demographics play a factor as well. The average American age for forced entry into the sex trade is 13. While this is a devastating statistic, it plays in favor of using the internet as a tool to reach at-risk adolescents, many of whom are runaways. According to Kutcher many of these kids are still updating their social networking pages once they have left home. Kutcher and Moore have seized this opportunity by creating partnerships with a coalition of tech companies including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to develop technological solutions to the problem of child sex slavery. Initiatives include the implementation of online predator deterrants as well as PhotoDNA and geo-location technology to help protect children and find and rescue victims.

Kutcher said his Twitter presence has also given him a platform to affect male attitudes about the sex trade. “I can use Twitter to implore men around the world to understand that buying sex isn’t cool… when they find out that the average age of entry to the business is 13 and that most of these girls are held against their own will, suddenly it becomes a lot less sexy.”

At the peak of the legal slave trade in 1780, an estimated 80,000 slaves from Africa were brought to the New World in one year. Almost 250 years later, the UN estimates that there are approximately 2.5 million slaves in captivity worldwide at any time. As Kutcher pointed out, “we agreed to abandon slavery 62 years ago (with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948.) We are not asking for new laws. Let’s just enforce the ones we have.”

Those wishing to learn more or make a pledge to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons can visit the UNODC fund page.

SAAHTT in 140 characters

Shakespeare once said ‘brevity is the soul of wit’. Thomas Jefferson concured and stated that ‘the most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do’ And with twitter becoming a real communications mainstay in our lives, we figure that its really important to be able to describe what SAAHTT does in 14o character.

twitter

twitter

SAAHTT ‘partners with civil society, communities and government to combat modern day slavery in southern Africa through research, awareness raising and capacity building’

-thats 141 chracters without spaces and 162 characters with spaces. Now, what to do with those 42 characters??? Just having a little fun 🙂

Reflections on our application to the Echoing Green Fellowhsip

Late last year, we (SAAHTT) applied to the Echoing Green Fellowship. This is one of the best international fellowship programmes for social entrepreneurs. The program is for non profit and for profit interventions that are aimed at addressing the world’s social needs. It is a fellowship for ‘world changers’. It is also one of the most competitive fellowship programmes around. We applied to be part of the Echoing Green fellowship last year (2009). We were motivated by the opportunity because it would present us with relationships, mentorship and equally important seed capital. The money would have been a welcome boost for the organisation as it would have meant that we would be able to initiate and upscale projects to combat modern day slavery.

echoing green website

echoing green website

While the fellowship is open to both non profit and for-profit ventures it is often regarded as a purely social entrepreneurship programme. We still applied to the programme with full knowledge to this because while we are a non profit project, we believe in the ethos of social entrepreneurship and sustainability. We believe that every dollar SAAHTT gets should be optimally used to counter human trafficking in Southern Africa. We believe in efficiency and in being excellent in every activity we undertake. We believe in communicating well with all our stakeholders and we hate window dressing. These are things that are missing in non profits globally. We hope to buck the trend in our own little way. But that is just an aside.

The real story is we went on to put our all behind the application. The application is so taxing because it demands you to think through your project idea. Echoing Green fellows are people with projects still in the start up phase and often this means people who are still pivoting and developing their ideas. In addition, the application requires a certain level of brevity that is so demanding. Explaining everything in 500-1000 word limits is difficult. Want to know how that can be-imagine having to explain everything about your project in Twitter characters (140 characters). But we managed to go through the first round. We were one of only 350 projects that went through to the second phase, out of the initial 1100 that had applied. The invitation to complete the second phase application was a congratulatory email notifying SAAHTT that we constituted 30% of organisations that had passed the first phase. We were really overjoyed at the SAAHTT offices. This was validation of our project idea. It meant so much to us as the SAAHTT project idea implementation was only 2-3 months old.

We, however, remained tempered by the fact that the process was not complete and was even more difficult through the second phase. We managed to get through the second phase application and submitted. Then we……waited…….and……waited…….and ……..waited. The process itself was not as long as the last sentence seems to portray. It was just two months of waiting. But still, it was such a nail biting wait and a tad bit stressful. And then the dreaded results came in. The regret email was so crushing. Here at SAAHTT we do not take disappointment as easily as we would like. We were so disappointed and pretty much preferred not to talk about it. And then another e-mail came. It was the feedback to our application.

Now this e-mail is not to detail how disappointed we were by failing to get the fellowship. This post is instead an unashamed thumbs up to the Echoing Green programme and more importantly in our personal experience, the application process. The application process allowed us to introspect. To think about what exactly it is SAAHTT intends to do and why it is going about it in one way and not the other. It allowed us to think ahead and really envision the project. It allowed us to discover new insight into the problem of human trafficking in southern Africa. And to boot, we got an outsider’s view of SAAHTT. A professional evaluation of our ideas and strategies. You just do not get that kind of feedback from other programmes. Granted, fundraising is brutal. But we sure did enjoy the process of applying for the Echoing Green Fellowship despite the rollercoaster of emotions  🙂 So what happened since then. Well, we regrouped, doubled up and hunkered down. We continue to incrementally address no less one of the biggest and daunting challenges of our time-human trafficking/modern day slavery.

Most of all, congratulations to the folks who got in. We need you to change the world. Nothing less:)

Human Trafficking Research Gone Wrong?: The Case of South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) won a tender by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to conduct research on human trafficking occurrence in South Africa. The research titled ‘Tsireledzani: understanding the dimensions of human trafficking in southern Africa’, came out some time back in March and I had the opportunity to read through it. However, this report, despite being a laudable attempt to investigate human trafficking, faced a lot of criticism from independent scholars who felt it fell short of the research rigour expected from an eminent research institution such as the HSRC. I quickly and quietly rubbished the criticism as an attempt to belittle the challenge of human trafficking in southern Africa and particularly South Africa.

Tsireledzani Report

Tsireledzani Report

That being said, on Wednesday, I stumbled upon a more concise rebuttal published by (not really sure, although one of the authors is employed by ISS) the Institute of Security Studies (ISS). The paper, titled ‘Of Nigerians, Albinos, Satanists and Anecdotes: A critical review of the HSRC report on human trafficking’ is a more robust critique of the HSRC report. It argues that the HSRC report did not address and or query the research terms of reference. It goes on to state that the report is weak as it fails to give new insight into the problem of human trafficking and reads just like previous research by other organisations such as IOM and Molo Songololo which are not backed by evidence and are therefore heavily anectodal. The report is argued as being sensationalistic and even alarmist having come to the conclusion that human trafficking is rife in South Africa and therefore needing to be addressed on all fronts yet failing to give research to back this claim. This, the ISS paper claims may lead to the use of state resources to address a problem whose full extent is not known, potentially diverting scarce but much needed resources from more pressing and proven social ills.

ISS paper

ISS paper

I read the Tsireledzani research report and I somewhat regrettably have to concur with the ISS paper as the HSRC report reads just like the other human trafficking reports before it and offers no new insight into the problem. It sights the exact same limitations to conducting human trafficking research but does not seem to have countered or gone around these limitations to give fresh impetus and insight into the challenge of modern day slavery. Frankly, the research does seem to fall short.

The dangers of half-baked human trafficking research reports are clearly apparent in this scenario. The main problem is that it leads not just to the refutation of the human trafficking research reports but indeed the objection or at least the insinuation of an objection of the occurrence of human trafficking. Poor research that sounds alarmist and sensationalistic just seems to bring out the human trafficking denial proponents thus presenting a great stumbling block to anti human trafficking work. Thus while the ISS paper does not state that there is no human trafficking in South Africa it does refute a report that states that there is human trafficking in South Africa and by extension the very occurrence of human trafficking in South Africa, until….. until proven otherwise by more credible and evidence based or backed research. The ISS paper’s authors have urged or rather demanded that the HSRC withdraw its human trafficking research report. What is perhaps also commedable about the ISS paper is the fact that it recommends or gives insight into how the research should have been done, for example, the need for strong caveats acknowledging time and methodological limitations in the research, use of the IOM database of 300 or so trafficking victims, contesting the terms of reference etc etc.

Now is this a case of human trafficking research gone bad? Or a case of those in denial coming out with their swords? The jury is clearly still out. Personally, this presents a challenge to all modern day abolitions to do more, to conduct more robust research, to go beyond scratching the surface of the problem. Because, believe you me, the problem is there-whether or not we appreciate its full extent is debatable.

Gilbert Makore

N.B: the views expressed in this blog are of the author in his own individual capacity and in no way reflect the views of SAAHTT