Last week when we were in India, we talked a little about sex trafficking and prostitution and what compassion is doing on the ground to get these sweet girls in our program from getting caught up in it all.
Because we always are partnered with the local church, it’s normal for girls to be taught how to look out for the danger signs and the lure of prostitution. It’s dealt with in some level in so many countries we work in.
We saw it in India but Thailand is big on this list when it comes to the problem. Below is an article I was given written by one of our staff in Thailand. It’s eye opening and after reading this know that sponsoring a child helps make this all possible.
Just think about the impact you could have when writing a child… or in this case a little girl and the influence you can help with to keep impressionable children out of prostitution, sex trafficking… and even modern forms of slavery.
read on…then go sponsor a child here.
Vaccinating Our Young Girls
Photo (above) and story by Arada Polawat
Thailand Field Communication Specialist.
A middle aged woman was riding her motorbike roaming the streets of Nongki village. Everything about her appearance looked ordinary and did not illicit any suspicions. However, the exterior of a person can sometimes betray the intentions of his or her heart. She looked around. Suddenly her eyes were fixed on one small house built near a barren farmland. She drove to this house and greeted the young naïve girl who was sitting at the front of the house alone. She asked the young girl questions that are typically asked among the people in this area.
“Do you want a new cell phone?” she asked the young girl. “Do you want to live in a bigger and nicer house?” The young girl was surprised by the lady’s questions and remained silent. “If you are interested in these things I can give them all to you. All you have to do is come work with me. You will earn a lot of money so that you can have pretty clothes to wear and you will have a nice car to drive. It is a very easy job. C’mon. Trust me and come with me”, the woman persuaded. “No, thank you,” replied the young girl, Supattra, who is registered in a Compassion Thailand Center. This situation is repeated over and over.
Nongki is a town located in the Northeast of Thailand. It is very close to some of the major cities in Thailand including the capital city of Bangkok and Pattaya. It is no surprise that Nongki has quickly transformed from an agriculture town to one that increasingly resembles surrounding nearby cities like Bangkok and Pattaya.
“One of the significant issues in Nongki is prostitution,” says Ratchaya Phosut-Tanapat, the center director of TH409. “Prostitution has crept up silently in our community and has become a very significant source of income over the past three years. Everything has turned upside down here. There are so many night clubs, pubs and restaurants that have opened up here and it is increasing. These places are targeted towards and service the local men who work at the factories or as daily workers in this area.”
“Marriages between Thai women and westerners, working in Bangkok and Pattaya have become increasingly common. It is becoming a major problem and our center is deeply concerned. There are too many cases of poor working Thai women becoming rich suddenly. They ride in nice cars and built big houses over their small former shelters. These women’s rapid rise to wealth has resulted in influencing young girls from this area to follow these women in their professional footsteps to pursue material wealth,” says Ratchaya solemnly.
A common problem is older Western men moving to Thailand and taking young women as wives. They move to Thailand in their retirement because of the low cost of living, and meet young Thai girls in a club, who become their companion or wife. For the westerner, he gets a companion, and for the girl, she gets money. Another problem is the gangs that seek to lure girls into prostitution. It is very easy for gangs to seduce and persuade young girls to drop out of school to work at night in local bars or pubs. The gangs approach poor young girls from the early age of twelve or thirteen who do not live with their parents. They lure these young girls by talking about the significant amount of money they will earn so that they can buy the luxuries they desire.
Being born and raised in a poor family often makes young children feel that they are unworthy and frequently causes their self confidence to diminish. They respond to their feelings of worthlessness by turning to material things to reaffirm their identities and self worth in society.
About half of the young girls from the center do not live with their parents, who work in factories in big cities. Often they stay with an extended relative such as an aunt or grandmother. This creates a gap or distance between the young children and their caregivers.
“It is the center’s duty to vaccinate our children and warn them about the seduction and danger of prostitution. We cannot stay calm while these issues are corrupting and ruining my community. It is harming our children. We have to take action.” The center director has said.
The center has always emphasized the importance of social awareness both locally and nationally. The center leaders read the news to the children updating them on what is going on in Thailand every Saturday before they attend their activities. It helps the children have a wider vision of what is going on and what steps they need to take to be prepared to protect themselves and make better choices for their lives.
“We know that many of our children struggle with low self-esteems so we encourage and teach them that the value of their life does not depend upon how much they have or the amount of money they earn. Rather, the center encourages the children to stay grounded in dignity and to do what is right.” The center director explains.
“I will not let myself get involved in a risky situation like prostitution because I don’t want to degrade myself. I know that my body is worth more than material things. It is not worth it to trade myself in order to get the latest cell phone or a big house. If someday I ever chose the wrong path, I know I would lose every thing, including my pride.” said Supattra Somrit, TH409-0170, a fourteen-year old girl.
Chonticha Ha-soong from TH409-0122 said, “A lot of my friends want to have pretty clothes or nice shoes from the latest fashions they see in magazines. They ask money from their parents to buy those things. Some friends work at restaurants at night in order to earn more money, which causes them to drop out of school. I feel really sorry for them. Before they decided to quit school I told them to think twice about their decision and tried to stop them. I had learned from the center that when young girls ended up working in a restaurant and neglecting their education, it often lead them into a life of prostitution. I wanted them to come back to study. I asked a friend of mine who quit her school if she was happy and she said no. She has many things she wants but they mean nothing to her now.”
Compassion Thailand realizes that child trafficking is a crucial issue that needs to be resolved immediately. Compassion has worked with International Justice Mission, or IJM, and they conducted training sessions and workshops on “Child Rights and Child Protection” to all 220 centers that existed in Thailand from 2008 through 2009. The training provided knowledge for the project workers who work directly with the children on how to prevent children from being abused and how to protect them from being taken advantage of.
At the workshops, they discussed the common problems of children at risk, abuse, exploitation, trafficking, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and lack of citizenship. They wanted to reinforce the knowledge and skills in the project staff to help uphold children’s rights. The workshops were a success. Those who attended gained a deeper understanding about these issues and were able to bring back the information from these workshops to write a plan on how to protect and prevent registered children at the center. They created a Child Abuse Protection Network for every project with organizations that can provide help in child protection and child abuse situations. Most importantly they now know what to do and who to contact if something happen to any of the children from the center.
Sai Tan Rak Child Development Center, or TH617, is located in the city of Phitsanulok, an area where there is a high rate of prostitution. Often there are groups that look for young girls who hang around the area in the park at night. They persuade and take these young girls into the evil prostitution cycle.
After TH617 center attended a Compassion training workshop, they brought back useful materials and information to regularly conduct activities for young girls after they had been teaching young children on prostitution and sexuality for two years. During the training, staff members gained a clear understanding of how to handle these situations properly.
“The center teaches young women about sexuality, virginity and how to protect themselves from a risky situation,” said Valia Wongwanna the director of the center. “Whenever we learn that our children are in a risky situation, we personally talk to them and do every thing to help them from making unwise choices.” “I see changes in them after we train and talk to them. Groups of registered young girls who used to hang around the park at night are decreasing. Girls who are who are at risk of being exploited come and tell me that they will not go to the park at night again because they are scared and they don’t want to be victims,” said the director of TH617.
“My village is in a danger zone for prostitution,” said Jenjira Poompuang from TH617-0725. “I see too many young girls being lured into prostitution because they desire more money, but they go into it without knowing the consequences. Attending the center has been very good and helpful for me because the center teaches me about prostitution and now I know how to protect myself from this situation. If someone were ever to try and persuade me to become a prostitute, I would tell my family or the center staff at the church because they always have good advice and would help me out.”
Parents are another factor that plays an important role in a child’s life. At TH617, parents often do not have time to educate or teach their child. They are busy working to earn money day and night. Some parents are not even aware of the prevalence of prostitution in their area. It is a center’s responsibility to inform the parents of the children about relevant issues such as prostitution that could impact their child or children, so that even busy parents can keep an eye on their offspring. The project staff regularly visit the children’s homes to raise awareness and have a personal time with the parents. If the project knows that a child is in high risk, they will visit quite often.
Unlike the parents in TH617, some parents in Nongki actually encourage their child to work at a restaurant in Bangkok or Pattaya because working there earns them a lot of money. “We cannot talk openly to parents about this issue. We made the mistake of doing so from the past and do not want this to happen again. Instead we teach, talk, play videos and give materials for the children to address this issue”, explained Ratchaya.
In the past, if a center learned that a young girl was involved in prostitution, they would make several attempts to visit and talk to her parents at home to try and explain the devastating effects prostitution can have on the life of a young girl and help the young child from the situation. Sometimes when center workers would do so, a few weeks later the child’s mother would come and ask to take her child from the center. Unfortunately this would result in the child dropping out from school and working at night.
Some parents work in Bangkok or Pattaya and request that their child stay with them during the summer, when the children are out of school or center. Even though it may only be two or three months, it can change a child’s life if they are exposed to the world of prostitution.
“If they are ever confronted with having to make difficult choices in their future, I hope that in attending the center it will help them make the right choices for their future,” says the director of TH409.
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