A NSW free from poverty and inequality

CSW62 Report Back | Day 3

CSW62 Report Back | Day 3

Un-Ai Jo

Led by an ex-prosecutor in Brooklyn, ‘Media & ICTs: Tools to Prevent Trafficking of Women & Girls’, opened the floor to four panel members to discuss their experiences and contributions towards sex trafficking of women and girls in the US. 

The discussion began by introducing an online platform called - backpage.com - which is similar to Gumtree in Australia, where people frequently utilise the site to buy and sell goods online. It was fascinating to find out that human traffickers have been using a platform that is generally used to purchase mundane household goods to their own exploitative means. The discussion progressed further to human traffickers catching up to the development of technology by moving anonymously through cyber space and, now, making transactions through cryptocurrencies

The panel members highlighted the dichotomy of technology providing –

  1. advanced pathways of investigation for law enforcement through software tools designed to track, analyse and assess online predatory behavior; and
  2. more diverse routes for human traffickers to access, approach and solicit buyers of commercialized sex.  

It was interesting to hear that: 

  1. Many young women engage in sex trade because they have lack of choices due to (a) racial inequality, (b) gender inequality; and, (c) income inequality. These align to represent significant intersectional disadvantage; and, 
  2. Human traffickers coerce young women and children to write their own advertisements to sell their bodies to erase their own trace of involvement. 

In the US, there are at least 1500 ads posted daily on the ‘dark web’ to commercialise sex and 220 advertisements were posted before 9am today in Manhattan alone. Do you know what is happening in your own country? 

This discussion has highlighted how human traffickers continuously progress and develop their skills to catch on, bypass security, and, utilise the online space to their advantage. In such a climate, we need to not be afraid to have open conversations about e-Safety, image-based abuse and commercialised sex. 

Creating safe spaces for dialogue relating to commercialised sex is critical in educating our next generation about the importance of reducing demand in sex trade and what individuals can do to disturb and destabilise the market. 

Being the first federal government in the world to introduce an e-Safety online portal, I am excited to see how the Australian government will lead and respond to issues in a continuously evolving online space. 

Harpreet Dhillon

Tackling gender inequality is not at all an easy fix. There are multiple layers of issues surrounding gender inequality and every country in the world faces at least one.

On the first day of United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women, what stood out for me was the parallel event: Promoting Mental Health and Wellbeing for the Advancement of Women.

To begin with, the issue of mental health is a very personal one for me. From being bullied in primary school due to my skin colour and fact that I couldn’t speak English left great impacts of low self-esteem and anxiety. During high school I suffered from anorexia, insomnia which began during my HSC year, and experienced a very traumatizing event to which has led to PTSD that I continue to struggle greatly with.

Mental Health is an issue that millions of women and girls suffer from, although ironically, a topic that for many communities that these women and girls live in is taboo to talk about and  seek help from. This especially true for those from rural areas, who experience huge difficulties in accessing services.

That being said, to be in a room full of women from around the world including from areas where it is taboo to mention mental health, was inspiring in itself.  Let alone the panel who were truly amazing and impactful, causing people to either leave with tears and inspiration – for me definitely both.

The panel included personal stories of women from rural areas who were either raped or pregnant and were sent to mental health institutions as professionals didn’t know how to deal with their mental health and trauma, and as a way for them to not deal with the issue. In many of these places, these women are re-traumatised as they experience sexual, physical and mental violence at these ‘institutions’.  As mentioned by the panel, ‘The quality of care is non-existent, both in developing and developed countries.’

In rural settings, services need to be accessible and accountable. In order to achieve meaningful change and progress for gender equality – actions needs to be sustainable and long term. More than 80% of the global poor live in rural areas, and 70% of the population who live below the poverty line are women. Equally, at least 50% of people with cancer struggle with mental health.

The wellbeing of an individual is what also brings them empowerment and strength, so they too can empower others in their communities. Mental Health is often overlooked as a serious problem but is very much one. It’s largely a catalyst of suicide.

What can you and I do? Well simply, raise awareness, speak about the issue in conversations. We need to show others that it is not something to be ashamed about it. Really, it’s something every single one of us goes through.

Penny Dordoy

This session was presented by the Sisters of Charity Federation and the Lifeway Network Inc. in the USA. The session highlighted the work they do to support women who have been trafficked. Two things really interested me about this session. First, the similarities in issues, barriers and responses to women who have experienced trafficking to those who have experienced domestic violence and secondly, the solution to the problem of sustained economic independence for victims offered by an organisation called AnnieCannons.

Modern day slavery sees women and children bought and sold worldwide. Traffickers use fraud, or coercion to control their victims and force them to engage in commercial sex acts or other labour against their will. It is the fastest growing criminal enterprise globally and thrives on demand. People who are vulnerable to trafficking may typically be someone looking for a friend. However, there is no other pattern is terms of person type, they range from those with no schooling to those with Bachelor and Master degrees. Traffickers prey on a gap in someone’s life and then find a way to exploit it.

There is a definite overlap in the pattern of behaviours that both perpetrators and traffickers use to exert power and control over a victim. Physical, emotional, mental and financial abuse are all hallmarks of both. Perpetrators and traffickers isolate victims, making them feel like no one else will want them or that there is no means of escape. They experience similar patterns of trauma and service responses are also similar in nature – safety and housing first approaches with specialist support services wrapped around the victim. Like domestic violence, women who have been trafficked have difficulty establishing independence after they have escaped and like domestic violence, sometimes return to the offender rather than the new reality of no economic independence, no support mechanisms and the feeling of hopelessness.

AnnieCannons (https://www.anniecannons.com/) transform survivors of human trafficking into software professionals to support them to sustain economic independence and a lifetime free of exploitation. They partner with women’s shelters to train human trafficking survivors to do software programming.  They believe that survivors of human trafficking have two key things that are required for programming; problem solving and grit.

They then source freelance software work to help students earn and learn. The students work together on projects, develop skills and earn money. Once fully operational, students have the capacity to earn good money and sustain themselves and their families in the future. AnnieCannons then galvanises professionals across the programming industry to collaborate with the students and other survivors to build software that combats human trafficking and address the vulnerabilities that lead to human trafficking.

I absolutely love this idea and cannot wait to see how we can use similar models to work with women who have experienced domestic and other forms of violence.


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