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Stop the slaves on the streets


© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-2471/Michael Kamber - A girl carries a baby in the Marché Forum in Adjamé, a poor quarter in the city of Abidjan. Many of the girls work for women who claim to be their aunts; however, child rights workers and people in the market report that many of the girls are victims of trafficking. UNICEF is working with the Government and other partners to strengthen laws against the worst forms of child exploitation and to establish a national system for child protection.

By Kaitlin Bakker, UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador.

Human trafficking in girls and women is becoming a disturbing trend. Just recently, as I explored some Eastern European countries, I became aware of the alarming number of females ‘selling themselves’ on the street with the hope of better opportunities such as marriage, employment and freedom.

In Berlin, I asked a beautiful girl for directions back to my hostel. She was Romanian and struggled with her English, but managed to give me some indication about which way to go. I could identify with her in so many ways. We were the same age, we were both studying, were of similar build and when we spoke, there was a spark that instantly gave us feeling that we had known each other for some time. Our discussions led to her attire (she was half-naked) and she began to explain to me that she was paid much better in Berlin by being on the streets than she was in Romania where she was studying. And she was not alone. There were girls up and down the street who were being exploited in the same fashion.

Apart from some vague awareness of Kings Cross in Sydney, I had never been exposed to women on the streets. The concept of human trafficking fuelled my anger, frustration and also curiosity. I needed to know more. I jumped onto Google to start researching ‘human trafficking’ and ‘sexual exploitation’. Millions of stories popped up about the exportation of over 200,000 woman and girls from Eastern and Central Europe each year, the bulk of whom end up working as sex slaves in Western European countries. The staggering details of the statistics hammered home to me the very real reality of trafficking of both females and young children.

Human trafficking, by definition, is the recruitment and/or receipt of human beings through force or other deceptive means. The end purpose of trafficking is exploitation. This can take many forms including slavery, debt bondage, servitude and sexual exploitation. Human trafficking is the third-largest transnational, organised crime in the world, behind drugs and arms. It has been estimated that trafficking has enslaved 27 million people, in countries all over the world.

Human trafficking isn’t just about prostitution on the streets either. It can take all forms and is often most prevalent in young children who are being forced to engage in hard labour. This in turn prevents the children from attending school and will threaten the child’s physical, emotional and mental well-being.

A child who faces the risk of being trafficked, may also be disabled, in conflict with the law and experience violence in the home. Understanding the underlying causes and addressing this interconnectedness is the key to protecting children. UNICEF promotes the strengthening of all components of child protection systems - human resources, finances, laws, standards, governance, monitoring and services. Depending on the country context, child protection systems may cut across part of the social welfare, education, health, and security sectors.

To reduce vulnerabilities that make children susceptible to trafficking, UNICEF assists governments in strengthening laws, policies and services including legislative review and reforms, establishing minimum labour standards, and supporting access to education. UNICEF also works with communities to change norms and practices that exacerbate children’s vulnerabilities to trafficking.

What you can do:
  • Spread the word. Share this story on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Take action and donate to UNICEF’s child protection appeal.
  • Is Australia doing enough to fight the cycle of poverty? If you're 25 and under, tell us what you think about Australia's foreign aid program. Have your say.
  • Become a Global Parent. Make a monthly contribution to help UNICEF make it right for all children, not just one. With your support we can ensure all children are given the right to survive and thrive.

Because all children have the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse.


Permalink | Posted 09/02/12 | Posted in Australia, Child Protection, Eastern Europe

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