26 August 2014

How the Media Causes Harm

Today, there are numerous sources to acquire your news, from newspapers, magazines, and television to online media and social platforms. With the fierce competition between media outlets, there is a frenzy to provide up-to-date and exciting coverage to maintain and increase viewership. Media coverage is often the only way we receive information about different cultures, city problems, and global issues and have a large impact on how we are perceiving the world around us. Depending on what the media chooses to show us, it can often encourage extreme emotions that can influence us to love and immortalize a person and/or condemn others and create animosity.

Media events such as the kidnappings by Boko Haram, the rise and fall of Somaly Mam, and the CNN Freedom Project, we see every sliver of information related to these situations splashed everywhere in our media outlets. Of course, this only happens for a few days/weeks, until something else grabs national attention.  

When a single event is in the spotlight, as was with the fall of Somaly Mam, it can cause a backlash.  No one can argue Somaly Mam brought worldwide exposure to human trafficking. However, her swift rise to the spotlight and the vicious portrayal of her downfall may have caused long-lasting damage to many anti-human trafficking organizations that do right by the individuals who are trapped in this vicious industry. Many organizations around the world may now have to go through additional levels of investigation before they are given funds, which will delay their programs. 

There will always be an abundance of news, but it is important not to get caught up in this whirlwind of media coverage because the media influences how we see see each other and the world, sometimes negatively. Having our views shaped by the media can change them in ways we may not have wanted. We may view organizations and individuals through new lenses that have vilified or glamorized another organization or individual. So what can we do?  Avoid the media? Of course not.  But tread lightly and never just accept what lies before you. Consider it your duty to look deeper and analyze how your thoughts and words are affected by the way the media presents the world around us. Ask yourself why you are being called to action.  Why a certain photograph is being used. How will vilifying one person who is the face of anti- sex trafficking affect others. Ask yourself questions and look deeper to what is the real message that is being conveyed.  
You may be surprised to find the answer.

18 August 2014

The Butterfly Project: How We Began and Some Thoughts About 'Trust' and 'Disclosure'.......

A number of Chab Dai aftercare organizations in Cambodia expressed their desire to understand more about the long-term impacts of their programs on victims/survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking. At this time, no one organization had the capacity to conduct long-term follow up on their clients leaving their programs. Hence, the idea of a cooperative effort began to grow. The Butterfly Project is the first longitudinal re-integration research study that seeks to follow a group of sexually exploited/trafficked youth and adults over a ten year period. We started in 2010 and we are now in year five of our journey.

The core objectives of the Butterfly research are two-fold.  The first objective is to hear the ‘voice’ of victims/survivors who have (re-) integrated out of aftercare and community programs, and through their ‘voice’ they can inform the practitioner community in Cambodia. The second objective is to disseminate our findings and lessons learned amongst mixed audiences of other practitioners, policy makers and academics within the wider region and global community.

The Butterfly project is like any other study in that participation is voluntary. A participant has the right to drop out at any time. Yet, when the point of the study is to follow a group of the same people over a period of time, then attrition or dropping out is an issue. We anticipated this challenge from the beginning and, at five years, we are still in contact with the majority of our 128 participants. Aside from working hard to maintain the database on our participants’ most current whereabouts, we believe the primary reason they voluntarily remain in our study is because they trust us (the research team).

Essentially, every participant in our study has experienced some degree of sexual trauma, and a number of studies suggest that severe trauma exposure results in and is associated with negative impacts on memory. We sense this may be true for some of our participants, as year to year their answers vary and even contradict what they have said previously. We also find participants’ varying emotional states, their family dynamics, their relationships and their financial securities are all matters which affect how they respond at any given interview. Many of our older participants are in violent and abusive relationships whilst younger participants often describe difficulties with their peers. Others work in dangerous work contexts, and most are struggling to meet their economic needs.

Most of our participants live with feeling stigmatized for their past experiences of sexual exploitation and so most live with many secrets. We have found that as each year progresses, increasing numbers of participants are telling us they trust us enough to disclose more of their stories. They express how therapeutic it feels to share their feelings and experiences with our team.

Many have also told us they continue in the study because they feel valued as individuals and not just subjects in a research project. They state that they feel respected, appreciated and honored because we ask them about their lives and their opinions. In addition, a number of them have stated that they appreciate the opportunity to express their ‘voice’ because they hope their insights and experiences will help others in similar circumstance.

Our team feels each participant is unique. We are thankful they trust us enough and are willing to express their ‘voice.’  It is such a privilege to journey along with them, and we hope through their stories they feel empowered and that their voice will empower future generations.

If you would like any of our annual reports and themed papers please visit the Chab Dai website

Siobhan Miles, Butterfly manager

28 July 2014

The Duality of Being Oppressed & The Oppressor

The more we understand our sector and the issues at hand with human trafficking, the more we need to question our own power in this fight for abolition. 

Pablo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, was and still is revolutionary for the emancipation of the oppressed and states that we are very much a part of injustice and the processes that circumvent it. In one form or another, we are the oppressor and the oppressed. Therefore, we must question our own power and what values we are assigning to this power. Jo Sprague (1994), a leader in critical pedagogy, states that if we just look at a small group of knowers we fail to act as a community that embraces open dialogue and multiple viewpoints. Experience in a field does not make one more qualified than others when offering critical insight and expertise. We must constantly be questioning our knowledge, our reality and our values. More importantly, we must be self-reflective and critical of what we are voicing. What are we assigning value to? What are we not talking about? What biases and privileges are causing hindrance to our cause? This realization and self-reflection allows one to question the nature of one’s power, which only enhances the quality, integrity and value of the research and practices at hand.

By learning to problematize our own power, we remember "words
belong to those who speak them as well as those who hear them"
(Sprague, 1994). The power of our language can act as a tool to teach and advocate for others, but it can also manipulate and often assumes individualism. This power, more often than not, reflects our cultural identity, the structure we reside in and what we stand for.
We must seek to understand how our communication about trafficking is legitimizing as well as ignoring the problems at hand.
Over the years we have seen glimpses of this critique and evaluation occur. We are realizing the existences of imperialism in NGOs, cross-cultural hindrances in policy-making, and the now urgent need for a trauma-informed lens. Neo-imperialism exists and operates under the pretext of rescuing people and spreading democracy, justice, human rights and hegemonic thinking.We often prescribe to the oppressed what we think is most suitable for them. Freire states, "Every prescription represents the imposition of one individual's choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to into one that conforms with the prescriber's consciousness." The oppressed, having embodied the guidelines of the oppressor, tend to fear freedom because they have adapted to their structure of domination. He goes on to state, “leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people – they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.”

Therefore, we must sit back, understand, and allow others to tell us about their world so we can understand their world. We must look at the thought-language of people in which they perceive their realities. “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” (Freire, 1993, p. 72) Thus, knowledge will emerge and be established when interaction and dialogue occurs. It becomes a socially constructed process (Sprague, 1994).

We need to be able to make connections between our own experiences, others’ experiences and the social constructions of reality. In return, sharing these conceptualizations with each other can make new meanings and new possibilities for our realities. This way "he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into a dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.” (Freire, 1993, p. 94). 

We must re-examine ourselves constantly in order to authentically commit ourselves to the people. And ask ourselves, are we truly fighting by their side?

Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: The Continuum International Publishing
      Group Inc.
Sprague, J. (1994). Ontology, politics and instructional communication research: Why we can’t
just agree to disagree about power. Communication Education. 43, 1-25

14 July 2014

Our User-Powered Library Reaches 1000 Resources

You may have seen

Our Library recently passed (June 2014) 1000 user-added resources.

Chab Dai first started dreaming up this counter-human trafficking resource platform back in 2012 and it's been amazing to see it go so quickly and come to full fruition. (It's been open just 6 months now.) Below is the current breakdown by resource type. 


We built it in a way that empowers everyone to contribute — and we think it's making all the difference.

As a registered user, you are able to add resources to the system and up-vote other items that you like and have reviewed. 

The Library democratically displays materials based on the number of up-votes they've received in conjunction with the number of comments. If you search a subject — say "victim rehabilitation" — you're given results in the order that the community has determined through its collective voice. 

For each resource, you're able to push comments up and down as well (through "upvotes"/"downvotes"). Take a look to the right at the amazing discussion generated by one of the resources in the Library (Episode 01 of Freedom Dialoguethe micro-podcast series we recently started). 

If you've written, created or partnered with someone on a resource, you are also able to add it your personal profile as well as your organization's profile.

Try it out by registering here. If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, it only takes one click.

Moving Forward

It's been amazing to see this tool continue to grow and increase its engagement

Be sure to check back anytime you're in need of the latest information on a particular subject.  One of our 919 users are sure to have added something on the subject.

If you're looking for something recently published to read, you might want to take a look through the U.S. 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report which was published just a few weeks ago (June 2014).

In July, we are finishing up the development of a few additional filters. Current filters are: Subject, Type, and Geographic Focus. This month we're adding:

Recently added
Recently Commented
Most Commented
Most Viewed

Publish Date
Since 2010
Since 2005
Since 2000
Since 1995
Since 1990
Since 1985
Since 1980
Since 1975
Before 1975

Resources in available languages.

If you have suggestions for improvements to the Library, we would love to hear them! Thanks for reading!

Taylor Poe

Freedom Collaborative Manager
Chab Dai Int'l

07 July 2014

Talk it Out to Walk it Out

As a person who has studied communications and now works under that same title, I am very aware of the nuances involved with... communicating. That includes verbal and nonverbal cues, as well as the delicate process of conveying information across a variety of media and through diverse cultures. Now, that's not to say I'm any kind of expert in this field because I'm not; I'm just sensitive to the difficulties inherent in good communication. There is a certain level of trust you have to reach with others to feel safe enough to be honest with one another. That's true for any kind of relationship -- romantic, platonic, familial, professional, etc.

When you have a team that works on two different continents, separated by a 14-hour time difference, awareness of and sensitivity to the details of communication becomes even more important. A third of my team works in Cambodia while the rest of us are located in California. That third is crucial to the work we're doing here, and we need them to be effective. It's easy to get sucked into our individual tasks and forget to check in with each other to make sure we're all on the same page, even here in our little offices where we share square footage and sometimes (often) desk space. But we've learned how crucial it is to talk to each other on a regular basis, beyond even the monthly team meetings we schedule out.

I love this quote by George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” This is one of the truest statements to me. We often assume that other people have the same thoughts, ideas and beliefs as we do, but that's rarely the case. We are all unique individuals and bring varying stories and abilities to the table (see my last post on playing to your strengths), and that's a very positive aspect of being on a team. But it also means we have to talk to each other with that truth in mind, recognizing that others' understanding and expectations are going to be different than yours or mine.

Our team communicates a lot. We have email threads and Google Hangouts going pretty much all the time to ensure those channels stay open. Everyone has the opportunity to be involved in the decisions that affect them, or at the very least to stay "in the loop" with the various aspects of current projects. We're not perfect at it, and there can be a breakdown in communication simply due to the distance element. But we're trying and I like to think we've got a fairly good handle on it. We all recognize the importance of cultivating this skill and we are willing to put in the time to work it out.

So what's my point? It's never going to be easy to communicate. I don't care how awesome you are at relaying your feelings and how in-tune you are with the other person, you're not going to always agree or even understand each other. But you have to keep trying. You have to fight against the difficulties of remote team members, lack of clear tone in emails, opposite skill sets and conflicting goals or priorities to help each other out. Don't assume anybody else thinks the way you do. If you do not understand something, ask about it. Be proactive about creating clarity and refuse to get your feelings hurt due to imperfect communication channels. When you're working with other people (and we all are unless you're the sole human in a robot company, in which case I'm very glad I'm not you because that is terrifying), this is the reality of being effective within those office walls. And, like most things in life, the more you do it the better you'll be at it.