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. 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 epistemologies, ontologies and axiologies. More importantly, we must be self-reflective and critical of what we are voicing. 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. 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. What are we assigning value to? What are we not talking about? What biases and privileges are causing hindrance to our cause? 
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. In gaining a better understanding of the context of a situation, we can look at the meaning that is constructed by our own language in the human trafficking sector. Truth, or what we can claim as truth, should be reached through multiple lenses. It is not enough to just have dialogue, it is evaluating what kind of dialogue we are having. “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.”

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 turns it into 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/their realities. “[T]he more radical the person is, the more fully 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.”  We must re-examine ourselves constantly in order to authentically commit ourselves to the people.

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.

28 June 2014

Whose Problem Is It Anyways?

The United States has recently seen an influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America. As the number of children crossing has been increasing this year, the American media has caught wind of how serious the situation actually is. According to the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies and Kids in Need of Defense, approximately 60,000 to 90,000 children are to be expected to cross by the end of this year. Most of the children are arriving from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Human traffickers are charging thousands to “assist” in the transportation of these children. But often these traffickers dump them at the border and force the children to figure out the rest. Some reports have stated that children are willingly walking up to Border Patrol because that is what they have been instructed to do by the traffickers. By using children as a commodity and manipulating families, traffickers are the only ones benefiting from the increase of violence in those countries. 
Since the increase in coverage I have been hearing questions like "How could a mother leave her child?" and "Where are their parents in all of this?" The answer is neither simple nor pretty. Families desperate for safety see this as their little sliver of hope. Despite the risk, families hope that their children will be reunited with relatives already living in the United States (though those family members themselves are often living illegally). So when the opportunity arises for their child to get a chance at a better life, away from the violence and drugs, parents wholeheartedly believe the traffickers. Once traffickers convince parents with empty promises, parents make that huge sacrifice. With the hope of their children having a better future, families are putting their trust in these "coyotes." With these broken promises made, of either being reassured of safety or how "legal" it is, families part with their children. The most shocking thing I have read from all of this is that a large percentage of these children are toddlers. 
This a complex issue. It's a transnational dilemma that many are not ready to face. I believe that this is not an issue solely restricted to one government, but it's an issue for all. It is a human issue. We all want the best for our loved ones. The fact that there are individuals manipulating that relationship is sickening. Dreams of "the other side" are interrupted with bewildered Border Patrol not knowing how to handle this influx. The children are instead welcomed to overflowing living corridors and an uncertain future. These children and families are vulnerable to manipulation and coercion. The easy way out of this is to merely say that this is a specific state’s issue. But in the end what is the bigger picture?

23 June 2014

The Global Woman: Breaking Down the Feminized Terrain

During my winter break from college, my friends and I went on a cruise to celebrate our hard work. Within this time, we realized what hard work really meant. On the cruise, we engaged and befriended the individuals who cleaned our cabins and served our food. We noticed that these employees served our needs from morning till night, 5 am to 10 pm to be exact.

We spoke to the servers including a bartender who had gone back to the Philippines to see her four year-old daughter, but while on the two month stay, her daughter had fallen deathly ill, and she had to stay a few extra weeks to make sure she was ok. Upon returning to the cruise line, she found out that she had been demoted, her title taken from her, and her salary reduced. However, her duties remained the same.

 It was then I recognized what a struggle it must be to leave your family behind in order to provide for them. A separation that causes much hardship and a unreconcilable angst and longing to be both a mother and a provider at a distance. This economic pressure that Global South women make "creates not a white man’s burden but, through a series of invisible links, a dark child’s burden” (Global Woman, p. 27).  Migration is viewed as a choice, the emotional extraction of Global South women as a personal choice, and the consequence of this displacement as a third world child's lot in life.

The book, Global Woman, addresses this very issue and provides three possible approaches within the first chapter. Two of these approaches were quickly disregarded based on the lack of acknowledgement on human cost. The first one was “all woman should stay home and take care of their own families” and the second one was “a supply of labor has met a demand—what’s the problem?” (27).  Approaches one and two are disregarded because they cease to consider the consequences that would follow should they be utilized. If all women stayed home to take care of their families' physical and emotional needs, how would that solve the financial issue at hand? Also, a supply of labor is found in these Global South women, and there is a demand for this supply in Global North countries, but what are the consequences of displacement for these third world women, what about the people they leave behind? All of this needs to be taken into consideration in order to understand that the solution is not as black and white as those two approaches suppose.

The first chapter finishes with an approach that leads us in the right direction; the “raise the value of caring work itself”, and that men also needed to share in the care of family members in order for “care [to] spread laterally instead of being passed down a social class ladder” (28). Whether it be fathers, sons, or brothers who take the time to care for their family members, the value of care would be raised and the idea that caring work should be secluded only to women or become a low-wage job for migrants would fall away or at the very least, start to break down the feminization of this type of work.

There are costs to living in a globalized world, but we, as a society, do not need to succumb to the negative effects, but instead need to continue to find solutions to the many issues that are being introduced in this rapidly changing, interconnected world. Living as an interconnected society means that there is a never ending pool of information to be sourced, culture to be learned, and commerce to be earned, but it also means that "the personal is global" (30), whatever issue affects one portion of society, now affects the entire global community. Therefore, the solution to global issues is found in the combined efforts of the global community.