299 – A Prevention Perspective, with Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw

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Dr. Sandie Morgan is joined by Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw, an attorney from Madrid. The two discuss the role Fiet Gratia, an NGO of which Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw is the Executive Director, plays in preventing trafficking in Spain.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw is the Executive Director of Fiet Gratia, an NGO specialized in intervention and comprehensive assistance to victims of human trafficking, with presence in different parts of Spain. In 2019, Ezequiel was offered the position of Executive Director, and accepted the offer to develop the project of the Solidarity Law Firm with his partner Alberto Miguens. Since 2012, he has been directing as partner and founder, the Law Firm Miguens & Bellshaw, developing an intense work in the area of Human rights. Ezequiel has a degree in Law from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, a Master in management, a Minor in Big Data and Business intelligence, a postgraduate in Compliance, and is a practicing lawyer in Madrid.

Key Points

  • Fiet Gratia is an anti human trafficking NGO that employs attorneys who aid the NGO in being sustainable and long term.
  • The industry of pornography is affecting youth as young as 8, directly linking them to prostitution because of the effects it leaves on youth.
  • The attorneys at Fiet Gratia aid in not only solving an individual’s issue, but helping to find the solution for a bigger issue like trafficking.
  • The hiring of a compliance officer is similar to risk management, ensuring that everything that NGO does is being done ethically.
  • Fiet Gratia has gone through the ISO 9001 model, a model that ensures quality management, as well as the EFQM Model, the most respected seal in Europe.
  • Education can aid in prevention if it is given the same platform in schools as sex education courses are.


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Sandra Morgan 0:00
You are listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast, episode 299, A Prevention Perspective with, attorney Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw.

Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast here at Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice in Orange County, California. This is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. I recorded this episode on site in Madrid, Spain during a recent Vanguard University, Summer Study Abroad human trafficking course. Our guest is Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw. He’s the Executive Director of Fiet Gratia an NGO specialized in intervention and comprehensive assistance to victims of human trafficking, with presence in several different parts of Spain. In 2019, Ezequiel was offered the position of executive director and accepted the offer to develop the project Solidarity Law Firm with his partner, Albert Miguens. They had been working together in the law firm Miguens and Bellshaw, developing an intense work in the area of human rights. Ezequiel has a degree in law from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, a aster’s in management, a minor in big data and business intelligence, a postgraduate degree and compliance, and he’s a dad to two beautiful children. Now, his background really informs this next conversation. How many do you know who have a minor in big data and business intelligence? You are going to enjoy this conversation. Take a listen.

I am so pleased today to introduce Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw. And we are recording on site at their headquarters in Madrid, Spain. Welcome, Ezequiel.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 2:52
Thank you Sandie, it’s my pleasure to be with you today. Thank you for your invitation.

Sandra Morgan 2:58
I am so delighted with the model I’ve discovered here, that you are pretty much the author of an NGO fighting human trafficking and I can’t wait for our listeners, literally around the world, to begin to understand how it developed and what makes it unique in best practices for anti-human trafficking from an NGO. So I want to dig right in with your background, your education. Lots of my students listen to this podcast, and they’re going to ask me later, what degree do I need to get to do what Ezequiel did? So give us just a nutshell version of your education.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 3:49
Well I decided to study law, because I wanted to advocate while helping victims of human trafficking, and also people that were suffering social injustice. But then I started to work in a law office and opportunities came, opportunities like being a good criminal lawyer, work in a big law firm, and that wasn’t part of my plan because I understood that it wasn’t aligned with the vision I had in my heart. So then I decided to depart myself to start up a law firm, my own law firm by then, and then is when I decided to study a master’s in management to understand how to do a strategy, how to start the business, how to do a business plan. And in the way, I started to do an executive MBA as well, minors related to big data and business intelligence, and that was my my personal path.

Sandra Morgan 4:51
So you left a very profitable law firm to go and be the executive Director at an NGO? What did that mean for using all of this knowledge and strategy and analysis? Why would an NGO benefit from having an attorney?

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 5:17
I think the value proposal is clear, we used to have a lot of people with passion, compassion, and also social skills in our NGOs, any NGO needs that. But it’s very difficult to find people that have a preparation in Business Administration, and strategy. So because I had this vocation in my heart, and I was certain that I wanted to make a difference, I thought that leading an NGO would be the best way possible to make that difference, and to work with a multidisciplinary team, people that come from psychology, nursing, social workers, educators. But I needed to use my knowledge as well, how to approach to the vision. How can we be sustainable and long term? So I think all of those lessons and values, best practices that I got in my practice, but also that I had in my heart was perfect timing and that is why I decided to accept the challenge, and to leave what I was doing. And I did it with a lot of pleasure, actually, it was one of the best decisions I made in my life.

Sandra Morgan 6:44
And I’ve listened to you outline the business plan that you’ve really developed to bring Fiet Gratia, the NGO we’re talking about, into a much higher level of professionalism, with a stronger focus on strategy, and I think also accountability. So tell us about that business plan, what are the elements of it, and why those elements are necessary?

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 7:18
Well, first we needed to develop and understand well, our purpose, mission, and vision. Our purpose is to create opportunities, life opportunities to those more vulnerable and needed with the perspective of putting the person always in the center. And that is part of our mission and that is why we are also working as an anti trafficking entity in Spain, because it is one of the most terrible problems that we have in our country. And then our vision is to be an example. Not because we want to be the first, but because we want to demonstrate that we can be compassionate, but we can also be excellent from a professional perspective. So that is why I tried to also propose value and that is the first part. The second part of it, once we understand our purpose, mission, and vision, is also to work in a financial perspective, which means how to be sustainable, not just in short term, but also in long term. How can we be trustful in long term with public administration, private entities, and also the people that are collaborators, which means employees, volunteers, people that work with us, how they can be part of what we are building? Because actually, Fiet Gratia or any NGO, is not the name, is not the institution, but the people that composed it.

Sandra Morgan 8:54
That’s amazing. And I really want to talk about analytics as part of strategy, because your minor in big data, reminds me of when I took a class, back in 1994. I had been asked to put our department at the operating room, online. This was a long time ago, moving an entire department, the charging, the patient scheduling, all the equipment, the supplies online, took a certain amount of process knowledge that I had as a nurse in the operating room, but I didn’t have the computer understanding of how to use data. I took that class and they said, you don’t have to be able to write the software, you need to know how to get the data from, think of a big swimming pool, and it’s all dumped in there. How do you get it out? And that will be the difference and I did a fabulous job of moving the hospital department online.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 10:05
Wonderful. Yeah, I believe it is so important. I decided to do it, because I thought it was the most valued minor I could do. The reason is because we are in the era of information and we are over informated and misinformed at the same time. Also, because I saw how the prostitution is going online so much now, and I’m talking about pornography, or cam services, but also how the offer and demand goes through the internet right now. All these people, and all these businessmen that of course work in black market, they have all the algorithms to understand how the consumers are. They look at their cookies and all the tracks they leave in the internet, and then they offer what the consumer is expecting, and they’re using that through their artificial intelligence. So for us, that work in the sector, we need to understand how that works, to be sure that we understand how these children and women are living, but also how the path goes through and go in advance so that we can analyze where the apartments are, where they are located at, and that is one of the best tools to go ahead, actually.

Sandra Morgan 11:38
So your data analysis for strategy doesn’t all come from reports like ‘how many people did I talk to today, how many bags of groceries did I give out?’ It’s so much broader.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 11:55
Yeah, we use quantity and quality information. Quantity means that, how many women we attended, children, bags we gave, interventions that we had to do, how many interviews, but when we talk about quality, we can go through others significant data more related to the profile of the person that is going through the situation, but also to analyze how the criminals are working, and also to analyze how the environment is changing. For example, in our database, we also see how consumers are changing their profile, and how they are changing the way of demand in prostitution. One thing that we have seen is how the young population is increasing in terms of demand in prostitution, and how their demands are connected with pornography. In Spain last year, the official agency, a public agency that works for the data protection, published an alarming publication, saying that now children are starting to consume pornography with the age of eight years old.

Sandra Morgan 13:17

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 13:19
All this affects their behavior, understanding, and mindsets. That affects later, their behavior and way of demand and prostitution when they become 17, 18, 19 years old.

Sandra Morgan 13:36
So I’m thinking about strategy over 90 days, maybe a year sustainability, and you’re looking out for a decade from an eight year old until he’s 18.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 13:49
Yeah, I think new generations are the key for this situation changing. Spain is, for example, third country in demand in prostitution in the world, and the first in human trafficking for transit and destination in Europe. If we can change this, it would be because a generation changed their mindsets and the only way of doing that is if we find that situation of kids consuming pornography at the age of 8, 82% of the kids that don’t go for dinner at night with the parents are consuming pornography. That is where our analysis are saying, and this is alarming because we are letting the industry of pornography, educating our children, and that has a link to prostitution directly because they want to have a natural relationship with the woman in the way they idealize it through pornography. So I believe if we want to change prostitution, want to change slavery, we want to change human trafficking, we need to change our generation.

Sandra Morgan 15:07
So my understanding and the mindset that I have for big data now is so much bigger than it was five minutes ago. There is so much that I want to get to here. I want to think about how your role as the executive director of Fiet Gratia, tell us about what it is and why it is so unique.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 15:37
I was the managing partner of a law office before becoming the executive director of the NGO. I know I always had in my heart the vision of creating a law firm, solidarity law firm, but attending the needed will be the first thing of the business. Of course, the problem with this, is that is not profitable from a perspective of finances. If you attend people for free, you have a business problem. An important one actually.

Sandra Morgan 16:07
Cash flow.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 16:08
Yeah, very important problem with the cash flow. And I thought, okay, well, why not change the paradigma and try to establish a law firm with the purpose of aligned, in this case with vision and purpose of the NGO, attend properly with high quality level, legally talking, to the women and children that goes through our project, but also people that are in terrible situation, talking about social injustice. Then also offer to association, other private entities, NGOs, foundations, our services because we are qualified people, we have good lawyers, with good training, we can offer those services with that good value proposal, being sustainable from a perspective of social sustainability. We will ensure that besides having grants or finding other ways of being sustainable, we will also offer those services and people that are paying for the services, for the law firm, and not just saying I’m hiring a lawyer to solve a legal issue, that I’m also paying for a lawyer to defend somebody else issue that is more in need than me. And that makes a difference because suddenly, it becomes that the person that is trying to hire somebody for its own problem goes beyond its own situation, to become part of the solution for somebody else.

Sandra Morgan 17:47
Wow. That’s amazing. Amazing. So when you put this into effect, did you find somebody else who was doing this and follow their lead?

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 18:03
Actually, this is the first time we do something like this, it was in 2019. I have to accept and say honestly, that it did some benchmarking. We have so good philanthropical and also sustainable projects that have a social purpose and different models that helped us to build an elaborate business plan. But as a law firm, it is the first time, I haven’t seen anything like this in Europe. I haven’t seen anything like this yet today, and I believe it is because it’s not easy to transform. First, you need the vision but secondly, all the business model is complete different than what is traditional. So actually, I haven’t seen anything like this, more than this, yeah.

Sandra Morgan 19:03
So tell me what the structure looks like. Is the law firm next to Fiet Gratia, s it over it? Where is it?

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 19:13
Okay, so the law firm works like a business. It has autonomy, talking about organically, we need an instructor to run it. I’m actually not just the executive director of the NGO, but I’m also leading this particular project, but the shareholder is the NGO. It’s just to ensure that the incomes or the benefits goes directly to the sustainability of the NGOs who is hiring lawyers, but also to ensure that always the mission, the vision, the way we are working is aligned with the strategy, that is bigger than the law firm in itself.

Sandra Morgan 20:00
And the name?

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 20:02
The name today is Despacho Solidario. In Spanish sounds easy but in English it means Solidarity Law Firm.

Sandra Morgan 20:13
Solidarity Law Firm.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 20:14
That would be the translation into English.

Sandra Morgan 20:16
So one of the elements that I was particularly impressed with in beginning to understand this business plan is the compliance aspect. I think in my world we might call it risk management, but can you tell us what the role of the compliance officer is that you hired?

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 20:42
Well, I did a post grad in compliance. I did it because it started to be a trend in Spain. I know that in America, for example, you legislated in matters of ethics for business corporations and compliance, since the Watergate case almost late 70s. Right?

Sandra Morgan 21:02

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 21:02
We started to do it in 2010. So we imported Anglo Saxon legislation, in our context, we are Roman law based. So we had to change our way of doing things and also the way of doing business, meaning that now corporations have legal responsibility criminally, not just civilly, and it was something that was in a doctrine way of thinking, I’m talking about law, it was something very strange. It happened in 2010 and then 2015, there were most changes and it all comes from also the EU, that is mandatorily sent to the states that they have to regulate in their countries, in matter of compliance, in matter of ethics for corporations. So it was new and I thought, well, we need to also go ahead on this and if we want to be transparent, and if our vision is to be an example, leading in our sector, but not just because we are the first, I’m not talking about being profitable, I’m talking about being the light and being like a beacon, something to follow and see. If we want to do that we need to also be transparent in terms of being ethical. So I did my expertise on that, to learn all the best practices, and I also decided get along me, a compliance officer that is certified internationally, to be sure that all we do is ethical. But not just that, to also implement best practices when we decide to do something. For example, if I approve the operational plan for human resources in 2024, I need to assure that what we’re doing is in the best standards possible, that we’re taking care of that plan in terms of equality, in terms of being respectful, in terms of having good plans of prevention of sexual abridgment, for example, and I saw that no NGO in our sector has that. I think it’s because we don’t have the culture yet. So if we want to be an example, we need to have that strategy in the way, to be closer to the manifestation of the vision that we want to achieve.

Sandra Morgan 23:48
So you have what are called quality seals?

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 23:54

Sandra Morgan 23:56
I’ve been working in the NGO world for a long time. I’ve seen one here, maybe two over there. Tell us about the quality seals that you have pursued and achieved here at Fiet Gratia, and why they’re important.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 24:15
The first one is probably the most known in the world generally, because many companies use it in many areas and also some social organisations. Sometimes they also use this and apply for this certification, which is the ISO 9001. It is about quality management, to ensure that we have good processes, the transparent best practices, and that everything is well structured. So when you see that you know that people that work in the NGO are doing things properly in terms of processes. Then we work with an excellence model which is called EFQM, which is the most respected quality seal in Europe. It’s about governance., it’s about management, and it’s about vision, it’s about sustainability. So it’s a bit more modern, because actually it was reviewed last year, while the ISO 9001 was reviewed in 2015. So it’s a bit out of the current, it’s now being reviewed, actually. So this is more about being excellent in everything we do, and excellence as a way of doing things more than getting good results. So EFQM is more related to excellence in the way of working while the ISO is more related to processes. Then we also had received recognition from the public administration from the government of Spain last year in June, that is called Utilidad Publica which means that we are declared, or there’s been a statement from the government saying that we have a social value, and we have a public recognition of being useful for society, more or less, that would be the literal translation of what it means. The good thing about it is first in terms of finances, because we are not a foundation, we are an association, an NGO, our legal status in Spain doesn’t allow two donors get benefits from the tax declarations, only if you get this statement of recognition of quality from the state and it’s very difficult to get it. Last year, only four organizations in the whole country got it, so it was a good achievement, actually. It helps so we have a public recognition, and then we have excellence standards recognition and process recognition.

Sandra Morgan 26:58
Wow. So I’m loving this interview and we could go on and on, but our podcast is is supposed to be listenable in your drive to work. But I have to tell what happened this morning, and you don’t even know it yet, but Dereck Marsh, my colleague from the Global Center, and I are leading this Vanguard team from the Global Center for Women and Justice, and he was invited to meet with the responsible person at the Guardia Civil, how do we say that in English?

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 27:35
It will be law enforcement. We have two law enforcement nationally, Policia Nacional and Guardia Civil? And the Guardia Civil is the eldest and is very important, so it’ll be like an FBI.

Sandra Morgan 27:50
Yeah so it has capacity across the nation. So we arrived there for this meeting, and I get to tag along and take notes. We met some other dignitaries there. But the very first thing they did when they saw Fiona was say, ‘When Ezequiel from Fiet Gratia came last month, and spoke to our high level commanders and executives here in Guardia Civil, he was the best speaker.’ That trust was evident there, and in our work we look at the UN Palermo Protocol and our federal tip model of prevention protection, prosecution, partnership, and we add policy because policy is about processes like you’re talking about. That is where advocacy, legislative advocacy must be built on trust. And when we started to talk about that our time ended in our former conversation. So as we close this interview today and there will be more, I want you to explain your legislative advocacy, what you’re doing now, and why it’s important, and where you want to go.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw 29:29
We have two different perspectives of approaching human trafficking in Spain, also with inside feminism movement, which is regulating prostitution or having an abolitionist position. We are abolitionists because of many reasons. The main one is, I don’t believe that trafficking with the body of somebody can be in the market, for starters. But going beyond that, we have 17 different, this is just to give some context, in Spain we have more than 17 different regions that work more or less like a federal state. It’s not exactly the same but it’s an analogy to understand. So when we work across the country, I have to analyze with my team, more than 17 different rules that are different. So we want to unify criteria and that comes with an agreement, national agreement that goes beyond, I want to be careful in the way I say this, but they need to love the people more than the power. And when somebody understands that, then unity comes. And we need an agreement on that, but then we also need to work properly in an abolitionist way. We are legislating in Spain now to prosecute prostitution but I think that is not enough, because Criminal Code, criminal law doesn’t educate society, it punishes. It can prevent people of doing some behaviors, because they know the consequence, but it doesn’t educate, it won’t educate the children of eight years old consuming pornography, it doesn’t educate the man of 18 years old thinking about going out and have some party and consume prostitution. We want an abolitionist law that doesn’t just affect criminal law, but also an educational change. We need to go to the schools and talk about things that nobody wants to talk because everybody is willing to talk about how to have sex, in our context. So it’s fine to go into school and teach your child how to use a condom, but it’s not okay to talk about prostitution? So we have the tools, we have the channels, we need the sessions. In the perspective of legislation, I don’t think that just forbidding or punishing, we need to reeducate. We need to put seeds of values in the minds and to restore poisoned minds. So my perspective is, let’s legislate with the heart of restoration. Not just thinking that we need to change facts.

Sandra Morgan 32:50
Wow. Legislation has never been explained to me that way and I’m excited to see where your advocacy for education as part of the prevention aspect of combating human trafficking lands here in Spain. And with you leading the abolitionist charge, I expect very good news. Thank you so much for joining us today. We’re going to put your web link in our show notes, and we invite listeners to send us questions, because I have your email and I’ll reach out to you even after I’m back in California. Thank you Ezequiel.

Ezequiel Escobar Bellshaw

Thank you, Sandie it’s lovely to have you in Madrid. Thank you very much for this initiative and all you do.

Sandra Morgan

Wasn’t that amazing? Now we’re inviting you to take the next step, go over to endinghumantrafficking.org. That’s where you can find any links mentioned in this interview, and other resources like our anti human trafficking certificate program. We want you also to check out being a subscriber and receive episode updates in your inbox twice a month. And of course, we will be back in two weeks for our next conversation. Thanks, everybody.

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