32 – Push and Pull Factors in Trafficking

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It’s important to understand both the push and pull factors in human trafficking. Sandra Morgan, the Director of the Global Center for Women & Justice and Dave Stachowiak, one of the Center’s board members, discuss Sandie’s recent trip to Zambia and how push and pull factors can lead to human trafficking.

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Dave: Sandie on the last episode, number 31, we talked about your trip to Zambia last month and all of the experiences you had. We talked about Zambia and trafficking in that part of the world. If you missed that episode, you may want to go back and listen to episode 31 because some of what we’re going to talk about today is going to be a continuation of that conversation. But don’t worry if you didn’t listen to that one already because we’re going to be talking about some new things too and you can always go back later and pick that up as well. But I thought, Sandie we kind of transitioned from our conversation just about Zambia on the last episode to now starting to look at some of the factors around trafficking and educating ourselves more effectively that really came out during your interview last time. One of the things we’ve talked about on previous episodes is the push factors and the pull factors in trafficking. So before we jump in to that, could you just remind us all about what are push and pull factors and why is that language used?

Sandie: We say push factors because we want to identify what makes a victim vulnerable? What are the issues that push them closer to the edge? When I was in Zambia, my class was just desperate to understand why is this happening to our kids? The children in our communities, what makes them so vulnerable to this? Because we look at the law of supply and demand, there’s a demand and we know the sellers go look for a supply. If you think about this in terms of agriculture, when we have a demand for more tomatoes, then we go to the farmers and we don’t look for fruit that’s not ripe, we look for the fruit that’s just really ready to pick. Well push factors create that low hanging fruit that’s just ready, easily accessible by the supplier. And some of those push factors are very disturbing in a country with low socioeconomic circumstances. So you’re going to find the really obvious things like poverty that is a push factor. You’ll see the fact that there’s unemployment, there’s nowhere to find a job, access to education. But some of the more personal and individual push factors, we don’t often think of here in the U.S. We’ve talked about things like child sexual abuse becomes push factor. But whether you’re a girl or a boy in a cultural setting in Africa is a huge issue. For instance, if a parent has to make a choice about buying shoes for one of their children, they have the money to buy one pair of shoes. They’re going to buy shoes, according to the people I talked to there, for the boy. And their logic is, he needs to go to school, and he has to have shoes to go to school, because he needs an education. She’s going to get married so she doesn’t need an education. So gender becomes a push factor. And in fact, there’s a report that comes out every year. I think the UN does it, the State of the World’s Children Report.  And this idea of gender as a push factor is related to literacy rates. Fewer girls have the same level of education. Many of them are competing primary school, but they don’t go on to complete elementary and very few complete secondary school. So if you can imagine, Dave, that your son Luke, his highest level of education would be 3rd grade. Can you imagine his chance in life to compete?

Dave: It’s scary to think about. I often think about him when we’re talking about these stories because it’s just incredible to imagine that he’d be in any of these situations and yet unfortunately, so many of the children in the world are in these situations all the time. It’s just really hard to get one’s head around. That’s one of the reasons I’m so glad we’re talking about the issue so we can educate people who ultimately can make a difference for the world’s children.

Sandie: One of the definitions of HT is child marriage. This is because the adult male purchases a child to marry. This becomes a trafficking issue. So when you look at the State of the World Children Report and children, girls under the age of 15, 9 out of 100 are already married. This becomes a family practice to reduce the number of mouths to feed around the table and it also provides an income because there’s a bride price that’s paid.

Dave: Like a dowry?

Sandie: Yeah and the stories that I was told didn’t make this like a huge price. One story from a village that one of the teachers told me: a father sold his daughter and found out later if he had asked for a little bit more, he would have gotten enough to buy a bigger television than the one he actually purchased. And the other aspect of gender being a push factor is expectations for violence. When they interviewed adolescents between the age of 10 and 18 for this report, 55 of the boys said its okay for husbands to beat their wives.

Dave: 55 out of…?

Sandie: 100. But here’s the startling thing, 61 girls out of 100 said its okay for husbands to beat their wives. So this idea of being a girl as a push factor, it just totally raises your risk of being trafficked. Then if you’re an orphan because of HIV/AIDS or some other circumstance, that pushes you closer to the edge as well. If you’re running away from some kind of abuse and you’re on your own, you’re living on the street, if your mother is a widow; she has no resources that increase your risk, and if you’re  are an ethnic minority. And it’s difficult for us when we look at another country to identify who are the ethnic minorities. But when this issue was raised in the classroom, you could see the knowing looks and the hands going up in the class, “Oh yes. We have this ethnic group and they’re always marginalized in our community.” So this becomes something that just pushes you closer to the edge. We did a little exercise in class. We had a young man stand in the front of the class and a young girl. We began to go through these exercises and we created this role playing idea so that each one of these push factors would appropriately, literally push the person towards the line, close to where the trafficker was standing. And the boy hardly moved at all. The girl though, it didn’t take very long before she was really literally on the edge. And the trafficker, his only goal was to make money. He was going to be the supplier for the demand. And we’ll spend another day looking at what demand looks like on the continent of Africa. But he was just ready to reach out as soon as she got close enough, as soon as her need to find another way because she had no options behind her, he was ready. And that’s what push factors are. You don’t have to be a really wily, clever trafficker if the push factors put her so close to the edge, she’ll just fall, there’s a tipping point.

Dave: That’s one of the things I remember we talked about in episode 31, that because of the socioeconomic situation, because of the cultural situations, there’s a lot of vulnerability that’s already there in a country like Zambia, that it doesn’t really take much for someone to come in with the promise of a better life and financial resources to really motivate people to want to explore that. And of course, unfortunately, it’s not often the case, in fact, many times not the case that there really is a great opportunity there and it’s actually the entrance to something like trafficking.

Sandie: The people in my class were less concerned with international transit trafficking. But what they really wanted to understand was internal trafficking. It was a route that went from rural to urban and the cities are growing at astronomical rates, so there is a great demand for cheap or free labor, slave labor. The rural areas have no job opportunities, they’re very poor and they want to have the benefits of western life that you find in the cities. They want to have television and computers and things like that, so there’s this push-pull between rural and urban and because education is lower in the rural areas, educating the parents becomes the number one prevention strategy. Many of the class participants left there with ideas about going to the villages. Now, most of the ways that we’ve done awareness events wouldn’t work there. We talked about strategies and someone said, “Oh we’ll take this literature because the government produced these wonderful fliers.” And someone else said, “Well the people in my village couldn’t read that.” Oh my goodness! So you can’t just pass out fliers and say you’ve done prevention. What it’s going to take, in this context, is one person talking to another person and explaining what these are. How do you do that? But what if you’re dealing with the issue of kids with no parents? Or children whose father is no longer in the picture and so now there’s a widow, what do you do then?

Dave: I don’t know.

Sandie: They asked me what I would recommend. And I’ll tell you, Dave, coming from a western perspective, I want to be careful not to say, “Well this is how we do it in Orange County.”  Because in Orange County, we have literally millions of dollars in resources.

Dave: Right. Well and it’s a very different world and a very different culture too.

Sandie: So, I decided what I needed to do was go back to a resource that would transcend culture and could be adapted. So I went back to the Bible. Because I discovered a long time ago that one of the 1st child trafficking stories, success stories, because it was prevented, is actually in the 2nd book of Kings.

Dave: Oh, interesting!

Sandie: Isn’t that great? And it provides a wonderful biblical presentation of a prevention strategy. So here’s how it goes: A woman goes to Elijah and she says, “My husband has died and the creditors are coming to take my 2 sons as slaves for our debt.” So it’s a typical push-pull story. She’s a widow, there’s a debt, and they’re going to take the 2 little boys as slaves. So what does Elijah do? Our typical western response, I mean I can see, Dave, you would be very willing to get your checkbook out and rescue those boys and write a check.

Dave: Mmhmm. Sure.

Sandie: But what’s going to happen next month? She’s going to be back with the same problem. So Elijah did not do that. He didn’t tell a story and then pass a plate. What he did was very different. He did a personal assessment of her circumstances. He asked her, “What do you want? What do you have in your house?”  Her response was pretty typical she said, “I don’t have anything.” I’m sure she’s thinking so why would I be here asking for help if I had something, right?

Dave: Yeah.

Sandie: And then she remembers, Oh, I do have a little flask of olive oil.  A flask of olive oil is like carrying an extra battery in your pocket if you’re using a flashlight to get home at night. That’s about all that is. It’s not enough to cook a full meal. So then Elijah tells her, “Go and borrow all of the empty jars from your friends and your family in the community.” So Elijah engages the entire community, not in giving anything to her, but just providing empty vessels. Then this is the part where I don’t know how, I just know hope springs in my heart because I know that there is a unique aspect of how we interact with God.  God just did something. She was obedient. She got all these jars. Her boys helped her and then they closed the door and she started pouring oil in the flask and filled up all of those jars. And she goes back to Elijah and says, “The jars are full.” And he says, “Go and sell the oil and you and your boys will live on that.” So she went back. Now she went to the family and friends with these previously empty jars and they bought something they need. Olive oil is a daily staple of their life. So it wasn’t charity, it was something they actually needed. In business models that we develop to address HT, we need to make sure it is a viable business that will be sustainable for the long hall, not something that’s just a fad type thing. She became an olive oil business woman. Nobody did anything for those little boys. They did everything for her. They had a woman who was empowered. Now then, she can take care of her sons and she is an olive oil business woman. And that’s going to be sustainable as she raises her sons as part of a community that doesn’t look down on her for needing charity but as a woman who is part of the socioeconomic aspect of that community.

Dave: When you think about this through the lens of Zambia, Sandie, and the African countries, I know there have been some really interesting models that have emerged in recent years on microloans and micro lending. I think about Mohammed Unis and Indonesia, I believe, is where he has done work. Is that an avenue for women particularly in impoverished areas being able to get loans and start businesses?

Sandie: Oh, it’s wonderful!

Dave: Has that been successful in your experience?

Sandie: Across the board in every evaluation of child trafficking, the number one prevention tool is a parent. And in circumstances where kids are particularly vulnerable, that parent is often a single mom, a widow, or just a single mom, or someone in the community who has taken responsibility for a child. And when we look at business as an avenue for prevention, equipping those women to have their own businesses, micro lending, microenterprise, all kinds of different strategies for this. IMF, the International Monetary Fund, actually tells us that women are better at paying back those microloans because they want to see other women empowered. They’re very successful. Even IMF also tells us that when you do education in this environment, there’s actually a better return on investment for educating girls than for boys. Not that we should stop education boys, but educating girls contributes to the socioeconomic growth in a community. And there are some pretty obvious reasons for that. It seems to be more natural that when boys further their education, now they want to go out and conquer the world so they leave the community, whereas when you educate a girl, she stays and reinvests that education in her local community which makes the whole community healthier. Business as a model for doing prevention can be strategically focused at the most at risk mothers and aunts and grandmothers so they can take care of the children in their care. We have to remember especially in areas where HIV/AIDS has decimated the population; I was told by one health care worker that at least 14,000 children are, right now, orphans because of HIV/AIDS.

Dave: Incredible.

Sandie: So how do we help them? Well we have to find 1 person that’s going to be the adult in their life to make sure they’re getting an education, they’re checking in with them, so they don’t take that risky job that aunt so and so or the traveling preacher that comes into town offers them. They are very at risk for taking anything that might offer hope of stability if they don’t have any options.

Dave: And going back to our conversation last time about dreams being a push factor, Sandie, one thing you were mentioning reminded me of something I heard a while ago. If you could educate me on this and then our audience too, in regards to some of the micro lending, someone told me a while ago that there was some concern particularly in male dominated cultures that there was some concern that as women started businesses and became successful that it resulted in jealousy on the part of the husband or the men in the culture and that was getting women into trouble as well. Have you had any experience with that, heard about that? Is that still a concern for the micro lending movement?

Sandie: Yes, actually the whole idea of the resistance in the community by males who feel threatened by this has definitely been addressed and you can find literature to show where that does become problematic. That though, means that we just have to do a better job educating the male members of the community. We talk about the fact that this is not a zero sum game. In a zero sum game, if you can imagine a pie and there are 6 pieces of pie and in the previous model you, as the male, had 5 pieces of the pie and I, as the female, had 1 piece of the pie. Now in order to build our community and to make our children safer and all the things we’re talking about, we want to empower the women and they’re not going to be able to do that with only one piece of the pie. So the response then is resistance because I don’t want to give up my 5 just so you can have equality. If you’re in a zero sum game, the conversation is over. So it’s important to communicate to the whole community that this is not a zero sum game and actually when we do this, we have a bigger pie, so there are more pieces for everyone. I’ll have to find you the story and send you the link but one great story was a micro finance project in another country in Africa. The wife took on this developing her own business and at first the husband was very resistant to that. But eventually, she was so successful that her husband became one of the employees. He is proud of her because they have more money than ever and they hired several of the other relatives. So she has become an employer and increased their socioeconomic standing of everyone in the community. No one is against having increased socioeconomic resources. She is brilliant. She paid back her micro finance loan and continues to give in to that local project so that other women in other communities have the same opportunity. So communicating that it is not a zero sum game, that’s the secret to overcoming male resistance.

Dave: It is interesting how many of us in situations like this where it seems like people are giving up something, there is fear that comes to practice there first. It’s amazing. As you know, Sandie, I spend part of my career studying organizations and training folks in leadership. And it’s amazing. Whenever a leader or organization is giving something up, fear comes into that extensively. And that’s a big obstacle to work though. It sounds like that communication, that education piece is really key. In speaking about education, how do we help parents protect kids when we’re talking about having parents who are empowered and having good education and good resources? How does that work?

Sandie: I think it requires, especially in the context like we’re talking about in Zambia. It requires on the ground, local, trusted people. So the women that, it was mostly women that I was working with in Zambia, that live in that district, that work as teachers, as nurses, one of the women that I love talking to everyday, her name was Sister Phillipa. She has one job: going out into the areas where children are not going to school, which by not going to school, their futures are impacted significantly. She wants to get these kids going to school. Well that means she has to go talk to their families. She has to find out why Johnny-that’s not a normal name there. But, why is he not going to school? Because its boys too, not just girls. I don’t want to paint the picture that it’s only girls. So she finds out well it’s because we don’t have money to buy shoes. So she finds shoes for the kids. They may not be brand new but she finds shoes for them. And then she finds out well they don’t have money for the books because part of the education is free but part of it, some of the supplies, have to be purchased by the parents. Or they only have enough money for one of their four children. So she begins to find out why they’re not going to school and plugging in those holes. When I learned more about her particular focus, what she does every day, she has 45 children that she makes sure that the families are making sure these kids go to school. She said it wouldn’t do any good to round these kids up and put them in a nice little institution and have school in the institution for them. We want to keep them with their families but we have to help their families learn how to make sure that their kids are getting an education. So she goes to the home, she talks to the parents and I can imagine, after this class, some of the things that Sister Phillipa is going to be saying to the moms of these kids.

Dave: It really is addressing the deeper concerns and issues that are there. I think that a lot of us, Sandie, I know for myself, we see a need and we want to fix it right away. We want to write a check and do something. And those things can be a step in the right direction but realty, if it’s going to be sustainable, it really does require that long term conversation, that education, the work that Sister Phillipa is doing on a daily basis to engage and empower people. It’s just an incredible story of dedication and graciousness to do that kind of work.

Sandie: Well and it reminds us to ask questions first, just like Elijah did. “What do you want? What do you have in your house? What are your resources? Let’s start there.”

Dave: And boy, the questions are so key. Hopefully we have modeled that well throughout this podcast of really trying to understand the issues, be a voice, and make a difference, and understand that the key word there comes along with questions and us really asking questions. I hope that as a member of this audience that you are also ready and willing to ask us questions. So I hope that we’ve generated some questions for you today on the push and pull factors. So there’s a few ways that you can reach out to us so that you can understand the issues more effectively. And that would be our listener hotline which is at 714.966.6361. You can certainly reach out to us there. And the other way to reach us is by email and that is gcwj@vanguard.edu.  If you send an email there, it will get to us and we will be able to respond to your question as well. And Sandie, one other quick reminder for folks is to visit our website. You can reach the website at gcwj.vanguard.edu. There is a link in the lower left there to sign up for our monthly newsletter. So be sure to drop us your email there if you want to stay up to date on Sandie’s travels and work that the GCWJ is up to because we’re here to constantly support the process of ending HT.

Sandie: Start thinking now about coming to the conference in March 2013. You can go online and register.

Dave: Great! Sandie, I’ll see you again in 2 weeks.

Sandie: Thanks Dave!

Dave: Take care everybody!

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