Unfortunately, human trafficking reaches nearly every place on the planet in some way. 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 the efforts being made by humanitarians in that county to end human trafficking. Sandie and Dave also explain how Zambia is an origin, transit, and destination country.
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Dave: Sandie, today were going to talk about your recent trip abroad and how the center is working to end HT and how we’re continually working to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in the global conversation of ending HT. So I’m so glad you are just back from your trip and can share some of these tools and resources and experiences that you’ve had.
Sandie: Thank you. I just got back from Zambia. And I have to tell you honestly, when they called and asked me to come and do training on counter HT, I had to look on the Africa continent map to make sure I actually knew where Zambia was.
Dave: I would have too. In fact, I meant to do that before we stared the show here. I know it’s in southern Africa and I think it’s on the eastern coast, is it?
Sandie: No. It’s really pretty central.
Dave: Oh okay. See, it goes to show you my geography. And it’s pretty embarrassing because I took a class on African history in college and one of the things we had to do was an entire map of the continent of Africa. I speak for myself here but I think I can lump a lot of us as Americans into this bucket. We are very poor with African geography, most of us.
Sandie: I understand that. It’s there in the southern third of the continent of Africa and on the northwest side, the border is with the DR Congo which is very problematic and is one of the aspects of trafficking there and in the northeast they are bounded by Tanzania and east Malawi and then southeast Mozambique and then southern Zimbabwe and then Namibia and on the west, west Angola. One of the things that people often remember about Zambia is that is where the city of Livingston is located, on the very southern border and the famous Victoria Falls.
Dave: Oh interesting. I did not know that.
Sandie: But I was not here as a tourist, so I didn’t go see the falls.
Dave: Actually, we were talking about Zambia before we started recording today. One of the things that you mentioned to me was Zambia, from a standpoint of HT, is an origin country, a transit country, and a destination country. And this is language that a lot of folks who do work to end HT utilize. I was wondering if you could explain what you mean by those 3 things.
Sandie: Well when we say origin country it means that it’s a source of victims and there’s a reason. There’s a reason they’re more vulnerable. A lot of the trafficking I learned about from the local people, these were first hand reports, was trafficking from rural to urban. So the poverty and the lack of knowledge in the rural areas made these families much more vulnerable to trafficking tricks. That’s what my friends call them, the tricks of the traffickers. And they wanted to know, what is the profile of a trafficker? What we began to understand is you couldn’t say, “Well a trafficker is a big guy with body guards around him.” No, sometimes a trafficker was a grandma or an aunt or an uncle or a young cousin. So there wasn’t a profile. So origin is, it’s a source country. Transit, and I just told you all the countries around Zambia, and Zambia has what they call porous borders which would indicate that there are places on the border where it’s pretty easily accessible to just walk across. So from these other countries that are also origin countries going south to a destination, most likely South Africa, either to fly out to another continent, I have case studies of victims who have gone to Ireland from South Africa but they were originally from Zambia. And I’ll tell you a story a little later on about a Zambian boy who was trafficked here to the US. So origin is a source country. Transit country just means it’s like a highway to take people through. Destination is usually trafficking that is going to work in the urban areas, a lot domestic servitude and a lot of commercial sexual exploitation. And then of course, because the copper belt is on the northwest area of Zambia, trafficking in the mines and that can involve internal trafficking but it can also involve trafficking from outside. There are cases already on record of young men and even women and children that have been trafficked from as far away as Bangladesh and China to work in those mines.
Dave: You mentioned, one of those things, both here and when we were talking earlier of the vulnerability that is there in Zambia. Why so vulnerable? What is it about the culture and situation that is so vulnerable?
Sandie: Well I think partly it is about poverty but it’s also about lack of knowledge. People don’t understand the risks. So if you go to a family in a rural area where there are no resources, the idea of an education is very well communicated to people. So if you’re in a rural area where there is no school for your children and an aunt type person comes and says, you know, “Let me take your kids to the city and they can go to school and I’ll take care of them. They can just do some chores in exchange for living here.” Parents are like, “Oh, yes. I want my kids to have an education.” And off they go and then we find them in some sort of horrific slave like conditions or they’re actually sold to a brothel or to some other work industry in hotels and restaurants working 7 days a week and not getting an education.
Dave: Wow. Just an incredible number of factors that come together here that really do cause a difficult situation there. I want to ask you in a moment what you were doing there because our job as the GCWJ is to study the issues, be a voice, but ultimately to be able to make a difference and I know that’s part of what you were doing. But before I ask you that, I want to remind our listening audience that if you have questions or comments for us about anything that we’re speaking about, here on this episode, either about Zambia specifically for Sandie or on any of the topics that would be applicable for trafficking anywhere in the globe we’re here to help answer and respond to those so we can help you study the issues effectively. So there’s 2 ways to reach out to us. One way would be to leave us a message at the GCWJ here at VU and our phone number is 714.966.6361. So that is the best number to reach us at. Probably even easier though is just to send us an email. And our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the GCWJ is global center for women and justice and Sandie is the director of that center here on campus. Sandie, we’ve talked about the challenges Zambia is experiencing in relation to trafficking. What brought you there?
Sandie: Well I worked here in OC with the Sisters of Saint Joseph and have been an educator going out to predominantly their health care professionals. I’ve also done some education with all of the communities in SC associated with the catholic Justice and Peace Initiative. So when I was speaking at their symposium in March, met one of their international partners who then, the next month, sent an invitation asking me to come and do training with the. Dave we have so much available to us here. We have so many resources. We have DVDs we can show in our communities. We have lots of educational we can order online from rescueandrestore.org, from our own government. We have our GTIP report that comes out. I really felt compelled to accept their invitation and go because they said to me, and these were the magic words. They said, “We’re just starting to figure out what to do and we’re going to bring everyone to every district to this class on counter HT. So they were bringing people from the copper mine areas, from the urban areas, from the rural areas, all of their different practitioners in those areas. I would have a chance to give them everything that we have that might help them establish a solid foundation for building a counter-trafficking response. And that was exciting because you love to be part of the beginning of something.
Dave: Oh, for sure! So what did this class entail? How long was it? What do you do during a class where you have just a few days in another country? And I don’t think you’ve been to Zambia before, so you’re learning a new culture. How do you do that?
Sandie: I had to get a typhoid shot to go to Zambia. It was quite an experience just getting ready to go to Zambia. The 5 days was planned around working form 8:30 in the morning until 5 or 5:30 every day and we talked to this group that included some government representatives from the home affairs office. It included people from Salvation Army, from IOM. So there were some people that had some experience. But the different religious women’s groups from all these areas that were working everyday on local issues were particularly interested in finding out, “How do I identify someone who is going to take advantage of the people in my congregation, in my area, in my community. What does a trafficker look like?” They asked me for a profile. And then they asked me, and I love this question, “Can you give us ideas about what tricks they’re going to use?” And I like that word trick because they began to really understand that we have to be really careful. We have to be wise. We can’t just accept everything people say and we have to understand, and of course, this is terminology for what you and I know as fraud, which is of the main elements of means in identifying HT.
Dave: And I know you were sharing with me that there’s just a number of different examples of how trafficking manifests itself in Zambia. What are some of the examples or stories that you heard that might help our listening audience understand just how these things emerge in different types of the world?
Sandie: Well, what we saw there is that the socioeconomic situation definitely contributed to this because people are looking for a way out of poverty and there’s a lot of unemployment. So if you say there’s a job somewhere else, it’s pretty typical stuff, like what we always hear about, lack of education, and then they added a few other things in that we don’t see here, early marriage. If a family is really challenged in taking care of all of their children and they have a daughter who’s hitting adolescence, they will allow an early marriage, 12 or 13 years old, because his would take one more mouth away from the table. Orphans are a big problem, especially resulting from the loss of life with HIV/AIDS, and the belief in witchcraft, and the use of human organs in rituals, and the idea that sex with a virgin will cure you of AIDS. Some of those issues became very significant. We also discovered that what’s happening in the other countries around them impacts the kind of transit trafficking. You know that there’s a serious war conflict in the DR Congo and so all of the stories I heard about children being trafficked from Congo were large cases. 14 children were identified by ECPAC and 17 children with a woman who was taking them to South Africa to a buyer, literally. When they rescued those 17 children and arrested this woman, the trafficking law had not been passed yet, so she was fined the equivalent of $400 and released. Now that won’t happen. In 2008, they passed one of the strongest anti-trafficking laws in Africa. It would result in a 20 year sentence. That wasn’t in place at that time. One of the things that was particularly endearing for me when I was showing some of our DVDs to them is that I played the HHS DVD Look Beneath the Surface and one of the survivor advocate stories is a man name Gibbon. And guess where Gibbon is from.
Sandie: That’s right. He wasn’t trafficked to the US by some evil looking dark backstreet goons. He was trafficked by someone who sounded very legitimate and was part of a church organization. And this was shocking because we do have this sense that if someone says they’re from church, we should be able to trust them, right?
Sandie: If you want to hear Gibbon’s story, log on to the rescueandrestore.org website and order that DVD. It’s free and they’ll send it to you. But let me tell you a little bit about Gibbon’s story. When he was recruited, the man who recruited him recruited him to be part of a Zambian boys choir. The idea was that these boys would sing and would be able to get an education. So they were called the Zambian A Cappella Boys Choir. They were trafficked to the US in 1998. When they boys left the shanty town of Palingalinga with American Keith Grimes, they thought they were not just going to get an education and take care of themselves. They thought they were going to raise money to send back to their village to build a school for the other kids. So they were full of dreams and promises that were fraudulent. The reality was that they weren’t paid at all. They weren’t fed very well. They worked an exhausting schedule and there were 12 boys and they slept in a little trailer that the organizer pulled and every time they sang, the sponsor collected all of the money and kept it for himself. They were finally rescued through the work of a church in Texas. They began to understand at this church in Coryville, Texas that something wasn’t right here. The boys had actually gotten a little older now and they tell us that they became resistant. So Grimes could no longer control them. So he told them he was going to call the police on them and they would be arrested and deported. That didn’t happen. The police brought in immigration because these were foreign nationals and they were mostly minors. And that’s when Grimes was charged with abducting them. Now, Gibbon is a very active advocate for child trafficking victims. He was adopted by one of the members of the Baptist church that helped in their rescue. He will tell his story to anyone who will listen. One of the things that he said was instead of getting a good education, “I felt humiliated, like a puppet on a string being moved around.” The lack of being treated with dignity, really in the discussion in our small groups, that came across really strongly and the idea that this is a human rights issue. And from a faith perspective, these are children, just like our children who are created in the image of God and for someone to treat them like a commodity and to use them to make money from them is humiliating. So we all have to speak up. I’ve heard a couple people say to me, “Well, they were better off in a choir even though they weren’t treated well, they were better off than if they’d been left in their village.” No, that’s not true. And you can hear that in the passion in Gibbon’s voice with the idea of the humiliation that he suffered.
Dave: So often we look at the physical, the things we can see but we don’t really appreciate the challenges that go with the psychological trauma that goes along with a lot of these things because those are harder to see. As a culture we’re still struggling with that, not just around trafficking, but many, many things. It’s just recently we’ve started to really understand and really honor the psychological trauma that for example veterans have gone through and it’s such an important factor in trafficking to look at. I’m glad that there is that conversation that’s going on. And speaking of that, you mentioned push and pull a little a while ago. What do you mean by push and pull as far as looking at it through the lens of Zambia.
Sandie: Well push and pull factors, these are the things that create the perfect convergence you have and the issues and the circumstances that are literally like standing behind a child and pushing them toward the edge of the precipice. And then on the other side you have the demand issues that create a market for an exploited person and an exploited child. And when that happens, it’s like the perfect convergence and you have the recipe for victimization. So a little girl who is from a poor village and has no options is going to be closer to being ready to take the risk when somebody offers her a job in the city. And she’s 12-13 years old and she thinks, “If I go to the city, I get to go to school.” And of course, she doesn’t understand the risks and she takes a much bigger risk than she assumes that she’s doing.
Dave: You mentioned earlier the phrase, “Dreams are a push factor.” What do you mean by that?
Sandie: Oh, wow. Let me tell you this story. This mother in Zambia said, “My children are at risk of being trafficked because they are desperate to do something with their lives.” And here’s the mom, and she’s trying to find a better way to help her kids, and she tried to find work, and she even took the risk of to South Africa. Then she was a trafficking victim. She was trying to protect her kids. Her children didn’t have any options so she had dreams for her children and she took a risk because it might better their future. The idea that there is something better out there, that if I leave this place where there is no opportunity, there is no job, there is no education, there is no way to go forward. And here’s the thing, even people in very rural areas have access to some TV, every once in a while some internet. Internet isn’t too available. I had a pretty sketchy time getting online. In the 5 days, I got online twice. So some of the things we take for granted are not easily done there, but even though they’re way out there with very limited access, the dreams, the pictures, the billboards, the magazines, the television show a life where people have professions and go to school and have jobs and live in homes with running water and all of these kinds of things. So having a dream to live like that will be a push factor. We sometimes think of push as risk because this person isn’t getting enough to eat or doesn’t have a roof over their head, but just the dream of having something better can become a push factor.
Dave: This entire conversation is just a reminder to me of the fact that studying the issues, being a voice, is so important in really being able to end this issue. And so from that standpoint, I’m just wondering, before we let our listeners go, how does the center do that? How does the center support this? For those who are listening and thinking, we need some tools or recourses for this as well, how can they tap into the center’s resources?
Sandie: Well one of the things that you can do is go to our gcwj.vanguard.edu website. There is a menu for resources and podcasts and of course you can go back through, by today that will be, 31 podcasts and listen and review some of the themes. And we keep going back to these themes and looking at them again and adding to our knowledge. We also have links to really good resources, we have some files there, we have access to previous conferences we’ve done on HT, and we’re building a network of people who have likeminded goals and we want to create a network that is literally global. These partners now in Zambia are already planning for more training. And one of the really cool things is on my way home, if you may recall, Dave, we received an email from a gentleman in South Africa.
Dave: I do recall. He’s a listener of this podcast.
Sandie: Okay so I met Nico through this podcast, and he is the chairman of Missing Children Organization in South Africa. So Nico and one of the board members, Tom actually met me at the airport in S.A. when I was on my way home and we sat and the time flew by as we began to dream about how we can partner in S.A. because Zambian children are trafficked to S.A., Congolese children are trafficked to S.A. And S.A., we’re hoping, is going to have their TVPA passed really soon because we need stronger legislation. But beyond that, we need people in the community who are educated, who have, like you said, studied the issues. And we need them to be ready to speak up and to do something to intervene on behalf of children.
Dave: There’s so much that’s coming together from a resource standpoint for the center to be able to support people globally. I remember when the center’s name was first chosen, GCWJ and at the time we didn’t have major global presence and now more and more every day we really have become a global organization to support people all around the globe, wherever they. If you are interested as a listener, one of the things I would encourage you to do is, as Sandie mentioned, go to the website it’s a great place for resources and it’s also a great way just to get some more information and stay connected with us. If you go to the gcwj.vanguard.edu website, you’ll see there’s a new video that we just released. It’s about a 3-4min video about the center. You’ll see Sandie’s smiling face on there and a little overview of how we work. So I really encourage you to take a look at that video, you’ll get an overview of how the center works. And then, at the bottom left hand side of the page of our website, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter, I don’t know if we’ve mentioned this on the podcasts before. The center is a producing a monthly newsletter with tools, resources, updating you on what Sandie’s doing with her travels, different opportunities for education. So I really encourage you, if you have not already and you have a passion for this topic, which I’m sure you do if you’re listening to this episode, then hop on to the gcwj.vanguard.edu website and at the bottom left corner just put in your email address, sign up for our monthly newsletter. We’ll be able to stay connected with you, and get information out to you so that you can be that voice in helping us to end HT as well. Sandie, that’s going to just about do it for our time today. Time flies! So as always if you have comments or questions or feedback for us, 2 ways to reach us, our listener hotline is at 714.966.6361 and of course our email address is email@example.com and of course we are sponsored by and hosted by the GCWJ at VUSC. Thanks, Sandie.
Sandie: Thanks, Dave.
Dave: Have a great week and see you in 2 weeks.