During the last decade, annual flooding in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam has become more severe and rural communities who depend upon this increasingly unstable ecosystem are facing greater difficulty in meeting basic needs. In such vulnerable positions, families and individuals must make tough decisions and increasingly these choices include accepting fraudulent offers of remunerated work from human traffickers or selling daughters into prostitution to provide support for the rest of the family. Unfortunately, this scenario is not unique. Around the world, whether due to floods, droughts, or resource degradation, rural families and individuals who depend upon natural resources for their livelihoods are facing stressors that make them prime targets for human traffickers.
Human trafficking, also known as modern slavery, is one of the most pressing human rights crises facing the world today. There are currently as many as 27 million victims worldwide who are being exploited for forced labor or sexual purposes. Of those victims, the overwhelming majority are women or girls and most are from rural communities. Further, trafficking takes many forms—from overt slavery to debt-bondage to the forced marriages of young girls—however, all manifestations deprive individuals of liberty and most often involve violent abuse.
Despite the horrors of trafficking, this is a crisis that we can end during our lifetime. At New Course we are passionate about ending modern slavery and recognize the need for innovative, multifaceted solutions. While, anti-trafficking approaches have traditionally focused on reducing poverty, increasing awareness about trafficking, as well as strengthening legal deterrents, few interventions have targeted the deep-rooted links between poverty, environmental degradation and vulnerability to trafficking.
At New Course we see a new way to build secure communities and reduce human trafficking by focusing on the root causes of rural women and girls’ vulnerability to trafficking, namely environmental degradation and diminishing natural resource access. From the Yatta district of Kenya, where efforts to improve food security and stabilize farmlands have decreased the number of girls forced into prostitution, to the Madhya Pradesh province of India, where restoring forests and regaining common resource access has freed women and their families from debt-bondage, engaging women to restore environments and stabilize natural resources has a powerful effect to reduce vulnerability and foster resilience.
In concert with traditional approaches to trafficking prevention, our Root Solutions initiative enables women to restore and secure their resources while also equipping them in climate change adaptation and mitigation. With a focus on women’s unique roles and the environmental drivers of vulnerability we will be able to more effectively reduce trafficking and ensure both secure communities and environments.