Around the world, rural families and individuals who depend upon natural resources for their livelihoods are facing stressors that increase their vulnerability to conflict and human trafficking. Today more than sixty percent of the world’s poor, the majority of whom are women, live in environmentally vulnerable areas where environmental degradation, resource scarcity, and climactic shifts are exacerbating the insecurity of their livelihoods and exposing them to increased risk of violence and exploitation.
Resource scarcity and degradation fuel inter- and intra-community conflict. Overlooking environmental factors in post-conflict peacebuilding greatly increases the risk of relapse. In other situations, resource scarcity and degradation means that families and individuals must make difficult decisions; these survival strategies often include accepting fraudulent offers of remunerated work from human traffickers or selling daughters into prostitution to provide temporary support for the rest of the family.
However, in the Yatta district of Kenya, efforts to improve food security and stabilize farmlands have decreased the number of girls forced into prostitution. Meanwhile, in the Albertine Rift of the DRC, efforts to promote intercommunity cooperation and engage both men and women in natural resource management have decreased the incidence of conflict. At New Course we see a new way to deliver peace and prosperity, security and hope for millions of people around the world. By targeting the root causes of insecurity we can prevent conflicts, effectively restore peace, and reduce rates of human trafficking.
Reducing the vulnerability faced by impoverished rural communities requires a holistic vision of insecurity’s roots. At New Course we see the intrinsic link between environmental degradation, poverty, and community vulnerability. Our programs target these links and account for the exponentially increased vulnerability of women and girls.
While women are the most vulnerable to conflict and trafficking, accounting for the vast majority of trafficking victims and bearing the brunt of conflict’s repercussions, they also possess knowledge and abilities that, if harnessed and engaged, can bolster community resiliency to external threats and foster inter-community cooperation. Further, when women are engaged and resources are secured, undesirable survival strategies, such as risky migratory choices or selling one’s children, are no longer employed.