I am a Canadian that has called various parts of the world home. My career in child protection and anti-trafficking requires me to travel to monitor field programs quite a lot. I have been fortunate to witness first-hand the needs, and the incredible responses that overseas aid programs, NGOs and local communities are delivering in partnership to protect people from exploitation and abuse.
Most of the time it is ‘business as usual’ for me – but often on flights home, I reflect that none of this would be possible without Australian aid.
World Vision, with the support of Australian aid, runs the largest regional anti-trafficking program that works to prevent vulnerable young people from being trafficked; to protect human trafficking survivors, and promote improved anti-trafficking government policies.
In the first six months of 2015 alone, the program reached over 125,000 people with messages that raise awareness and change attitudes and behaviours to help reduce risk of trafficking. Nearly 3,000 youth regularly attended youth club activities where they learned about safe migration. That is 3000 young people who not only are at less risk of trafficking – but are also better prepared to protect themselves and their friends if they are put at risk.
Australian aid works for children.
And when you help children, you strengthen the resilience of their communities. You enable them to better protect themselves and be less reliant on aid programs in the future.
How Australian aid protects children from exploitation, abuse and violence can be difficult to show in reports, facts and figures. This is especially true for work that prevents children becoming vulnerable in the first place. For example, World Vision runs life skills and youth protection programs that are funded by Australian aid that are attended by thousands of children and youth.
These programs help prepare adolescents for their transition into adulthood and protect them from negative influences – from drugs to risk of exploitation from traffickers. Many of these things we take for granted when we have a good education and learn these life skills informally from parents and teachers. But vulnerable youth who don’t have such support networks around them would face huge challenges without these programs.
From both the formal assessments we conduct of these programs and from the informal chats I have with young people when I visit, we know these programs work. Children and youth who participate are less vulnerable, more able to protect themselves and avoid risky situations.
It is estimated that there are more people trafficked in the greater Mekong sub-region (that’s Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam) than anywhere else in the world. That means, child exploitation is happening in our neighbourhood more than anywhere else in our world, and through Australian Aid, we can play our part in keeping children safe, and give them the opportunity to build a better future.