2014 was a challenging year for trafficking prevention organizations like COSA. We understand that sex trafficking and child exploitation are intimately linked to the lack of access to education for girls, especially in the isolated communities of northern Thailand. Sixty-two million girls around the world do not attend school and human trafficking is the largest, fastest growing criminal industry next to drug trafficking, collecting about 32 billion dollars annually.
In Thailand alone, the Global Slavery Index estimates that there are 475,300 people trapped in modern forms of slavery including sex trafficking. Over the past fifteen years that I have spent working on the ground with remote communities, village leaders and Thai authorities, I have only seen human trafficking grow into a more prevalent, organized, and lucrative industry.
The Thai Government took a positive step forward in October 2013 by ratifying an international protocol on trafficking in persons. Yet their inactivity in addressing modern-day slavery and government corruption led to the country’s automatic downgrade to Tier 3 – the lowest ranking – in the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report.
It is easy to become dispirited and succumb to the challenges that face us each day in the anti-trafficking world. But we remain hopeful because we see upstanding leaders in remote communities fighting trafficking and reversing longstanding social norms. We see families in these communities starting to value their daughters’ education. Families that were once the beneficiaries of their daughters’ exploitation are now becoming leaders of social change. Most importantly, we see young girls whom, after being rescued from a brothel, become actors against sexual exploitation and trafficking in their communities. These empowered communities, resilient families, and determined leaders are our inspiration and our source of motivation as we close a chapter on 2014 and move forward onto 2015.
We believe in equal opportunity for girls to receive education. Each year a girl stays in school, her chances of falling victim to domestic servitude and sexual slavery significantly decreases. The probability of her becoming pregnant as a child also decreases. We believe that all children should experience security and receive adequate health care and nutrition to grow into healthy, active members of their communities. These children will one day turn into the leaders who choose to educate their daughters, pull themselves out of poverty, and reject trafficking. This is community empowerment and this is our vision.
Human trafficking is without a doubt a multi-faceted issue that requires a comprehensive approach to solve. COSA represents an upstream approach that is respectful of local traditions, inclusive of all actors, and responsive to changing conditions and needs. The information presented in the 2014 Annual Report reflects our efforts to prevent human trafficking in northern Thailand.
On behalf of COSA, thank you for your participation and attention towards this global human crisis. We look forward to bringing you an even more successful 2015.
Founder & CEO
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