Edward M. Kennedy Center, an American space in Dhaka observed Human Trafficking Awareness Month virtually throughout the month of January with mock debate, virtual discussion, and awareness-raising over social media programs.
The observance started on 12 January 2022 with a mock debate participated by the debaters of Jahangirnagar University Debating Society.
According to a press release, the debate, conducted in parliamentary format, was on "Lack of awareness is the only cause of human trafficking," where students representing the government shared their rationale in favor of the topic, and the ones from the opposition group opposed their ideas and provided counter arguments with examples and other reasons of human trafficking which they believe are bigger reasons for human trafficking.
Later on 30 January, a virtual discussion was organized in collaboration with WARBE Development Foundation, on "In Quest of the Root Causes of Human Trafficking in Bangladesh". The discussion was moderated by Md. Riaz Uddin Khan, an expert in the prevention of human trafficking, with Center for Women and Children Studies President Professor Ishrat Shamim, UN Women's Programme Manager Tapati Saha and WARBE Development Foundation's Chairman Syed Saiful Haque as panelists.
Ishrat Shamim, President of Center for Women and Children Studies, emphasized on the vulnerability of marginalized people along with poverty as the root cause of human trafficking. 'It is counterproductive to say that poverty is the cause of trafficking without defining the term,' she said.
Tapati Saha, Programme Manager of Women's Economic Empowerment Programme of UN Women, said that, 'In a UN report of 2017, a study in 110 countries revealed that 70% of the human trafficking victims are women.' She believes that the root cause of the problem is the lack of access to economic resources and inequality among countries.
Syed Saiful Haque, said that the regular path to migrate sometimes requires a higher cost than that offered by the brokers. He also added that the Bangladesh government has a national plan of action to reduce trafficking, where the prevention strategy largely focuses on bringing the traffickers to book rather than making the victims aware of the wrong paths. He concluded with a call for collective action to reduce the human trafficking.
Two victims of trafficking were among the participants to share their experiences. One of them wanted to improve her financial situation while the other victim was forced to look for better opportunities abroad for her daughter's treatment.
On the last day of January, EMK Center and WARBE Development Foundation hosted the last virtual discussion of the month-long observance, on the rehabilitation of human trafficking victims which was attended by the President of Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association Advocate Salma Ali, Winrock International's Team Leader Dipta Rakshit, and UNODC's National Programme Officer Muhammad Mahdy Hassan. The session was moderated by Jasiya Khatoon, Director of WARBE Development Foundation.
Dipta Rakshit, from her experience of leading the Ashshash project, emphasized on integration of the victims rather than rehabilitation. She said, 'The biggest challenge is that our society is yet to be sensitized on how to accept the victims of human trafficking. Instead of helping the victims, people often make their life tough.'
Citing some of the examples of rehabilitation, Advocate Salma Ali shared her insights on how the victims who have been rehabilitated can help to educate their society. 'Some of the female victims who returned from abroad were not in a situation to go back to their villages. But our business leaders came forward and provided them with a job. This can be a good way to support them,' she added.
Muhammad Mahdy Hassan, National Programme Officer of UNODC, emphasized on considering different indicators apart from gender equality while desiging programs on the rehabilitation of the victims of human trafficking. He claimed that they have developed a toolkit to help their partners to design rehabilitation frameworks for the victims.
This marked the end of the month-long observance of the campaign. Since 2010, the United States of America has dedicated the month to raising awareness about human trafficking and educating the public about how to identify and prevent this crime.