Monday, July 7, 2008

Anti-trafficking children’s campaign kicks off in northwest Romania

07 Jul 2008

Some 100 children from Cluj County northwest Romania, recently took part in an anti trafficking campaign organised by World Vision Romania in partnership with Ratiu Foundation for Democracy, which aims to prevent child trafficking for sexual and forced labour purposes.

The campaign targeting 12-14 year olds will be replicated in all 13 rural communities where World Vision runs community development programs in the new school year.

Romania is a 'source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour', according to the Trafficking in Persons Report issued by the US State Department in June 2008.

Since entering the EU, Romanians are now accessing new opportunities for 'working' abroad, which in some cases mean forced labour, enslavement or prostitution.

Students from rural communities who travel to the city to study are now more vulnerable to traffickers than ever before – giving the anti-trafficking campaign a renewed sense of urgency.

A play inspired by a real case study illustrated the drama of a young woman, who had been deceived by someone she had trusted. A former schoolmate abducted her and forced her into a prostitution ring. The 'victim' later became a recruiter herself because she did not have another option.

"In the beginning I could see that many of the young people were unaware of the potential danger of becoming recruited into a forced labour situation or in a prostitution ring. Their first reaction was to take the information lightly, like something that cannot happen to them. But the play performed today helped them see the threat was real', said Gratiela Anghelus Anti-Trafficking project coordinator with Ratiu Foundation for Democracy.

'I was taken aback when I saw the girl beaten, lying on the floor and forced to become a prostitute. I think I got scared that something like that could happen to any one of us', said 14-year-old Alexandra.

After discussing how victims can turn into traffickers, students also learnt valuable information about how to verify information if approached for work abroad and also vital steps to take should they need to escape some form of abduction.

'I did not know that these things can really happen to students my age. I saw something on the news but I thought somehow it was their fault, which is not true. Now I know one can fall into a recruiter's hand only by smoking a cigarette, not knowing that it contains drugs', said 14-year-old Andra.

'The play confronted the adolescents with a totally unfamiliar situation as very few ever thought such a scenario can really happen. But I am glad that all the students were very receptive and they have learnt something valuable', said Ghita Todica, World Vision Social Worker.

The Trafficking in Persons report recognises the Romanian Government's efforts to reduce human trafficking but at the same time affirms that the Government is not yet fully compliant with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

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