Realities of human trafficking hit home through theatre plays

by World Vision - MEERO | World Vision Middle East/Eastern Europe/ CA office
Tuesday, 22 November 2011 11:11 GMT

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A World Vision project in Bosnia and Herzegovina is using drama and theatre to protect young people like Zorana from becoming victims of human trafficking. Fourteen-year-old Zorana and her peers are learning that trafficking isn't a random event; a Hollywood style abduction that sees girls thrown into prostitution. Trafficking, they are learning, is calculated and targeted at the vulnerable... With one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe, 60% of young people aged 16 to 30 in Bosnia and Herzegovina don't work. Two thirds of young people want to leave the country in search of a better life, making Bosnia and Herzegovina fertile ground for traffickers. During one of the theatre plays a young girl is returning home from school. Soon she is intercepted by an unknown man who claims he can help her fulfil her dreams of becoming a model abroad. He compliments her. She is flattered. He gives her hope of a better life. She believes him. But instead of becoming a world famous model, she becomes a victim of human trafficking, either working as a domestic labourer, a prostitute or a beggar. 'I think it is very important that we learn about trafficking, so that we can stay away from the people that want to harm us,' says 14-year-old Zorana from Ro&${esc.hash}269;evi&${esc.hash}263;i primary school, adding that 'it is especially important to know how to use modern technology properly and protect ourselves'. According to the US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, Bosnian trafficking victims were subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour in Azerbaijan, Slovenia, Croatia and other European countries. Local girls, particularly Roma, were trafficked using forced marriage, for the purpose of domestic servitude. Roma boys and girls, some as young as four years old, were subjected to forced begging by organised crime groups. Some NGOs reported that children as young as 12, are subjected to sex trafficking by traffickers who use blackmail and drugs as tools of coercion and control. The 'Combating Trafficking in Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina' project, funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and co-funded by World Vision Canada, consists of both theatre plays and theory workshops. The plays, conducted by World Vision's partner NGO 'Genesis', are both compelling and child-friendly and illustrate hypothetical risk situations for recruitment by traffickers. They also help students to visualise what they learn through the theory workshops. 'How many of you have a social network account?' asks one of the trainers. All of the children gathered in a classroom in Ro&${esc.hash}269;evi&${esc.hash}263;i primary school raise their hands. 'How many 'friends' do you have on social networks?' he continues to ask. 'I have more than a thousand!' announces a girl from the third row. The trainer then proceeds to explain the dangers of having personal information available to strangers. The children listen carefully, some of them for the first time aware of the dangers that are lurking in the real world. 'The idea of the project is to protect young people from becoming a trafficking victim. Our goal is to bring together different actors, local partners, government officials, non-governmental organisations, to make this happen,' explains Matthew Stephens, former Anti-trafficking coordinator for World Vision in the Middle East and Eastern Europe Region. 'World Vision feels that child trafficking is an issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina that needs to be addressed'. 'Combating Trafficking in Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina' is a country wide project, implemented in nine municipalities within Tuzla, Banja Luka and Zenica, taking in 12 schools. It aims to reach around 1.500 students. The State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA), police departments of municipalities where the project is conducted, as well as the Office of the State Coordinator for combating trafficking and illegal immigration of Bosnia and Herzegovina all support the project and their representatives also visit the schools as a part of the workshops. Peer education workshops with students and their teachers also aim to spread information that is helping to protect children. 'We have been cooperating with World Vision for years now, and we believe that these workshops are very important, especially the training of peer educators, since students understand more easily the dilemmas and problems of their peers. This is a really useful way of education,' says Dragica Tubi&${esc.hash}263;, principal of the primary school in Ro&${esc.hash}269;evi&${esc.hash}269;i. One of the participants of the workshop in Ro&${esc.hash}269;evi&${esc.hash}263;i, 14-year-old Ljubinko concluded, 'Children should learn about these things in order not to get caught up in an unwanted situation. We should share what we learned here to all other children who don't know it'. The project is a continuation of earlier work on 'Combating Trafficking in Persons in North Western BiH', which was supported by World Vision Australia and World Vision Switzerland since November 2007 and which involved more than 2.500 children. World Vision's anti-trafficking work in Bosnia and Herzegovina and elsewhere across the region is one key component of the organisation's efforts to ensure all children are cared for, protected and participating in their communities. -Ends-