Newsletter from AFESIP Laos October 2013
Laos CONTENTS Page 2 Introducing new Ambassador Anne-Solenne Hatte Girl in Need Page 3 Legal update Meet members of AFESIP legal team Page 4 The Khmu Art therapy activities Page 5 Ani’s story Page 6 Fund raising Page 7 Support AFESIP How you can help? Welcome: new board members Thank you to our donors
AFESIP in CRISIS! AFESIP Laos is in financial CRISIS! Earlier this year, one of our largest funders withdrew over 50% of their funding with no notice, their reasoning being the economic downturn in Europe. This is highly irregular for a donor, and has left AFESIP in a state of financial turmoil. AFESIP is now facing the reality of cutting our services to victims of human trafficking, sexual exploited women and girls that rely on us. This action includes the hard decision to close our Vientiane shelter in July with residents uprooted to our shelter based six hours away in Savannakhet. We are doing our utmost to ensure that no woman seeking AFESIP’s help is turned away, but inevitably, such significant cuts in funding can only result in cuts to services, leaving vulnerable women and communities at risk. Much of the damage caused by this sudden loss of funds can be reversed with your help. All efforts are now focused on raising money towards opening a transit house in Vientiane. Having a place for women to stay in Laos’ capital city, where employment opportunities are high, is of great importance. The transit house would be utilised by girls completing their vocational beauty training, those in transit, and those from our Savannakhet shelter while they seek paid employment in Vientiane.
Rescued... Six Laotian girls, who were trafficked to Thailand, were rescued earlier this summer thanks to the hard work and dedication of AFESIP’s prevention team. Reports received by Prevention Officer,Vannasack, from one of our village watchdog volunteers meant AFESIP Laos and partners could respond quickly to locate the victims and get them to safety. Thanks to AFESIP’s swift action these girls have been saved from years of servitude in a Thai brothel. Close cooperation with local authorities has also resulted in the arrest of their 23 year old trafficker. AFESIP’s legal team is now hard at work to ensure she receives a lengthy prison sentence. By working hand in hand with communities and empowering villagers to protect themselves, safety nets are put in place that create real results. However, is a little bitter sweet to have such a success story, just as AFESIP has been forced to suspend its prevention activities due to a lack of funding.
Anne-Solenne Hatte French actress and model, Anne-Solenne Hatte becomes AFESIP Laos’ new ambassador. Read her testimony here: Every year, myself and a small group of volunteers travel to Southeast Asia to engage young, vulnerable children in the arts. During our first trip in July 2010, we had opportunity to meet AFESIP Laos, an organisation dedicated to fighting against sex trafficking. AFESIP works across the often forgotten country of Laos supporting victims of human trafficking through the provision of homely shelters where victims can reside receiving food, shelter and security, as well as the opportunity to heal and start to rebuild their lives. The thing that struck me most when visiting the AFESIP’s shelter was the age of the girls, many being minors, some as young as 13 or 14 years old. As a privileged woman, raised in France, I did not know what I could offer the girls, who had already experienced trauma beyond my comprehension. Listening to their testimonies, I was shocked to hear how our lives were so very different.They had suffered; they were hurting, yet still smiling. As a Eurasian woman, of French/Vietnamese parentage, I am deeply moved by AFESIP staffs dedication towards helping these girls, who supports all their needs, both physically and emotionally, whilst also providing them with a sustainable future through vocational training. I found this inspiring and it reassured me that the girls were well care for and safe. Teaching theatre at the shelter for me and the volunteers became a huge personal challenge, yet a great honour that we were entrusted with. I really wanted to help them by making each moment special while we were together. I shared AFESIP’s need to take care of them and adapt our theatrical exercises to focus on self-development and selfesteem activities that would assist to boost their confidence. In 2013, I returned again to AFESIP Laos and in partnership with Institut de Formation et de Perfectionnement aux Metiers, a French make-up brand, to donate cosmetic products to the girls at AFESIP.This donation supporting the girl’s beauty training, an activity which enables them to establish their own business and live independently once they leave AFESIP’s care. A simple action such as this makes a world of difference to these girls. I am proud to become AFESIP Laos’ new ambassador and look forward to working with the organisation to continue their wonderful work to help these women and girls. So many more victims have the opportunity to become survivors of human trafficking.
GIRL IN NEED OF YOUR HELP! Loy* is 13 years old. She is currently being forced to work illegally as a prostitute in a hotel in Savannakhet to pay off her ‘family’s debt’. There are as many as 40 other girls in similar situation at this location, many of which are also underage. Loy has made a plea for help. The cost to rescue Loy and these girls is great, however if we all pull together to give a little, there is hope for AFESIP Laos and partners to save them. To donate please click on the PayPal donate button below. *The name has been changed to protect the identity of the girl and so not to alert the traffickers of a potential rescue.
STEPPING OUT FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS... Living and working in a male dominated culture, AFESIP’s Legal team leader, Vilayvanh Vongxaya holds her own when it comes to fighting for access to justice. As head of our legal team,Vilayvanh is one of the central cogs in AFESIP’s machinery. Her work is pivotal to ensuring justice for the women we serve and in minimising the incentives for potential traffickers. Vilayvanh joined AFESIP in 2005, passionate to serve the Lao people by directing her expertise towards tackling the growing issue of the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation. When asked what problems she faces and what her work accomplishes, Vilayvanh responded, ‘’There remains widespread misunderstanding of women’s rights and the law regarding human trafficking in Laos. It is my aim to make sure that everyone involved in the protection of women are aware of victim’s rights, and that girls receive justice. “One of the problems I come up against is a lack of understanding of the law surrounding the necessary steps to bring traffickers to justice. Often in trafficking cases, village leaders and the families of victims are lead to believe that mediation is an acceptable way of resolving such cases. AFESIP works to counter this misconception, and ensure that villagers are armed with information of the legal rights of trafficked women. “My work helps the rehabilitation and psychological wellbeing of victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation on several fronts. The prosecution of traffickers proves to the women that they are not responsible for their experiences. It also shows that they are not criminal, or disgraced by actions that they were forced to commit. Having a legal system that protects women and acknowledges their human rights, gives them back a sense of dignity and helps them to overcome often traumatic experiences.”
MOTHER TONGUE, AN AFESIP ASSET As a legally trained member of the widely marginalised Khmu community, legal officer, Sengkhéo Souvanthaiphone is in a very unique position to reach out to many girls. Their shared language and ethnicity enables Khmu victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation to feel comfortable in vocalising their experiences with Sengkhéo’s encouragement. In Sengkhéo’s experience, victims of trafficking tend to be disproportionately Khmu girls. A lack of education in rural areas leaves many villagers vulnerable to false promises of traffickers. Data shows that between 2011 and 2012, 48.7% of residents in AFESIP’s shelters were Khmu. When asked what she believes to be the answer to reducing the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women in the Lao PDR, Sengkhéo answered, “Educate, educate, educate!” Through AFESIP’s prevention programme we did just that, with focus on enabling villagers to equip themselves with knowledge against the threat of traffickers. We here are proud at AFESIP to be working with Sengkhéo and other individuals like her, to ensure that women and girls are protected from trafficking and sexual exploitation, regardless of ethnicity.
UPDATE: Access to Justice As of April 2013, AFESIP lawyers are pursuing eleven cases against alleged human traffickers, involving twelve girls. Two of these cases have now reached court level. Whilst another two are now at the Law Enforcement Unit. Seven cases remain under police investigation.
, the indigenous inhabitants of northern Laos, are the second largest ethnic group in the country, following the Lao. The Lao refer to the Khmu as the Kha, a pejorative term meaning “slave”. Discrimination against Khmu people was entrenched by French colonial rule in the nineteenth century. Colonial authorities favoured Lao over Khmu, in terms of access to education and employment, contributing to resentment among the Khmu, some of whom rebelled in the early 1900s against French domination. Simmering resentment at the identification of Laos as a Lao state, in terms of language and cultural traditions, contributed to the significant number of Khmu joining the Pathet Lao in the 1950s, the revolutionary party currently ruling the country. Today, the traditional villages and agricultural activities are threatened by recent land reform programmes aimed at discouraging deforestation, slash-burn agriculture. There are reports that resettlement efforts are leading to the assimilation of minorities, including Khmu, into the dominant Lao culture, as they are under pressure to adopt ethnic Lao languages and practices. According to the American anthropologist Michael Goldman, almost half the resettled populations from the hill had died within the first few years of the implementation of these policies. Moreover, the ecological and social impacts of the construction of dams along the Mekong have been dramatic for the Khmu, notably destroying the downstream fisheries. People on the plateau have traditionally survived on tubers and foraging, rice and corn cultivation, hunting and trapping, and animal raising. Left only with sedentary agriculture and not allowed to forage, hunt and fish, many Khmu could not survive. Today 450,000 Khmu remain in Laos, however historical prejudices and discriminations persist. Photograph: Khmu Woman Northern Laos 1994, courtesy of Christophe Piecha Photography
CALM BEFORE THE STORM On a certain warm, Saturday afternoon, before any knowledge of our donor’s sudden funding withdrawal, a cluster of girls were found at AFESIP’s Vientiane shelter getting their hands dirty creating beautiful works of art from an unpromising pile of brown clay. To further build on the use of art therapy to engage with victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, one of AFESIP’s volunteers lead a pottery class in which the girls were encouraged to design their ideal future home. The results were both thoughtful and beautiful, with many of the girls including family members, and a desire for love in their home. Some even took the initiative to decorate their creations with flowers. As well as prompting periods of great concentration, the project allowed the girls to enjoy the creative process with one another, to have fun and discuss their ideas. Such projects enable the girls both to express themselves and their personalities through art, and to think positively about their rehabilitation and hopes for the future.
Ani’s Story of Survivorship Since late 2010, Ani*, a 23 year old Lao woman has worked as a social worker at AFESIP’s shelter assisting girls and women, victims of human trafficking. She loves her role and she is particularly good in it. Indeed, Ani knows all too well what the girls have endured before entering the shelter. In 2006, she herself at the tender age of 14, fell victim to human traffickers, who smuggled her to Thailand and forced her to work in the sex trade. Ani grew up in a poor rural village in Savannakhet province in central Laos. Her parents, who worked as rice farmers, were forced to sell their land when her father became ill. He then went to work in a brick factory and died within the year. Her mother too found alternative work at a sawmill, whilst her younger brother and sister had to leave school to seek employment. Ani desperately wanted to help her family also, so she accepted the proposal of a local woman to work at a garment factory in Thailand. Ani travelled with ten others girls and boys across the Mekong River in a small boat under the cover of darkness, terrified that the Thai police would arrest her. After arriving in Thailand, she was promptly locked in a house, before being taken to Salat Buri, where the trafficker chose the most beautiful girls to work in a karaoke bar. An attractive young girl, Ani’s fate was unfortunately chosen. At the bar, there were nine girls working including seven Lao and two Chinese, each between the ages of 15 and 17. After three weeks being forced to accept clients, Ani’s family discovered her whereabouts and called the bar threatening action against the owner if she was not released. However this was to no avail, Ani was simply moved to another place. Ani then found herself in a brothel in Nong Khai, where fifteen girls were working, many of them Laotian. The owner was a Thai policewoman, who would beat the girls if they disobeyed her orders. Ani received no salary and was again forced to take many clients each night. Distressed, Ani cried so much that the owner moved her once more, this time to a guesthouse, where she worked as a cleaner and yet still had to accept clients. As with many Lao girls, she didn’t receive any salary. The owner of the guesthouse, a 60 year old man, told her she would be paid only on the condition she slept with him. After three months, the owner of the karaoke bar reclaimed her and ironically changed Ani’s misfortune. Not long after, a raid was conducted on the bar, organised by a policeman posing as a client, which resulted in the rescue of Ani and the arrest of the bar owner. Once safe, Ani was taken to a Thai shelter at Ketiakan where she stayed for a year, learning fabric-making, awaiting the prosecution of the bar owner by the Thai authorities. Before leaving the shelter, she identified her trafficker, a Thai policeman. Eventually in late 2006, after a year and a half in Thailand – Ani returned home to Laos and was taken to AFESIP’s shelter in Vientiane. AFESIP then organised funding for her to study at Chiang Mai in Thailand. After completing her studies Ani returned as a social worker for AFESIP. Now a wife and a mother, Ani’s priorities may have shifted somewhat. However, despite family commitments she is still as determined as ever to help other women and girls who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. * The names and places included in this story have been voluntarily changed for the security of our beneficiary
Recent fund raising events supporting AFESIP’s vital work RACE FOR NEW LIFE On Friday, 12th of April 2013, the students of the Alphonse Daudet High School in Nîmes, France, were the first to participate in the ‘Race for New Life’ to raise money to support of AFESIP Laos. The money raised by the race event ensuring that women entering AFESIP shelters are able to receive the highest quality care, giving them the best chance of a new start. The race was organised by a group of female students, with the help of their physical education teacher, Claude Berra. In conjunction with the race, art teacher,
Béatrice Liogier helped students to create their own artistic representations of the AFESIP logo, to promote and decorate the event. AFESIP would like to sincerely thank the students involved in the organisation of the race: Marion Trochu, Zoë D’Adamo, Eva de Chabaneix, Julie Gourdier, Chloé Urquidi and Emma Barre.We would also like to thank Claude Berra for his enthusiastic and efficient coordination of the race. Both the race and art project were successful in raising awareness and engagement with the issue of human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women in Southeast Asia, so well done to everyone involved!
Getting Arty for AFESIP On Friday, 14th of June 2013, Antoine Philipon, with the help of his wife Clotilde, raised an incredible € 6,345 on behalf of AFESIP. Antoine personally managed a stand at a wellknown exhibition where he sold artwork, kindly donated by Clotilde, and openly encouraged donations in order to raise such a substantial figure. Antoine and Clotilde’s contribution will go towards initial assessments and reintegration kits to ensure that AFESIP provides outstanding care for all the women we serve. The AFESIP team would like to sincerely thank both Antoine and Clotilde for their continuing support of AFESIP’s work.
JOIN US IN THE FIGHT AGAINST Human
Support AFESIP Laos You, too, can take a stand against human trafficking!
How can you help? Donate online via:Our official website www.afesiplaos.org or simply click on the donate buttons below
Organise your own fund raising event such as a bake sale, coffee morning, sponsored event. Get imaginative! Don’t forget you can contact us to organise your own Race for New Life! Donate in-kind goods such as clothes, IT equipment, beauty shop equipment, furniture, new linen, etc. Follow and share our postings on Facebook and Twitter
WELCOME TO NEW BOARD MEMBERS Three new members joined the Board of AFESIP France after the General Meeting held 4th September 2013. The new board consists of: Chair: Claude Pretot Vice President: Dr Renee Daurelle Treasurer: Antoine Philipon Secretary: Beatrice Aielo Administrators: Patrick Contois, Pierre Gazin and Estelle Miramond. CONTACT US AFESIP Laos, PO Box 3128,Vientiane, the Lao PDR Tel: +856 (0) 21 454 783 Fax: +856 (0) 21 454 198 Laos: email@example.com France: firstname.lastname@example.org
THANK YOU TO OUR SUPPORTERS With the support of our donors and partners, since 2006, AFESIP Laos has: • Informed over 13,000 women and girls working in prostitution within entertainment venues on HIVAIDS, STDs, reproductive health and the risks of human trafficking and ‘unsafe migration’. • Provided direct assistance to more than 400 girls and women. • Rescued 230 girls and women from entertainment venues in Laos. • Hosted 347 girls and women in rehabilitation shelters. • Reintegrated 152 girls and women in their communities after having received and completed vocational training with AFESIP Laos. • Conducted prevention activities in 30 villages at risk of human trafficking and educated more than 6,000 villagers on human trafficking during village information sessions. • Established village watchdog committees in 27 villages.
without whom AFESIP Laos would achieve very little. Their continuing support is invaluable to us.