On 13 July 2021, My Choices Foundation participated in the United Nations Multi-stakeholder Hearing on the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. The event was part of the consultation process leading up to a High-Level Meeting of the plenary of the UN General Assembly, which will take place on 22-23 November 2021 and evaluate the progress made in implementing the initiative.
Sudha Upadhayula, Head of Operations of Operation Red Alert, an anti-trafficking arm of My Choices Foundation represented My Choices Foundation, addressing the emerging issues in human trafficking amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. She highlighted key ways to accelerate the anti-trafficking efforts, drawing from the experiences of My Choices Foundation’s seven years of work in the communities to prevent sex trafficking in India.
The event provided relevant stakeholders with an opportunity to provide input on responding to trafficking in persons and is intended to inform member states engaged in the negotiations on the High-Level Meeting’s outcome document of the practical experience shared by civil society organisations and all other relevant actors in responding to trafficking in persons.
Here’s the full statement of My Choices Foundation at the Multi-stakeholder hearing:
Namaste excellencies and dignitaries. I am Sudha Upadhyayula, representing My Choices Foundation from India. We have been working towards the prevention of sex trafficking for the past 7 years.
- We believe that trafficking in persons is a grave human rights violation, shattering the core of a person and shaking the foundations of the community. We strongly condemn it.
- We stress the importance of collaboration for effective prevention. My Choices Foundation has partnered with over 100 NGOs across the country, building a collaborative network.
- We call for a greater focus on prevention. Community radio, social media, and grassroots awareness campaigns should be used to identify and empower at-risk populations. During Covid, we built comprehensive e-learning modules and utilized 16 community radio stations to spread awareness.
- We emphasize building sustainable communities through evidence-based programming. Insights from our behavioural research laid the foundation for our flagship Safe Village Programs. We reached over 5,200 villages, empowering over 2.3 million people. Our 4000 grassroots volunteers act as local influencers and sustain the impact we have created.
- We strongly recommend leveraging technology to advance and sustain the anti-trafficking movement at all levels. Our big-data enabled ‘Vulnerability Mapping Tool’ helps us identify at-risk villages and facilitates targeted intervention. We are partnering with Traffik Analysis Hub to expand this tool globally.
- We insist on the strengthening of national anti-trafficking helplines and building a unified platform for data collection.
- We urge the governments and other agencies to multiply the efforts to address the root causes of trafficking namely poverty, unemployment and systematic and gender inequalities.
- COVID-19 exposed the vulnerabilities faced by at-risk communities when a disaster or pandemic strikes. Traffickers have been utilizing modern technologies for trapping, grooming and exploiting the victims.
This is the time to act. Like Mr. Ban Ki-moon said, “….We cannot let this period be remembered as one in which the global community knew but did not act.” Let us work together to end this scourge.
You can also watch the full event here.