Shave for a change: NO to Human Trafficking!

Hi everyone! How are you all? I hope everything is going well and is alright.

I have been writing and editing my blog and video during the week after I shaved my head on October 28, after which i went on holiday from November 5-11. It has been quite hard as I am getting cautious of future criticisms I will face from people to which I might not be able to answer and what judgement I will face from others concerning what I have done it for. Well, this is partly because I have watched quite alot of viral videos on youtube and although the creator’s concept is great and they have worked hard on their videos I find their criticisms too extreme. Before I went for a weeks holiday, my parents and boyfriend still did not accept the reason why I shaved my hair. I therefore recieved heavy verbal assult which lead to a decrease in my self-esteem and confidence thus meaning i struggled to imply my thoughts. after I went on holiday, everything has started to fall into place. My parents and boyfriend are now on better speaking terms with me which has lead me to gain more inspiration during the holiday. I think I will never get round to publishing my blog and video if I do not bite the bullet. So here I shall start. I am hoping that this blog will be short and concise, however, if it does not turn out that way, my apologies in advance as I know I tend to beat around the bush when explaining a point(s).

My campaign 

Hello! My name is Sophia. I assume you have watched the youtube video first before visiting my blog? If not, please visit the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wc2P-2Fphn8

I have shaved my head for 4 reasons. Firstly, it is to raise awareness about human trafficking. In one way or another, people are aware that human trafficking is happening, however, there are still people who are less knowledgeable about it and how it works and so I want to spread awareness on. I shall elaborate on this later. Secondly, I wanted to know what it feels like to be bald and be able to understand what those people who have lost most of their hair, due to ill health or personal reasons, face every day. Thirdly, I personally desire a different hairstyle from my long and usual hairstyle hence, wanting a big change. Moreover, it is quite hot here in the Philippines! All these reasons coincided at the same time along with the fact that my hair grows very fast, which is why I pursued shaving my hair on October 28th. Because my hair was almost at my belly length, my friend had told me to donate my hair to a charity that makes wigs for people who suffer hair loss to which I happily want to. However, I have not chosen a particular charity to support but when I do I will inform you.

Initially, I wanted to raise funds for STOP THE TRAFFIK because I love what they are doing especially encouraging people; students, religious people or whoever they can, to take action. They do this by providing resources on their website for those who want to spread awareness on the issue, become involved in recent campaigns and much more. I could not raise funds because, as an unemployed undergraduate, I cannot contribute any funds to my grandfather who is critically sick at the same time. Therefore, I have to chose between raising funds for the organization or raise awareness about human trafficking instead.

How can shaving my head spread awareness about human trafficking and hopefully make an impact? For the past 2 weeks, many have already inquired of why my hair has been shaved and why I do not look like a ‘normal’ woman. I have then told them about my 4 reasons, and I will continue to speak to people about them.  To spread awareness about human trafficking is the main reason I chose to do this and so bravely tell them what it is, what it does to victims, how people can be victimised, what are the aspects in which people are enslaved, what we can do to help and other information that is relevant. People did listen, however, whether or not they took the issue into consideration is a matter of their choice. I have done my part in personally convincing people to consider the crime and to take action.

So why shave my head? What is the link between having less hair and spreading awareness? Living in the UK for the past 2 years to pursue my degree have increased my knowledge on methods to raise funds for charities and spread awareness on an issue. Almost everyone I have met in the UK has told me stories of people doing something bizarre or personal to raise funds or spread awareness. At the same time, I have read a lot of articles of people who have incredibly raised hundreds or thousands of pounds for a cause. While researching on how I can raise funds for STOP THE TRAFFIK, I came across Virgin Money Giving which provide tools for aspiring individuals or groups to raise funds, for instance, “giving up smoking, losing weight or growing a beard”. The fact that doing something strange, eccentric, and extraordinary can raise funds and spread awareness have greatly contributed to my plan of shaving my head for the purpose of speaking to people about my knowledge on human trafficking.

How can I make an impact with my head shaved? Making an impact in this world is a huge ambition done with small steps. Well, at least in my perspective. For instance, in the consumerist side of human trafficking; 5 years ago, I simply did not care where my clothes, food, jewelries, and other consumable items whether edible or not, have come from, who have made them, how they were assembled, whether or not factory workers were treated with dignity and respect with no physical or sexual abuse, whether or not workers were paid with reasonable price according to their labour or if companies are employing children to perform heavy duty labour, the environmental costs and so and and so forth. However, today, I am now gradually coming to understand the consumerist system and changing myself to help those in the bottom line of the system. I encourage you to watch The Story of Stuff because the video summarises how things are made from extraction to disposal generating social and environmental costs to which I think everyone should be aware off in order for sustainable development to occur. Though this video does not directly refer to human trafficking, those who were absent in the linear diagram of consumerist process may be, in one way or another, victims of human trafficking. For instance, the use of child trafficking and force child labour in the chocolate industry.

Here are some of the resources detailing the issues in the chocolate industry:

I am now hopefully a different person from 5 years ago because some of the people I know and come across with in life constantly inform me about why I should be a wise consumer while some tell me to sign petitions on particular environmental or social campaign. I also credit the news, whether online or offline for decreasing my ignorance on such an issue.

In the same way, I aim to make a difference by personally speaking to people, whether they be a stranger, a friend, or family. Even though if I can only reach a small population compared to the overall population in the Philippines or in this world, I believe that what I am about to do in the next few months or years, until my hair grows back to normal, is part of making a change in our world.

I hope to inspire others to take action. If we work together to spread awareness, especially to those who are not knowledgeable about human trafficking then we can make a difference. We can prevent further trafficking by ensuring that vulnerable people are made aware that they can be tricked into doing something they otherwise would not be  willing to do. This is why alot of non-governmental and non-profitable organizations believe in the mass, “that we are at our most powerful when we stand together for human rights” (Amnesty International). I know that governments also play a part in eliminating traces of human trafficking and so as other roles, however, that becomes a much deeper discussion to which I shall not touch on further.

Why do I want to raise awareness?

My desire to spread awareness about such a widespread crime derived from my sympathy and love for the victims of human trafficking. This is a very long story to which I have developed a passion for telling other people over the years.

It started in 2009 after reading a Malaysian newspaper concerning, I think, 8 Filipinas seeking help from the Philippine Embassy concerning their situation. I am not sure if the Philippine Embassy did help as their plight goes on until I move into Vietnam that year to which I have not been updated on their situation. If I can still remember correctly, please do not take this as accurate fact because I would like to state what I can remember, they were aged between 17-28 and were detained by Malaysian immigration for not possessing proper papers and working permits when a brothel was raided. There is more to this story however, proceeding news concerning them links their cases to human trafficking. Their stories were similar to each other though they were recruited by different traffickers. They revealed that an agency in the Philippines convinced them of good salary in Malaysia working as waitresses in a restaurant. However, after arriving in Malaysia, their passports and other papers were seized by the traffickers. Afterwards, they were given sensuous and erotic dresses to which they were forced to wear whenever they have clients. They were to have sex with 8-15 different men per day. They could not escape the situation they were in because the traffickers were to threaten their families back home. Moreover, they were physically and mentally abused which robed them off their humanity, respect, and dignity.

This story is similar to those told in the other parts of the world.  I could not find the link to the original article however, here is a resembling story: Filipino ‘sex slaves’ rescued in Malaysia. Also refer to real life stories at the resources section.

I want to raise awareness about human trafficking because I think that in our modern world, people should not have to suffer being treated as slaves. Can you imagine if you are to be forced to have sex with more than 10 men a day with little or no pay, not that any pay would make the situation alright? Can you imagine that you will not be able to see your family and hear their voices once you have been trafficked? You are to be abused physically and mentally until the time you are rescued, if you get rescued. Furthermore, you are treated like a commodity in unimaginable conditions which is very much inhumane.

Some facts on human trafficking

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime define human trafficking as:

An act of recruiting, transporting, transfering, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.

It is a broad definition involving sex trafficking for the commercial sex trade and the sex industry, child trafficking for force child labour including child soldiers, child bribes and many more. In short, it is the buying and selling of people for the purpose of profit and pleasure (Racine Dominicans).

Human trafficking affects every country, continent and economy by being a source, transit, or destination (UN.GIFT). It generates billions of dollars every year estimating that $31.6 billion are generated (Jeremy Haken p.8) which is why human trafficking is ranked number 2 in transnational organized crime, second only to drug trafficking.  I have not paraphrased the following information because I believe that they are very self explanatory to which I have provided links to the sources where I attained them from.

The victims and traffickers (the information is taken from Jeremy Haken – Transnational Crime in the Developing World)

  • Almost all victims originate in developing countries” (ibid p.9)
  • Victims are rarely kidnapped or taken by force. In most cases they are either lured away from their homes with the promise of a better life and greater economic opportunity, or they are voluntary migrants who unwittingly fall into the hands of predatory traffickers.” (ibid p.8 )
  • In all cases, profits are distributed between the recruiter, the transporter, and the exploiter (though in theory the recruiter and transporter could be the same person). Though little data exists, it is very likely that the exploiter retains the bulk of these profits as his/her role is ongoing for as long as the victim remains enslaved or indentured.“(ibid p.9)
  • “Human traffickers bribe law enforcement, immigration, and judicial officials in both origin and destination countries.53 Over the long term, corruption destroys the trust that citizens have in their institutions and government” (ibid p.10)

Dept Bondage

women and girls are forced to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful “debt” purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their crude “sale” – which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free.” (U.S. Department of State)

Sex Trafficking

  • Homeless individuals, runaway teens, displaced homemakers, refugees, and drug addicts [are mostly vulnerable]. While it may seem like trafficked people are the most vulnerable and powerless minorities in a region, victims are consistently exploited from any ethnic and social background.” (Racine Dominicans)
  • Traffickers offer “promises of marriage, employment, education, and/or an overall better life [than in the native country]. However, in the end, traffickers force the victims to become prostitutes or work in the sex industry. Various work in the sex industry includes prostitution, dancing in strip clubs, performing in pornographic films and pornography, and other forms of involuntary servitude.” (Racine Dominicans)
  • 1.4 million people are believed to be victims of commercial sexual exploitation, and 1.1 million are victims of other forms of economic exploitation” (Patrick Belser cited from Transnational Crime in the Developing World p.8)
  • Sex trafficking has devastating consequences for minors, including long-lasting physical and psychological trauma, disease (including HIV/AIDS), drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and even death.” (US Department of State)

Force Labour

Migrants are particularly vulnerable to this form of human trafficking, but individuals also may be forced into labor in their own countries. Female victims of forced or bonded labor, especially women and girls in domestic servitude, are often sexually exploited as well.” (US Department of State)

For more definitions on other forms of trafficking, visit US Department of State – Trafficking in Persons Report 2012: Definitions and Methodology. If you have doubts or questions about human trafficking, UNODC provides answers to frequently asked questions. For further information please visit the provided links at the end of this blog.

What can you do to stop human trafficking?

Different organizations have different protocols to prevent and end  trafficking. Raising awareness is one of the key factors. As the number of people who become aware of the issue increases the mass are mobilized and united to stop it; provided that law enforcement from governments is strengthened. There are many things you can do to help raise awareness. If you do not want to opt for shaving your head you can replace your facebook profile picture with Blue Heart. The Blue Heart to symbolize the campaign to end Human Trafficking (The Blue Heart Campaign). Please read the terms and conditions to use the Blue Heart: http://www.unodc.org/blueheart/en/use.html.

UN.GIFT has 10 incentives:

  1. To raise awareness
  2. To strengthen the prevention
  3. Reduce its demand
  4. To support and protect victims
  5. To help improve law enforcement
  6. Implement international commitments
  7. Enrich knowledge
  8. Strengthen partnerships
  9. Create a special purpose fund
  10. Create an informal contact group

Please visit UNODC: The Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking p.4-5.

UNODC has 3 main approaches:

Research and again, awareness raising,

  1. Research and again, raising awareness
  2. To promote protocols
  3. To strengthen partnerships and coordination.

There are alot of ideas to raise awareness such as organizing fundraising events with brochures and facts about the crime (Adele Price). For further information on how you can help, please visit the links to the NGOs at the near end of this blog.

Human trafficking and consumers (me and you) 

Do you know and are you aware that the things we buy, whether edible or non-edible, may contain traces of human trafficking? I agree with Amanda Kloer that “Human trafficking might not be something we think about on a daily basis, but this crime affects the communities where we live, the products which we buy and the people who we care about.

I am very concerned about the consumerist side of human trafficking because consumers are limitedly informed to where and how the products were produced in the first place. For this reason, I encourage you to visit Products of Slavery to recognize what kind of products  from any certain country, that may involve human trafficking. Please also visit Buy Responsibly to be further educated about the things we buy to be aware of consumer related issues. Earlier, I have mentioned about the dark side of chocolate. We eat chocolate everyday or every time we are at ease or stressed. Chocolate gives us satisfaction sweet but the use of force child labour to produce cocoa is one of the main issues to which not many are aware.

While compiling the links I have researched for this blog, I found out that there is such thing as reproductive and organs trafficking (Joint Council of Europe/United Nations Study: Trafficking in organs, tissues, and cells…) I have also found out that children are being forced to do labour in the tobacco industry and that there is also a dark side to the cotton industry just like chocolate. While compiling the links and choosing which ones I should include in this blog, I realized that  majority of the non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations desire a  slavery free world. However, we cannot achieve such a huge goal without many of us caring and doing something.

I have stated awhile ago that I love the victims of human trafficking. How can I love those people who I have not even met yet? Personally, I love people. That is why I am studying anthropology because I find any aspect of societies, cultures, and just about anything human related to be interesting and fascinating. The spiritual side of it and my prime inspiration to spread awareness about human trafficking is that I want to extend God’s love to those who are hurting and lack it. John 13:34-35 (NLT) states, “so now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (NLT)  speaks that love is the greatest of all. The Bible speaks of love. Jesus’ life testimony is all about love. “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16 NLT). It is through Jesus’ death that we all can attain salvation. Can you sacrifice your life or your child’s life in order to save a life or a huge population? I can hear you say, “if God so love the world then why cannot He just eliminate all evil since he is ‘all powerfull’ and omnipotent anyways?”. This is a very philosophical question to which I shall not discuss further because the essence of this blog is to provide reasons as to why I have shaved my head, my inspirations and reasons for doing so, summarize human trafficking, and provide links concerning the issue.

Concluding remarks 

I would just like to state that I am fully aware of the fact that I cannot please everybody. There will always be people who would hate and certainly people who would not agree with my reasons for shaved my head. I recognise that we are all entitled to our own opinions. If you would like to add more to my links please do. If you would like to comment on my english grammar, I would be more than happy for you to correct me as I am not perfect. If you are going to comment that I look like a guy or ugly with my shaved head, as alot have already hurled out on me, go ahead. I would also like to mention that the quotes concerning human trafficking are self explanatory to which I do not want to paraphrase. For this reason, I have provided links to the sources where I attained the quotes from. I have written alot of essays and is aware of plagiarism. Therefore, if you see a quote that has not been cited then please inform me so I can cite it

Finally, I would just like to mention that I am independent and this blog and the video is not sponsored by any NGO or charity. I just want to spread awareness about the crime and make a change. Thus, I greatly support UN.GIFT, STOP THE TRAFFIK, UNODC, and a wide range of NGOs mentioned here in this blog for their effort to end modern day slavery.

I would like like you to pass this blog and the video to others so they would be blessed and be inspired with it. Human Trafficking is modern day slavery to which millions are subjected to it. We should all agree on a traffick free world. No to Human Trafficking!

Thanks to:

WOW Hair Salon Muntinlupa for allowing me to shave my hair in your salon because I know it is hard to accept a female client who wants to shave a long hair. (I know because I got rejected at one of the salons nearby Muntinlupa).

My relatives and friends for supporting me for this cause namely:

Alexander Cabotage and Lyn Mateo for greatly supporting me from the time I have shaved my head.

Anne Mateo for giving me ideas on how to edit the video.

Caroline Cordes for your smiles and encouragement.

Jaemee Mateo for filming the video. I know it was your first time.

Jesus Christ for being my prime inspiration to do good to others and help those who are in need.

Manuela Preka and Tara Chopra for constantly telling me that it does not matter what people will think about me as long as I know what I am doing and I am satisfied with my actions then I should continue on with my business.

Michelle Allen and Crystal Cryer for anticipating this with excitement.

Kristine Sta Ana for helping me chose the right Bible verse.

Special thanks to Adele Price and Chloe Haines for proof reading and editing this blog. I greatly appreciate your time spent to improve my blog. 🙂

For my beloved parents and boyfriend. I love you three. I do not mean to hurt you guys by shaving my head. I have no intention of rebelling but I shaved my head for the 4 reasons I have mentioned earlier in this blog. I have a passion in my heart to do something in behalf of those people whose voices are silenced. I know and believe that God has placed this in my heart so that I can also be a blessing to others. I do not want to be limited with what I can do in terms of what others will think about me. I want to help others, and if this is by shaving my head, finishing this blog and video then I want to pursue it. I apologize if this has caused you inconvenience.

Resources:

AlJezeeraEnglish (youtube) provides series of episodes exploring different forms of human trafficking at play.

CNN Freedom Project is a particular project under CNN also exploring issues concerning human trafficking providing web links and resources to concerning the topic.

Products of Slavery provides information on what kind of products in a certain country involves human trafficking.

Unreported World is a very interesting foreign affairs series which provides insight on people in the neglected parts of the world. I encourage you to visit it as it will inform you about the hidden aspects of current world affairs which are not really  spoken of by the mainstream media. However, some of the episodes may not be available and to which you might not be able to access outside Britain.

Virgin Money Giving provides the necessary tools for you to be able to raise funds for a charity from organising events to setting up a personal challenge.

Real life stories

Non-governmental and non-profitable organizations working to end human trafficking:

Action to End Exploitation

Anti-Slavery International

Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT)

Humantrafficking.org

International Labour Organization

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Polaris Project

Save the Children

STOP THE TRAFFIK

UNICEF – Child protection from violence, exploitation, and abuse

United Nations Crime and Justice Information Network (UNCJIN)

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOCD)

US Department of State

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