Bangkok YMCA: Awareness Raising on
Trafficking of Women and Children
This program addresses the development of life skills of children and their families in northern Thailand. Children and the communities are equipped with life skills, knowledge, and ability to learn about sexual protection. Children are also provided with support to have an opportunity to study through formal education. Participants of this programme are children residing in the YMCA Phayao Centre and as well as those children outside the Centre living in their own homes. In 2003, about 100 children have been provided assistance through this program that included the support of 50 children staying in the centre, 41 children staying outside the centre and 9 children being supported in the university level.
This programme seeks to intercept children and women from sexual trade and prevent children from sexual exploitation. Specifically, its objectives include:
1. To prevent children from engaging in sexual trade
2. To provide for educational opportunities to underprivileged children.
3. To develop the life skills of children staying in hostel.
4. To strengthen the building up of network that will protect the community.
5. To advocate for and coordinate on the formulation and implementation of government policies addressing the issue and assisting the victims.
The programme had implemented activities that led to the development of children's life skills and increasing the awareness level regarding trafficking and sexual abuse. These activities are: support for educational scholarship; children's leadership skills development; training on children's rights and reproductive rights; children's autonomy in managing their own Council; leadership training for effective dissemination and campaign against sexual abuse through stage plays, radio broadcasts, etc.; promotion of Thai culture and traditions and participation in important events, e.g. Mother's Day, Children's Rights Day, National Children's Day, Loy Krathong Festival, etc.; cultural exchanges with foreign youth; teachers' training on teaching methodology/process of reproductive rights; and, assisting the network coordinating centre to protect children's and women's rights in Phayao province.
Self-improvement. Overall, high level of creativity, self-confidence and sense of responsibility had been evident among the children scholars staying in YMCA Phayao Centre. Fifteen out 50 children had the opportunity to assume leadership in the Children's Council. The children had been effective in delegating tasks among them.
Participation in Formal Education. Eleven children of 12-15 years who have never gone to school, have started to learn reading and writing. Each child was given the chance to study from the grade school level with basic subjects that include Thai and Mathematics.
Children as Advocates against Sexual Violence. Children staying in the centre have served as volunteers in disseminating and campaigning against sexual dangers and in assisting children who have been abused of their sexual rights. A radio program is being aired every Sunday and a stage play had been held during a charity concert with an audience of about 350 to 500 people. It was a communication medium that reflected the problems of children in the rural areas who lack proper education and are most often victimized as child labour and are frequently forced to indulge in sexual exploitation. This enabled the people to understand the problem and to participate in child development.
Socio-cultural understanding. The international cultural exchange programme has played a major role in building children's confidence, self-expression and in learning and sharing about various cultural traditions. The children and youth are also enabled to gain insights on their role and participation in social and community development.
Work with Schools gained support . The project enabled increased understanding among teachers through workshops on children's rights and on teaching methodologies for reproductive rights, gender role and prevention of sexual violence among children and women. The teachers now serve as counsellors for children and youth on children's rights.
Networking and cooperation. The Bangkok YMCA Foundation has been cooperating NGOs and GOs on providing assistance to children and women at the national level, involving 9 provinces in the upper northern region. In this way, the Bangkok YMCA Foundation has employed a strategy of assisting the coordinating network to enable it to protect the rights of children and women in Phayao province. Through the programme and the network, the YMCA Bangkok Foundation has been able to provide direct assistance to children who were victims of sexual abuse.
Development of the watchdog community network. The Bangkok YMCA Foundation has coordinated with communities and schools in preventing and guarding against sexual exploitation among children and youth by holding a forum to analyse the situation and problem, and to promote knowledge about the related laws together with policy advocacy that would allow the formation of provincial and district committees. Some project staff have been appointed by the provincial governor to join the committee for preventing and assisting children and women as human core, at the provincial and district levels, and also as working team to promote, help and develop the youth network in Phayao province.
Development of supplemental livelihood for children and youth. The project has a strategy in promoting alternative livelihood for self-reliance by developing sustainable agriculture, organic farming and on-season farm processing. This development has led to the system as a community learning centre in the future. At present, children staying in the centre are starting to learn at one level that included the improvement of the quality of dressmaking and hill tribe handicrafts with children outside of the centre having the opportunity to train and practice in that vocation continuously.
Long-term sustainability of the Project
The community extends its participation in the development and assistance of children by advocating community development. Children in the Centre continue to learn self-reliance in their daily life. The project activities attempt to enable the project to be sustainable.
Future implementation plan
The programme plans on implementing trainings to improve the knowledge of children scholars on children's sexual rights, global sanitation rights and children's rights; leadership skills; as well as morality and ethics. The Children's Council will be strengthened as it plays an important role in the improvement of the centre and doing community campaigns. There is also a plan to develop a sustainable agriculture work and Thai-tribal crafts in the centre to reduce to at least 20% its external dependence.
Children Orphaned By HIV/AIDS
In 1984, Thailand reported its first AIDS case of a Thai homosexual returning from abroad. The HIV/AIDS epidemic came in 4 waves to the country at frightening speed. The first and second waves, mostly affected homosexual males and explosive spread among intravenous drug users, respectively. The third wave 'was an increased heterosexual transmission of virus between sex workers and clients. The most recent wave consisted of mother-to-child HIV transmission.
HIV/AIDS Impact on Children
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has prodded public and private sectors to launch prevention programs. Although new AIDS cases are decreasing, HIV/AIDS situation has worsened. The Public Health Ministry reports that about 635,057people have H IV/AIDS. Today, 12% hospital admission consists of HIV/AIDS patients. About 50,000 people, including children, die of AIDS annually. A 2002 UNICEF research showed that 512,000 children are AIDS-affected while 40,800 have HIV/AIDS. The rest are likely to be neglected once their AIDS-infected parents die. AIDS children orphans will increase yearly because new positive cases rise to 23,000 annually. Some are lucky to have caring relatives but many face their fate alone. Lack of HIV/AIDS knowledge leads to negative attitudes and unfair child treatment hence relegating them to social fringes. The 1997 economic downturn resulted to society's increased abandonment of children causing rising orphan population.
Every concerned organization needs to collaborate in raising society's awareness on HIV/AIDS impact on children. Being affected with AIDS is not a child's fault, therefore, she/he should receive equal treatment from the community and should have the right to grow up and live safely.
Presently, the rapidly increasing AIDS-affected Thai children showed that majority stay with poor families. Although many agencies can provide assistance but they are still inadequate to handle this problem in terms of providing housing and rehabilitation programs. AIDS-impacted children will grow up facing physical and mental pressures that retard their development, unless society accepts and cares for them.
Happy Home Project
Bangkok YMCA Foundation realized the need for involvement to improve children's quality of life, to demand the protection of children rights and to give children humane treatment. It had established a project that provides housing and education to AIDS-affected child orphans besides promoting community understanding of AIDS issue. Operating since 2000, Ban Piam-suk (Happy Home) becomes the second home for AIDS-affected child orphans. The project aims to provide accommodation, medical care and education for the AIDS affected children, assist in finding guardians and adoptive families, encourage AIDS orphans/children to enhance their life quality and child rights and build community awareness to assist the AIDS affected children in terms of sustainable development process.
Ms. Suwan Limsumphan
Bangkok YMCA Foundation
315/148-149 Fortune Condo Town 1, 9 th FI.
Sathupradit-19., Chongnonsee Yannawa, Bangkok 10120
Phone: 662-6743101-2 Fax: 662-6743104