During the Voice and Participation meeting in Chiang Mai in February 2023, the room was delighted when Pim introduced herself as the community organiser at MAP Foundation and radio jockey at the MAP radio station. Her role as Radio jockey (RJ) at the MAP radio station is linked to her social and cultural roots in the Shan community as well as her work as a community organiser of domestic workers in Thailand. In subsequent conversations with her, we learnt that she migrated to Chiang Mai, Thailand from Shan State in Burma for a better life and to work. She has worked in many roles - domestic worker, waitress, nanny, and now as a community organiser in MAP Foundation. There are other former migrants who are also now presenters and DJs at the MAP radio station in both Chiang Mai and Mae Sot.
Voice and Participation
The principles of ‘voice’ and ‘participation’ are widely used by civil society, especially among grassroots organisations. The terms are simple but can be complex when we break them down in terms of their attributes, steps, and process. In-focus will feature our partners' work in strengthening a participatory approach and creating spaces for women’s voices to be heard. The articles will also cover how partners work towards a broader goal for social justice, political or economic crisis response, and collectivising women workers and trafficked persons.
This is an in-depth interview with our partner Mission d'intervention et de sensibilisation contre la traite des êtres humains (henceforth, MIST) about their ‘History/ Our Story’ workshop. The workshop is an activity curated for and with MIST members. It is designed to better understand how members’ personal stories are intertwined with the history of humankind using movies. MIST members watch the movies together and discuss topics connected to the history of slavery, the civil rights movement in the United States, and women’s fight for their legal rights. This workshop is conducted every second Tuesday of each month.
MIST is formed by a group of people who were trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. They have mobilised together to promote the identification of other victims, their protection and inclusion, and in the process, enhancing their experience by helping other victims. MIST is self-organised and run by survivors of trafficking. Nearly 75 percent of the members are Nigerians because Nigerian women make up a significant portion of trafficking victims in France. MIST has active members and general members. The former are more engaged and have more duties such as meeting girls and women on the streets, explaining their rights, and following up. In case of any danger, or if they want to escape their traffickers or want to talk to the police about the traffickers, the active members support them (in their interactions with police, courts etc). The general members are not so engaged in the day-to-day of running the organisation. All members are welcome to attend the History/Our Story workshop.
Srishty Anand from GAATW Secretariat had an opportunity to attend one of the History/ Our Story meetings. She watched a movie with the MIST members and followed it up with a Zoom conversation with MIST members Beauty, Flora and Elodie to learn about how the workshop aids in organising MIST members. Flora is the Community Manager of MIST since 2021. Beauty is an active member. Elodie is a Board Member and a historian by training. She has provided support to curate the ‘History/ Our Story’ workshop. Due to limited connectivity, Beauty shared her response in text.
Srishty: How did this workshop begin and what was the thinking behind it? How did you come up with history as an activity in the organisation?
Flora: Initially, we just wanted to have a simple workshop for the members of MIST. We created this workshop to give them some space to talk and express themselves. Members who could come to the MIST Office or a place where we organise the activity could come together to interact with other members. It is a way for them to be amongst other people, to be free to continue to come out, discuss and have an exchange. In the beginning, there were no expectations, just a way to make them feel that they belong.
Beauty: It is to let the girls (MIST members) know they are not alone. It motivates them to live their best life and move forward.
“Once again we were excluded from the system,” said Pia Covre, a former sex worker and one of the founders of the Committee for the Civil Rights of Prostitutes (henceforth, Comitato), which promotes the legal recognition and decriminalisation of sex work in Italy.
This statement from our colleague was the starting point of the Italian campaign “Nessuna da sola” or “No One Left Behind”. One of our eight Voice and Participation project partners, Comitato, initiated grassroot activism in Italy against the exclusionary policy of the government that left sex workers out of state support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign crowdfunded 30,000 Euros to support them.
Who is Comitato?
Comitato is the only sex-worker-led organisation in Italy that implements an anti-trafficking and assistance programme for victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation since 2000. It is also a founding member of TAMPEP (Transnational AIDS/STI prevention among Migrant Prostitutes in Europe Project), an international migrant sex worker-led network in Europe.
Comitato is based in Trieste, North Italy, which sits along one of the major routes that was used for migration and trafficking of women and girls from Eastern Europe in the late 1990s. Around the same time, the analysis of the conditions of migrant women shifted from a workers’ rights lens to an immigration-related one. This lack of attention to social integration services for migrant women motivated Comitato to establish a social protection programme. In 1995, in order to advocate for legislation that would guarantee assistance and protection to victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, Comitato conducted a series of outreach and health information-related activities with identified victims of trafficking on the streets of Venice, Bologna, Modena, Rimini and San Remo. Together with other organisations, it advocated with the Italian government to enact a social protection programme for victims of trafficking.
Currently, as part of its social protection and assistance work, Comitato has three 'Stella Polare' safe houses for victims of trafficking in Trieste. In these shelters, women have access to social assistance as well as support during the criminal proceedings against traffickers.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a litmus test for existing racism and discriminatory practices. A research report from the United Kingdom showed that, ‘according to U.K. police data there was a rise of 300% in hate crimes towards ESEA people in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2018 and 2019’. However, this number tells us only a fraction of the larger picture of structural racism.
In this article, we discuss how the movement against racially motivated hate crime started in the UK, the role of ESEA organisations in sustaining it, and aligning issues and activisms within the movement. We highlight the role of our UK partner Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC) within this movement.