Addressing the Underlying Forces
Written by Christina Miller on January 31, 2014 in General
This is the second part of a blog post focusing on the issue of human trafficking. You can find part one here.
How do we embrace Obama’s challenge to address the underlying forces in the fight against human trafficking especially in rural communities? By starting with the women. While women are the most targeted group for the sex-trade, they are also the backbone of the rural economy. They make up 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, 79% of which claim agriculture as their primary source of livelihood. They are often the heads of households, work longer hours than men, and play a dominant role in export-oriented agriculture. However, women earn lower wages than men, are often prevented from owning and inheriting land, and are limited in resources. The majority of studies have proven that differences in women’s success is not based on skill but on less access to resources like seeds, fertilizers, and equipment.
In response to this, Plant With Purpose staff in Thailand focus on providing resources to women. Thailand, out of all our programs, has the highest percentage of women involved in Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA), with 83% of its members being female. VSLAs allow small groups to pool together savings then award loans to individual group members. This enables rural community members to start small businesses and acquire necessary resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them. In addition, groups have been created that include women’s literacy, health projects, networking activities, and gender awareness training.
Staff in Thailand are also helping families become self-sufficient through maximizing the potential of their land. Yon Layog and his family are an example of immigrants who fell into the cycle of poverty after moving to Thailand. They began working on tangerine orchards but had to move every couple of years to find work. After pooling their savings with sixty other families they were able to buy their own piece of land. Yet, even having their own permanent place to live didn’t provide them with the security they needed. They had to keep traveling to find seasonal day-labor jobs to supplement their income. There were some months that they had no income because their crops weren’t producing. Plant With Purpose taught them how to utilize their resources through growing their own food. This has enabled them to save half of their food bill, eat a healthier diet, and share surplus with their neighbors. Rather than spiraling into deeper poverty they are experiencing a redemptive outcome to their story.
As Plant With Purpose families are able to provide for themselves, they no longer fall prey to unjust practices. They are able to provide for their children with confidence in the direction of their futures. Plant With Purpose is proud to join the many initiatives responding to President Obama’s challenge. We hope that this month of awareness will multiply into many more months that restore basic rights of freedom, dignity, and justice to all people.