WeGovern Institute co-sponsors USC’s Global Summer Immersion Program on Human Trafficking

The Working for Empowerment and Good Governance (WeGovern) Institute, together with the Department of Social Sciences of the University of the Philippines Manila, successfully sponsored “Modern Day Slavery: Combating Trafficking in the Philippines,” the 2012 Philippines Summer Global Immersion Program of the School of Social Work of the University of Southern California (USC). Held on June 3-17, the immersion was participated in by students under the Master in Social Work program of USC.

The Philippines is a major sending country in terms of trafficking of both women and men for labor and sex trade. The summer immersion program aimed to expose the participants to the social realities that make Filipino women vulnerable victims to human trafficking, as well as to the role and strategies of individuals, communities, organizations and legislators in addressing modern day slavery.

WeGovern Institute President and former Gabriela Women’s Party representative Liza Maza, shared with the students the Philippine experience in combating human trafficking through legislation and the importance of people’s involvement in addressing the problem. In her presentation “People’s Movement and Legislation,” Maza gave an overview of R.A. 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 which she co-authored, highlighting the legal mechanisms that protect people against human trafficking.

Despite the existence of the law, the trafficking of women and men for labor or sex within and outside the Philippines remains a big problem. Aside from the gaps in monitoring and implementation – the United States State Department placed the Philippines in Tier 2 Watch List in the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report due to the Philippine government’s failure to convict trafficking offenders – Maza stressed that the root cause of the problem is the debilitating poverty and unemployment in the country, as well as the continued labor export policy of the Philippine government.
Maza highlighted the need to advance good governance in order to combat human trafficking and modern day slavery. WeGovern Institute believes that good governance – i.e. rights-based, democratic, gender-responsive and gender-sensitive, pro-environment and transparent and accountable – together with active and substantive people’s participation can bring about good citizens and real development characterized by a sustainable and self-sufficient economy that caters to the needs and interests of the people.

The former lawmaker also stressed the important role of women’s and people’s movements in pushing for the passage and implementation of legal measures that will protect the people against exploitation. She cited as example the Purple Rose Campaign Against Sex Trafficking of Filipino Women and Children launched by GABRIELA national women’s alliance’s in 1999. She This campaign helped not only in pushing for the passage and implementation of R.A. 9208 but also in raising awareness on and providing support for the victims of human trafficking. The Purple Rose also served as a venue to oppose the government policies that promote the export of labor, including of sex workers, as a means of propping up the country’s collapsing economy.