The excellent Stairway Foundation, based in Mindoro, Philippines (http://bit.ly/cNDOLa) has produced three animated films directed at an Asian audience that warn children and their families against the dangers of child sex trafficking.
From the comfort of our Western-world homes, trafficking in children for sex is unthinkable. Still, every year 1.2 million are sold for sex, adding to the millions more already in captivity. These children, with an average age of 14, feed into a burgeoning child sex market with a value estimated by UNICEF at US$32 billion. The growth in this horrific industry has been fueled by the boom in child pornography via the internet. Most people don’t understand, perhaps, that logging onto a child porn site in the U.S. or Europe has terrible ramifications for children in captivity.
In the Philippines, a favorite child sex tourism destination, the 1.5 million street children and many millions more living in urban slums are easy targets. For close to 20 years, Stairway Foundation, run by Danish Lars Jorgensen and American Monica Ray, has helped 700 organizations that work with children at-risk there. Using theatre and the three purpose-made animated films on incest, pedophilia and child-trafficking, SF has touched tens of thousands of Filipino children as well as many more around Asia. The films have been translated into eight Asian languages. They are accompanied by training materials and cartoon books that educate and warn, making the messages relevant locally. A traveling theatre production written in part by abused children carries a similar, difficult message.
The most recent film, Red Leaves Falling, is a 22-minute animated film that traces the story of two sisters, eight and 14, who are sold by their desperate mother to pay medical bills for a sick brother. The mother believes the children will be working as housemaids but instead they are trafficked to pornographers and a brothel. The story is desperately sad but reflects a reality of poverty and desperation faced by many in Asia and elsewhere. The message is clearly that we all need to speak against this unimaginable cruelty that exists because of the complicity inherent in silence. http://bit.ly/bKrAv2
Despite the excellent materials and the need for these to be seen, most of the films and accompanying training materials have not had the breadth of distribution they deserve. There is urgent need to widen the net, particularly of the rural poor exposed to the materials SF produces. Cambodia and Thailand, for example, are other source, transit and destination countries for child sex traffickers and pedophiles where there is clear need for education and awareness regarding the dangers children face.
There, excellent programs for Child Protection have been developed by local organizations such as M’Lop Tapang, Friends International (Child safe program) as well as some of the better known international groups. These organizations and others, however, do not have the breadth or funding to take awareness and training programs to smaller towns and villages where children are most at risk of abuse. Consequently, in these communities, families, authorities, teachers and even small NGOs are neither aware of the problem nor able to prevent it.
At the same time, organizations like SF need to build sustainability into what they do. The films, valuable tools, are expensive to produce. ADM Capital Foundation is working with SF to develop a model that would allow for wider distribution and training and generate income, essentially selling to NGOs what has previously been offered as free product and services. The idea is for funders to pay for needed and experienced training. Any thoughts regarding this or similar models would be helpful!