Bolivian Community Defenders Curb Human Trafficking

July 11, 2017 - Slavery is one most atrocious violations of basic human rights. It may take the form of sex trafficking, forced or bonded labor, domestic servitude or the recruitment of child soldiers. Modern slavery affects women, children and men alike.

The U.S. Department of State’s recently released Trafficking in Persons Report rates each nation based on how well they meet minimum standards for elimination of trafficking. According to the report, Colombia, Guyana and Chile are most adequately meeting standards, while Belize and Venezuela are neither meeting minimum standards nor making significant efforts to do so.

Bolivia, labeled a “Tier 2 Watch List” country, is an origin, destination and transit point for trafficking in persons. The Bolivian government has made an effort to prevent trafficking, but the number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is significant or increasing. The absence of sufficient programming still characterizes Bolivia as a high-risk country for human trafficking.

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"Rural and poor Bolivians, most of whom are indigenous, and LGBTI youth are particularly vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking," according to the report. "Bolivian women and girls are found in sex trafficking within Bolivia and in neighboring countries. Within the country, Bolivian men, women, and children are found in forced labor in domestic work, mining, ranching, and agriculture."

PADF is working with local nonprofit Fundación Construir to implement a project in Bolivia that combats human trafficking in rural areas of the country, where most trafficking crimes occur and go unreported. We are training a team of rural indigenous women as Community Defenders to educate, advocate and coordinate anti-trafficking actions and encourage cooperation between government agencies.

The project is educating communities and local officials on human trafficking, and will share successes and methodologies so that they may be applied to future initiatives against slavery in indigenous areas.

The project is focused on underserved indigenous populations in Bolivia’s La Paz, Oruro and Cochabamba departments, recognizing the important role that rural community leaders, particularly indigenous women, can play as agents of change. The goal is to encourage local cooperation in the prevention of human trafficking and to provide assistance to victims and those at risk.

Aside from violating an individual's human rights, trafficking "destroys families and communities, weakens the rule of law, strengthens criminal networks, and offends universal concepts of human decency," according to the report. "Traffickers often prey on those without security or opportunities, coerce and deceive them, and then profit from their compelled service."

The covert nature of human trafficking conceals the sheer number of slaves from the public eye, with an estimated 20 to 30 million people forced into slavery around the world. Slavery quietly thrives in situations of little public awareness and corruption among public officials.

By using grassroots methods to reach at-risk populations, we believe that the atrocities caused by human trafficking can be curbed. This means engaging directly and with respect for indigenous officials, traditions and customs. To support the effort to stem human trafficking, read the project factsheet or make a donation.

Inclusion Index Shows Progress & Pitfalls for Women, Indigenous Groups

Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State, gave opening remarks at the event.

Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State, gave opening remarks at the event.

Earlier this month the Americas Society unveiled its Social Inclusion Index 2015. This study ranks 17 countries in the Americas across 22 variables including education, civil rights, financial inclusion, LGBT rights, and more. 

Uruguay tops the list for the second consecutive year. Poverty, combined with gender and racial inequalities place Guatemala and Honduras at the bottom. 

"None of our efforts towards growth will be sustainable unless they are socially and economically inclusive," said Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

The big picture is that poverty is decreasing in the Americas. Alana Tummino, policy director at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas noted that while progress has been made on many fronts, "women, indigenous, and Afro-descendant populations still lag in many…indicators when compared to the general population.” A few highlights from the report:

  • "Minorities are more vulnerable to poverty than nonminorities, usually by at least 10 percentage points."
  • "The majority of the countries included in the Index improved in access to adequate housing—most significantly Paraguay."
  • "The region’s champions of women’s rights are the U.S., Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Colombia."
  • "We saw great improvement in all countries in decreasing the maternal mortality rate. In Bolivia, the rate dropped spectacularly from 8 percent to 1 percent."
  • The top countries for women’s rights are the United States, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Colombia.
  • "Between 2011 and 2014, bank account ownership dramatically increased in the region. Growth was strongest in Brazil and in Mexico."
  • The top five countries for LGBT rights are Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador. "Paraguay shares the bottom of the scale with countries in the Northern Triangle, particularly Honduras and Guatemala."

This year also marks the start of the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent.

Land Access Program Brings Bolivian Farmers Hopeful Future

Land Access Program Brings Bolivian Farmers Hopeful Future

Today hundreds of farmers and their families in seven of Bolivia’s most vulnerable communities can now work their lands in peace, due in part to the legal and technical assistance they received through PADF’s Land Access Initiative Project.