The story of a former victim of human-trafficking who turned her life around with self-empowerment through volunteering to help others.

Mon, a young 15-year-old woman from Buriram Province, Thailand, has been on a tough journey, struggling to survive and eventually ending up as a victim of human trafficking. However, after being given the opportunity for empowerment and capacity-building, Mon has enhanced her life, changing from a vulnerable and insecure receiver into a giver, helping others through her personal experiences.

As a single child from a separated family, Mon moved to Rayong Province, Thailand, to live with her mother and stepfather. Unfortunately, it was an environment in which her alcoholic stepfather was violent towards her mother, and he subsequently sexually abused Mon. Such upbringing coupled with limited choices forced Mon to follow some of her friends to work at a karaoke bar which also secretly operated a sex service. Working at such a place when she was so young led her to becoming a victim of human trafficking. She was eventually helped and referred to a shelter under the supervision of the Department of Social Development and Welfare of the Thai Government.

Following her rescue, Mon joined activities and projects organized by the Alliance Anti-Trafic (AAT), a non-profit organization that aims to protect women and children in Southeast Asia from sexual exploitation and trafficking. AAT organized capacity-building activities, workshops for life skills and empowerment as well as artistic therapy, etc. 

Under the Japanese-funded UNDP Project “Covid-19 Social and Economic Response and Recovery”, AAT expanded its activities from taking care of vulnerable and marginalized groups to become a network of volunteers. Mon agreed to take part in the training activities as a volunteer to help people from vulnerable and marginalized groups affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She now volunteers as a fieldworker on the front line, helping with outreach activities for women and children, particularly single mothers, members of separated families, and those experiencing abuse and victimization.

During her field visits and outreach activities, Mon witnessed the tough life experienced by people in poor urban communities in Bangkok, Thailand. Most are living in slums with unstable buildings, many are unemployed or need to stay at home to care for babies and children. Families have very little income, some people are being laid off, while others who earn a daily income as food vendors have also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mon reflects on her life, and compared to those struggling in poor urban communities, she feels less bitter and is not suffering as much as them. She decided to surrender her quota of basic supplies and give them to vulnerable families, saying that: “I would like to surrender the necessities for me to anyone in need within this community.”

Mon explains that she is gradually gaining more self-esteem and life fulfilment from working to help others, bringing smiles and happiness to the marginalized and vulnerable. Despite sometimes feeling tired, she feels happy with her life.

Mon’s experience is testament to the windows of opportunity available. With the right help, vulnerable girls and women can choose a better life, bringing value to the community and improving the lives of their families. They are also able to plan their lives for the future to achieve their hopes and dreams. Multi-faceted cooperation is vital for creating the rescue and redress mechanisms necessary for vulnerable women and children.

Mon has recently decided to take further steps as part of the income-generating programme organized by the Center for ASEAN Women and is pursuing a professional caregiving course with the aim of achieving more stability in her life. She will continue to support those who are the victims of sexual abuse and human trafficking.     

Story in Thai version read here. 

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Written and edited Alliance Anti-Trafic (AAT)

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