Despite sincere efforts by the Philippine Government to protect Overseas Filipinx Workers (OFWs), human trafficking is especially prevalent in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Weaker institutions, inadequately equipped personnel, and lack of community awareness pose significant challenges to effective anti-trafficking in persons (TIP) efforts. Low awareness of the risks connected to labor migration – along with the common conflation of human trafficking, smuggling, other forms of irregular migration, or other crimes – causes victims not to self-identify as such, and vulnerable communities not to recognize the warning signs.
With funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, GFEMS is working to address the challenges in BARMM by partnering with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to build awareness of trafficking among the at-risk communities of BARMM and build capacity for pre-departure training service providers. IOM has a large team on the ground in BARMM, impressive expertise in local dynamics, and a previous history of successful awareness campaigns in the region.
To build awareness among vulnerable communities, IOM will work directly with the most at-risk populations to develop key messages that will be delivered through community-led awareness raising campaigns. These campaigns will primarily focus on behavioral change communications using the latest in evidence-driven communications techniques. These campaigns will target prospective migrants with little understanding of the risk of migration in order to equip them with the knowledge to increase their resilience.
GFEMS and IOM will also work to build the capacity of service providers, enabling them to train prospective labor migrants on labor migration risks, and ensure those migrants have knowledge of and access to quality support and resources, and are more resilient in the face of TIP risks and drivers. The capacity building process includes facilitating regular in-region meetings among government stakeholders to provide them with more data collection, analysis, and reporting opportunities, which will ultimately result in more evidence-based decision making and more effective anti-TIP government initiatives. In parallel, IOM will work with service providers to develop context-specific orientation materials for departing migrants, further optimizing pre-departure training.
Over the course of the project, GFEMS and IOM will conduct extensive learning and evaluation activities to determine the effectiveness of the interventions. Questions explored in the project will include:
- Does providing context-sensitized, pre-departure orientation material improve reach among vulnerable OFWs?
- Do targeted, context-sensitive community engagement and awareness initiatives increase awareness of TIP risks and drivers among at-risk communities?
- Is it possible to create early warning systems at the community level that allow us to identify individuals, families, and social segments who are most at-risk of TIP?
- To what extent is BARMM able to influence unsafe migration dynamics that transcend its borders?
GFEMS looks forward to sharing more information about this project as it is implemented, and is grateful for the support of the U.S. Department of State and the partnership of IOM.
This article and the IOM project were funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.