Monday, May 11, 2015

"Looking through the Diamond": Economic Dimensions

I have been looking forward to this week for a very long time now. For the next five days I will be posting about the four dimensions of aftercare that I have encountered on my trip. For the remaining fifth day, I will post about the need for partnership between all of the teams focusing on one of these four dimensions

The title of this series and shape of my diagram comes from a conversation I had with an organization's director in India, while discussing the need for different organizations to target the problem from different angles. He described the different views organizations take as "looking through a diamond." I'll explore this metaphhor further in my final post in the series.

In each blog post, I will feature an organization that I encountered in Thailand that addresses the dimension of focus. I want to compare how teams can work on one of these dimensions within a particular cultural context – in this case, Thailand’s. This will help to clarify the key differences between each dimension since other contributing factors will be (mostly) consistent from organization to organization.

Today’s dimension: economic. I’m to share about how important this side of aftercare is, cover an example of an organization that is fervently tackling this dimension in the country of Thailand, and connect you with other organizations doing similar and effective work in this dimension.

Economic Dimensions of Aftercare

Unfortunately, many organizations do not recognize that economic needs are often the most pressing from a survivor’s perspective. The majority of women are driven in some way by poverty to enter sex work. Therefore, if this dimension is not addressed after intervention, little long term change will occur. I described the need for freedom businesses in South Asia in a previous post. This model works in this context because there is a market for handicrafts and textiles.

However, this economic dimension is important no matter what the context – the way it is addressed just may need to change. For example, in Southeast Asian countries, there are few jobs available for anyone without a high school education. In some countries, like the Philippines, the majority of jobs require a college degree of employees. For this reason, some teams and organizations addressing the economic dimension may not fit the mold of a social enterprise or freedom business. Instead, they could provide alternative high school education for adults or assisting with funds for college.

The organizations I had the chance to visit with and are featured here fit the first model – skills training. However, please do not misunderstand – programs that assist survivors in education are just as important. Fortunately, these needs are often met by the government. Options similar to the U.S. GED program exist in many countries already, meaning that survivors do not have to actually attend school with students half their age. This also means that NGO’s simply must connect survivors to these resources.

Example from Thailand: Nightlight Design

I had the opportunity to take a tour through all of Nightlight Ministries’ programs. This organization is doing incredible work with women seeking to leave the bars in Bangkok. Nightlight Design is the branch of this organization that focuses on providing economic opportunities through employment alternatives to working in the bars. This program employs 40 women to create jewelry, accessories, and screen printed t-shirts.

What makes this kind of program different from any other business is their exclusive hiring of women from the bar district in Bangkok. They hire women that are not at all qualified for the job they will fill. Instead, Nightlight pours resources into these women so that they have fewer obstacles to alternative employment. Nightlight provides on the job training and pays a fair wage that covers rent, transportation, and cost of living in the area where the women live independently.

Oftentimes it is the difficulty finding a job outside of the bars that keeps women in exploitative situations. If a woman receiving aftercare services does not have her economic needs met, it is unlikely that any long-term change will occur. This is especially true in countries where providing for family (including older parents and siblings) is the highest priority of a woman. Nightlight Design does a phenomenal job of providing for this dimension in a woman’s aftercare journey. To support this program, visit the online store here.

Other Organizations

SASANE, Nepal: provides opportunities for survivors of sexual exploitation to receive education or job training in a very unique way. Those who have completed grade 10 or above can be enrolled into a program where they are trained as paralegals. Each cohort of this training program is made up of approximately 45 women who, after passing the final exam, can work as advocates for other survivors of sexual exploitation or gender-based violence. The benefits of this go beyond an individual survivor’s empowerment, making this a very unique and successful program. Women who do not complete grade 10 can enroll in a "hospitality and tour guide training" program. The organization then employs the program graduates to provide tours and cultural activities for various visitors to the country. You can find out more about SASANE here.

AFESIP Fair Fashion, Cambodia: employs 12 women to sew beautiful silk products. The organization operates as a business, with only 30-40% of operating costs being covered by charitable donations. The rest is covered by revenue from product sales. The women working for AFESIP fair fashion have all been rescued from situations of sexual exploitation by the umbrella organization, AFESIP, and have graduated from a restoration and training program. Visit their website here if you would like to find out more or purchase products.

Bethel, Ethiopia: provides jobs for over 50 women who have been rescued from exploitative situations in Ethiopia. The women come to work at a beautiful compound outside of the city, where they weave baskets, sew clothing, and tend to a charming guesthouse and garden. Those with a need for safe, affordable housing are able to live on the organization's picturesque campus. Visitors are always welcomed with delicious coffee and popcorn made over a fire. If you would like to find out more about Bethel, send an email to the director at



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