At Supahands, we believe in “aspire to inspire”. Besides the work and fun, we also care about things that matter too. This time around, we would like to talk about human trafficking – a topic that many of us have probably heard of, but not familiar with. It is an issue that should be constantly discussed – what should you know and what can you do to help?
To get some insights, we spoke to Rose Tan, our ambivert SupaAgent, who is also involved in a Malaysian human rights non profit organisation – Project Liber8. These are what she shared with us, in her own words.
#1 What makes you want to be part of the community service?
After spending 3 years living and studying in the UK, I pursued my career in an advertising corporate line to “I pursued my career in the advertising industry. I felt like I wasn’t contributing to bettering the world. Long hours and meaningless profit targets made me feel empty.
I am greatly motivated by a quote from Carl Duivenvoorden:
“Maybe you can’t change the whole world, but you can change your corner of it. So by changing just our corner of the world, we have the potential to change the world.”
It has always inspired me to try, even if it is just a small act. I sometimes receive the privilege to see the joy and light small acts of kindness can do and it keeps me going. I am reminded as well that if I were ever in that position, I would be grateful in that hope.
#2 So, what is Project Liber8? How did you get involved? What’s your role in it?
We are a human rights awareness & youth empowerment NGO. We run awareness campaigns, educational workshops and community events focused on anti-human trafficking. I joined in 2013, to contribute my creative art skills to an event they were running. I am now the acting Vice President.
#3 How do you manage between working at Supahands and being involved in the organisation’s activity?
I work part time at Supahands. The flexibility with work hours helped a lot in managing my schedule. Responsibilities can be hard to juggle sometimes, but that’s life and I manage.
#4 Are there other organisations in Malaysia that are helping fight human trafficking as well? What sets Project Liber8 apart from other similar organisations?
Yes, there are both governmental and private organisations advocating this cause in Malaysia. Project Liber8 is different because we are youth focused. We are mainly by and for youths. We recognise the power young people have on current and future progress.
Our organisation focuses on inspiring young people to contribute solutions and ideas towards complex social issues such as human trafficking. We utilise and encourage creativity to engage youths to become interested in these intricate affairs.
#5 What are some of the things that the public should know about human trafficking?
Human trafficking is hard to define and pinpoint. It can happen to anyone – even YOU. This social issue is also know as modern-day slavery. It involves any combination of the following: recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor; or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
#6 What are some common types of human trafficking? Generally, who are the traffickers?
The most common types of trafficking is labour/domestic worker trafficking, sex trafficking, child trafficking and organ trafficking.
Who the traffickers are depend on what kind of trafficking you are looking at. For example, if you look at domestic workers, the usual case is that they are denied basic worker rights and/or face physical abuse. A common scenario would be their passports are taken away leaving them vulnerable and they get little to no pay – the trafficker would then be the employers themselves.
If you’re looking at street ‘syndicates’, they are usually forced laborers (through life threats, drugs and abuse), where local traffickers who work with foreign traffickers. It’s hard to pinpoint just one race of course or who the majority are. The issue consists of people from different levels – people who directly abuse victims, smugglers, big bosses who control the whole trafficking ring and even everyday people, who ignore or contribute to these businesses.
#7 Is there human trafficking here in Malaysia?
Yes, there is human trafficking in Malaysia. We are a transit country for trafficking activities. In fact, 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report shows a slight improvement from previous years, but shows Malaysia is currently on Tier 2 Watch List.
#8 Why can’t trafficking victims simply run away or go to the police?
Life threats and drugs are a common issue, some victims are forced fed substances to become addicted and lose will to run. Others face severe abuse, get physically locked in or receive threats to the lives of their families as well as their own lives. Majority are also unfamiliar with authorities and many also face language barriers and lack of information (not sure who to turn to or how to explain their situation).
#9 If we suspect someone is a victim of trafficking, what should/ can we do to help the victim?
Despite the fact it can be tricky to identify trafficked victims of trafficking situations/businesses. Always report suspicious activity. You can contact The Malaysian Human Trafficking Hotline, which is managed by Tenaganita (NGO) at +6012-3350512 or Malaysian Emergency Hotline – 999. Fret not, as the identity of reporter will be protected.
#10 Any advice you’d give those who want to make changing the world or fighting human trafficking? Where should they start?
First is to be well informed. Human trafficking is a complex issue, there are so many types of trafficking and cases that fall under the umbrella term. It’s difficult to find a solution if you do not understand the problem.
Second, is to take action:
- By educating yourself you are already acting.
- Ensuring you do not contribute (buy) to businesses that are involved with trafficking in their supply chains. Sometimes it’s hard to identify which brands/businesses are involved but that is where being informed comes in. Read the news, ask, search the internet, and be observant.
- Do simple projects/small events like short film screenings, fundraising for victim shelters or volunteering your time to organisations focused on the cause.
- Inspire and encourage others around you to do the same.
There you have it. We hope that you are now somewhat informed about human trafficking and know what to do, incase you’re in the situation. To conclude this share affair, Rose mentioned a quote by Arthur Ashe, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”