Friday, August 10, 2007

Part 2: Human Trafficking in Ecuador: A Personal Encounter

Saludos de Ecuador! ´m in Lago Agrio right now, which is an oil town in the Amazon. It´s hot here. Haha. This town is really poor. Of the 60,000 or so residents, about 8,000 are Colombian
refugees, mostly families, but a lot of single women and young girls too. Today we had a meeting with representatives from Movilidad Humana, and the woman we spoke with dealt a lot with the sexual exploitation and mistreatment of women, specifically young girls here in Lago Agrio. She told us that the majority of women who work in the bars and cantinas are Colombian refugees. She also said that there are women who go into Colombia to get these young girls and bring them here to work in the bars. There are very few employment and education opportunities for young girls in this town. A good portion of the girls working in the bars are underage. Additionally she told us that many of the girls are taken from here and trafficked to other locations in Ecuador, like Ibarra or Santo Domingo. Right now the organization (Movilidad Humana) has few resources to help solve this problem, and the magnitud of it makes it that much more difficult. They are using the resources they have to start campaigns to prevent the young girls from going into this line of "work." They have created a network of agencies devoted to helping end the exploitation and mistreatment of young girls. They are also starting initatives to teach Ecuadorian and Colombian kids (and then later with adolescents) traditional dances, singing, painting, and other skills that they can use rather than looking for work in bars/being exploited. They have a workshop of Ecuadorian and Colombian women who work on knitting and crocheing projects (mostly purses) that they can sell to get money to then buy more supplies and expand their work. Movilidad Humana also tries to help the young girls thrown into jail for prostitution and who are facing deportation for lack of documentation. It´s a big problem here, and this is only one organization working toward integration of Colombians and Ecuadorians, as well as the protection of young girls. Just thought I would share with you what I
learned today. It´s definitely a harsh reality, and hopefully in the following months and year other agencies will take note and help the cause. Also, the Ecuadorian government needs to increase its presence here to eliminate corruption and crack down on the very bars/cantinas as well as the petroleros and military men who fuel the demand for such mistreatment.

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