Vienna, (Austria), 29 June 2020 – Gender impacts almost every dimension of human trafficking and migrant smuggling– often with a detrimental effect for women. Reports such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) 2018 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons repeatedly demonstrate that human trafficking disproportionately affects women and girls with sexual exploitation being the most detected form. Yet women are gravely underrepresented in institutions responding to both trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.
The good news is that UNODC, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and under the framework of the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants, is uniting with gender champions from all five partner countries to launch the GLO.ACT Women’s network in a bid to address the heavily gendered nature of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
Establishing this network of gender champions also constitutes an integral part of UNODC’s commitment to systematically and effectively promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in all its programmatic activities and interventions. We know that giving a stronger role to women contributes to better and more peaceful societies that are less prone to the threats posed by trafficking in persons and exploitation in all its forms.
Due to the ongoing effects of COVID-19, the network launch took place online against a backdrop of high-level speakers and featured over 70 distinguished participants. Targeting female officials and male champions of women’s rights working in policy making, the justice sector, law enforcement, civil society and other relevant local entities, UNODC will strengthen the capacity, knowledge and resources available to the network, including through mentorship and coaching.
Speaking in her role as Executive Director of UNODC, Ghada Fathy Waly welcomed the formation of the network, saying “The Women’s Network can help you to find solutions to the barriers and bottlenecks that prevent the meaningful inclusion of women in operational and leadership roles in criminal justice institutions”. She went on to encourage network members to use the network to “amplify your collective expertise, experience and influence, and to help each other, so we can better help and protect trafficking victims and smuggled migrants, leaving no one behind”.
Meanwhile, Felix Fernandez Shaw, Director, Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development, European Commission congratulated UNODC, IOM and the GLO.ACT partner countries for the initiative to launch the Women’s Network and highlighted that addressing the gender specificity of trafficking in human beings through EU funded projects such as GLO.ACT is essential to reduce the prevalence of the crime and protect women and girls.
Networks consolidate, build bridges and forge synergies. Addressing the participants, Laura Thompson, Deputy Director General, IOM said, “From 2018 to 2020 women and girls composed 48 per cent of migrants, creating both opportunities and risks. It is important to ensure increased participation and higher representation of women in leadership, planning and decision-making. This new reality changes the paradigm from women as victims, to women as powerful agents of social change and drivers of development.”
Providing the keynote address, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons highlighted the need to ensure gender-responsive responses are adopted and reminded participants that, “Women are vulnerable to exploitation exactly because, in a patriarchal structure, women are subject to discrimination and various manifestations of male dominance, although in very different ways in various regions and cultures.”
Walking the talk on gender equality starts with listening to women; for that reason, the network endeavours to be a safe space where best practices can be freely shared and barriers to empowerment and progression ultimately dismantled. The network will be wholly owned by female and male gender champions and influencers, thus ensuring both the sustainability of the network and its effectiveness – in that those who benefit from opportunities for professional development, exposure, and peer exchange, will also be expected to contribute their experiences, information and expertise in order to achieve the collective goals of the network.
Despite the varying contexts found within different GLO.ACT partner countries, certain experiences are universal. Often, as professional women, the consequences of such experiences manifest themselves in feelings of isolation and disempowerment. The women’s network seeks to counter this; to provide support when things go wrong – and share best practices when things go right.
Following the opening segment, the event progressed to country group discussions, in which participants collectively provided inputs into the Women’s Network Roadmap for Action. Next steps include the formation of an advisory board which will actively contribute to the strategy of the network and advise on activities and effective context-tailored approaches
The Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants – Asia and the Middle East (GLO.ACT Asia and the Middle East) is a four-year (2018-2022), €12 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and UNODC being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in four countries: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Iraq and Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
This project is funded by the European Union