“Unity is strength, division is weakness.”– Swahili Proverb 

 

What is the biggest challenge you see in the worldtoday?

People seem to be more divided than united in the understanding of most topics on the agenda today (climate change, migration, health care etc….).When following the media and the inventive comment sections of online platforms, it makes it difficult to believe thatall of us couldever see eye to eye on anything.

The world has many challenges, but there is one problem that I believe everybody should recognize as an issue, just based on the fact that we are all human beings. The specific issue I am pointing to is the international industry of trafficking humans, that threatens the bodily autonomy and removes the human right to freedom for millions of our world citizens.What I want to convey further is that human trafficking is not a problem that only affects one country, or one type of people, but is an industry that works across borders. Therefore, we must cooperate across borders.

Cooperation can take many forms but sharing information and open communication are two important elements. On the 16th of September 2019 we were gathered in Salamanca, through the IRETI blended mobility, on a one-week work schedule, where the purpose was to learn from each other and create collaborations across nationalities. There were representatives from the four partner countries (Italy, Romania, Spain and the UK), that in one way or another was involved with, had experience or was connected to the topic of human trafficking. Being gathered from different backgrounds opened many eyes to different methods and approaches when working with women in vulnerable situations.

During our week in Salamanca we workedtogether andlived in the same complex, to have both the formal and the informal dimension of a partnership. We covered many aspects of working with victims of human trafficking, focusing on sexually exploited women. Some of the topics were communication,intercultural situations, cultural understanding, politics and entrepreneurship. The meetings and discussions were quite interesting and educational, and I will point out two topics that I found enlightening.

The first one is about female entrepreneurship, and developing a business, both connected to discussing the possibility of creating a social enterprise to help women, and as a way for previous victims to start a business of their own. One of the best ways to create independence and improvingan individual’s situation is through creating and developingskills that can give that person an opportunity to earn money, become independent and strengthening the social integration. It is all about creating new opportunities and showing that person that you have manychoices in life, prostitution should not be one of them.

A different conversation that I found very insightful was connected to an aspect of human trafficking that I was not very aware of.It was a discussion about how politics and policies can affect the human trafficking situation. Many politicians in Europe today express their disapprovalagainst the number of migrants knocking on their border, and changing policies is one way to make it harder for people to gain residence, jobs and other important aspects that are important to living in a country. As it gets harder for desperate people to find legal ways to enter Europe or permission to stay in the country, the more desperate people get. Desperation leads to many things but most of all it leads to vulnerability.When people are vulnerable it is easy to for others to give them promises and take advantage of their situation.

This are some of the topics we discussed, and a lot of the time we also spent talking about and developing the final results of the IRETI project. This will be more covered in the final meeting. All in all, I found the week in Salamanca very insightful and enlightening, and it is a good example of how collaboration across cultures, and borders is a key factor to fight this global problem. The human traffickers manage to work together, why shouldn’t we?