Opening remarks at the CPTING and TICW Experience Sharing Meeting in Kunming, Yunnan, People’s Republic of China

By Ms Sachiko Yamamoto, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Statement | Kunming, China | 01 October 2008

Opening Remarks by Ms. Sachiko Yamamoto
Regional Director, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Mdm. Hong, Mr. Meng, Mr. de Haan, Representatives from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the ACFTU and the CEC, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen…

This is not the first time I have had the occasion to address an audience committed to ending human trafficking. Last year in Hanoi, I had the pleasure of meeting some of you at the Mekong Forum on Women’s Solidarity and Empowerment Against Human Trafficking and Discrimination. At that meeting where good practices in prevention were shared, I was struck by the importance of strategies which empower girls and women, through increasing awareness of their rights, and through involving them in design and delivery of programs.

The Woman’s Home is a good example (and I visited one yesterday). I see how this place has become a “home away from home” for many young women, cut off from their support network, and vulnerable in a new, unfamiliar city. At this centre, their esteem increases, they learn skills, and they take on leadership roles, like becoming a “Big Sister” to others. I am told that Women’s Homes have become a network of more than 100 strong, providing relevant services to girls and young women in sending and receiving areas. I was very moved by what I saw.

I would like to express my gratitude to the All-China Women’s Federation and Chinese Government for organizing this important and timely event. This experience sharing meeting is an opportunity to highlight the proven practices of two long-running projects in China: CP-TING, the Project to Prevent Trafficking in Girls and Young Women for Labour Exploitation within China, and the Mekong Sub-region Project to Combat Trafficking in Women and Children (TICW), which operates here in Yunnan province.

The ILO began its important partnership with the ACWF to combat trafficking through prevention in 2000. We were the first UN agency to work with you on this issue in China – and in fact right here in Yunnan Province is where it all started. Since then, the ACWF has been recognized as a key collaborative partner in the fight against trafficking and the protection of young migrant women by a variety of UN agencies, departments, and international NGOs.

CP-TING and TICW operate within a broader vision of poverty reduction through decent work, and represent concrete commitment on the part of the Chinese government to implement ILO Convention 182 on Elimination of the Worst forms of Child Labour (including trafficking), as well as the Minimum Age Convention, 138, and serve to promote application of the Forced Labour Conventions (29 and 105).

As you know trafficking, forced labour and child labour are pressing issues that require global attention. The ILO estimates that world-wide there are 12.4 million victims of forced labour, and within this 2.4 million are trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation. Three-quarters of the world’s forced labour occurs in the Asia-Pacific region. Forced labour and trafficking represent the underside of globalization and deny people their basic rights and dignity.

The exploitation suffered by victims of trafficking is the antithesis of decent work, and detracts from efforts to pursue full, productive, and freely chosen employment in accordance with ILO Employment Policy Convention 122. That is, anti- trafficking work contributes to the realization of Decent Work. The thinking behind this is clear: where adults and young people of legal working age are able to earn a fair living, with access to their rights as workers and in decent, safe conditions, they and their families are less likely to be vulnerable to exploitation, discrimination, trafficking and child labour. Their communities and countries are more likely to be able to achieve the development goals agreed by the international community.

In China, we have all come a long way together. When we first began our partnership in 2000, the understanding of human trafficking was very basic. Most people thought that trafficking only referred to forced prostitution or the abduction of infants – mainly boys – to sell to childless families. But together we managed to broaden the understanding to include young women migrating for work and vulnerable to labour exploitation and forced labour.

We have all come to understand trafficking as a multi-dimensional problem. In partnership with government agencies (including, labour, education, transportation, and security) CP-TING and TICW have promoted strategies of safe migration, and employment and employability for thousands of young migrant women. In the workplace, the projects have supported unions and employers to play a role in rights protection, and in building a harmonious labour-management environment where young workers can work productively and develop skills. Significant activities have also taken place in schools and in communities. Hopefully also, we have built capacity at provincial and local levels, within women’s organizations and government.

Very importantly, the projects have raised awareness within many circles in China about the risks of trafficking for labour exploitation, as well as the solutions. During the Spring Festival last year, a peak travel period for migrant workers, CP-TING mobilized volunteers and rail staff to provide assistance and information to young female migrants at 22 rail and bus stations national-wide. The colourful information booklets about ‘Shao Way’, a young graduate, and her clever friend ‘Fay Fay’ (a talking phoenix), who helps her become “Aware and Prepared,” were easily recognizable, and have become symbols for empowerment and safe migration, not only in China, but also in Vietnam and Myanmar where the artwork and messages have traveled.

At first, TICW and the Yunnan Provincial Women’s Federation developed good practices within the IPEC framework. Then CP-TING replicated these practices and further developed them in other provinces. The Spring Rain Campaign elevated some of the earlier safe migration practices piloted in Yunnan, and the scale of trafficking prevention activity was popularized, and increased. Now, the world is learning about trafficking prevention from China.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the ACWF at all levels – national, provincial, city, county, district and neighbourhood – as well as the ministerial and provincial authorities for your significant contributions to trafficking prevention, and for your broader commitment to decent work. I know my staff have learned a lot from you, and we have enjoyed this mutual collaboration.

I would also like to thank the young people who performed this morning.

I offer all of you continuing support of the ILO as you move forward to implement a broader policy framework for equitable development.

Today, I look forward to hearing more about the achievements of the two important projects, and your thoughts on replication and the future. Thank you.