World Day against Trafficking in Persons

Yomna Omar and AJ Patel, The Unmentionables’ volunteers in Greece

July 30th is the United Nations’ World Day against Trafficking in Persons. This day exists to raise awareness for the 21 million women, men, and children who are currently exploited for the purposes of forced labor and/or sex. Unfortunately, trafficking is a reality that strips people of their fundamental human rights, freedom, and dignity.

This year’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons is especially focused on responding to the trafficking of children and young people because around the world, children make up almost a third of all human trafficking victims. The risk of children and young people being trafficked is even greater when they’re on the move and/or separated from their families. In Greece, an increasing number of young, unaccompanied migrants submit to sexual exploitation to meet their basic needs – a practice known as “survival sex.” At The Unmentionables, we’re committed to protecting and preventing the most vulnerable migrant populations from sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV). Through our Protection Program, we provide emergency accommodation to those at risk of or experiencing SGBV and we work with partners to ensure their access to necessary care, resources, and services.

We’re two master’s students volunteering at The Unmentionables, and we were recently on the island of Chios, Greece, merely fifteen kilometers from Turkey. At first glance, Chios seems like a sunny paradise with beautiful beaches, wonderful food, and incredible hospitality. The reality is much grimmer, with thousands of refugees from the Middle East, West Africa, and the Horn of Africa living in overcrowded camps, often with little to no privacy. Most of the refugees on Chios have been there for months or years, waiting for their asylum applications to be processed, before they are able to move on to their final destination, be it Athens, or elsewhere in Greece or the European Union.

During our time on Chios, we held classes at two different NGO centers, following the curriculum on sexual and reproductive health developed by The Unmentionables. The first was Imagine, an NGO founded on Chios in April 2017 with the aim of providing refugees with the skills needed to have more prosperous futures in Greece or anywhere else around Europe. They provide language and computer skills classes, along with legal aid. The second NGO was Action for Education, which was founded on Chios in 2016 and operates both a school and a youth center for refugees from the ages of 14 to 22.

We taught many of The Unmentionables’ curriculum classes, including reproductive physiology, menstrual health management, contraception, and sexually-transmitted infections. Two classes crucially relevant to World Day against Trafficking in Persons were sexual and reproductive human rights (SRHR) and sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV). SRHR entail the sexual and reproductive human rights of both males and females, the concept of consent, sexual orientation and gender identity, abortion rights, along with other topics. SGBV is a serious problem that is further exacerbated during displacement and conflict situations and is heavily present in refugee camp settings and shelters. SGBV entails any harmful act, perpetrated against a person’s will based on their sex and/or gender, prompted by a power imbalance between the parties involved. It was therefore vital for us to go in depth on this topic, using our curriculum. The class centered on SGBV included activities involving personal definitions of masculinity and femininity (and subsequently critically questioning those definitions), methods of responding to and respecting survivors of sexual violence, the different kinds of SGBV (physical, sexual, emotional/psychological, and denial of resources/services), and similar subjects. Such topics are immensely important to discuss, so that everyone – men, women, boys and girls – knows what their rights are and how to assert them, along with knowing there is always help if they ask for it