In conjunction with World Day Against Trafficking in Persons today (June 30), an Anti-Trafficking Capacity Building for Impact (CBI) programme has been launched to help combat the problem of human trafficking in Malaysia.
Curbing the problem of trafficking in persons involves a whole-of-nation approach and it takes everyone to play their role, says Omna Sreeni-Ong, the project representative from Engender Consultancy, a social enterprise committed towards promoting gender equality and women empowerment.
“This whole-of-nation approach will help to support and accelerate the government’s implementation of its National Action Plan on Anti-Trafficking in Persons 2021 – 2025 (NAPTIP 3.0) which was launched in March,” says Sreeni-Ong, who is the founder and principal consultant of Engender.
The CBI programme, launched by the Home Affairs Ministry deputy secretary general and Malaysia Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Council (MAPO) representative Mohamad Fauzi Md Isa, is a social impact initiative by Engender and Project Liber8, a non-profit organisation dedicated towards transforming attitudes on human trafficking especially among youth.
It aims to develop a stronger network of civil society organisations that are committed towards combating human trafficking through collective action and learning, as well as through supporting the government’s implementation of NAPTIC 3.0.
According to Mohamad Fauzi, the government recognises that trafficking in persons is a crime that requires the collective action of civil society NGOs and other stakeholders to combat.
“The Malaysian government is cognisant of the importance of this collaboration with our CSO-and-NGO partners to ensure the successful implementation of NAPTIP 3.0. We look forward to the enormous good work that lies ahead through the collaboration," he says.
“The programme modules incorporate the four pillars (4Ps) of combating human trafficking: prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership, which are in line with NAPTIC 3.0,” he adds.
In the Trafficking in Persons 2021 report (released recently in early July), Malaysia was relegated to Tier 3 (the lowest tier), and Mohamad Fauzi says that this is a wakeup call for the nation to redirect, refocus and reprioritise its efforts towards combating the crime of human trafficking.
“As a nation, Malaysia needs to identify and acknowledge its own shortcomings and be willing to correct past errors in order to achieve something better,” he says.
“But this will not hamper our spirits to do better ... that’s our commitment to fight against the crime of human trafficking together,” he adds.
Mohamad Fauzi highlights that the pandemic is another reason why it’s so important to work collaboratively with CSO-and-NGO partners to combat human trafficking.
“The pandemic has had a very real impact on our fight against human trafficking. It has worsened the situation for many vulnerable groups while resources have been diverted to manage the pandemic and address its impact on the community,” he says.
But while we’re busy fighting the pandemic, we’re equally concerned about human traffickers taking advantage of those who have become additionally vulnerable because of their dire economic circumstances caused by the pandemic – making them more prone to exploitation, forced labour and debt bondage, he adds.
The CBI programme is supported and funded by the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, as the US strives to advance security, prosperity and fundamental human rights around the world.
“Trafficking in persons is a global problem, and the United States is fully committed to its partnership with Malaysia to support a whole-of-society approach to combat trafficking that involves both government and local organisations,” says US ambassador to Malaysia Brian D McFeeters.
“It’s my hope that through this programme, all participating NGOs and CSOs can strengthen their advocacy and build stronger networks to play a more meaningful and effective role in Malaysia’s anti-trafficking in persons strategy,” he adds.
“Capacity building plays a huge role in ensuring all stakeholders – including anti-trafficking organisations and experts, human rights groups and activists, educational and legal sectors - have a strong understanding of TIP both conceptually and in application, and are aligned to international standards,” says Sreeni-Ong.
“It was from this need that the programme was conceptualised and we’re very grateful to the US Embassy for its kind support in this social impact initiative. The programme directly supports the implementation of NAPTIC 3.0, the Malaysian government's anti-trafficking roadmap which calls for concerted and collective efforts by the government and NGOs to prevent human trafficking,” she says.
“The programme is designed to promote collective learning and action, with an aim to strengthen advocacy and organisational capacity in combating human trafficking in Malaysia and to raise public awareness of this crime,” she adds.
The 18-month programme will include a series of 20 national training workshops and advocacy consultations for anti-trafficking organisations and activists. Workshops will cover the 4Ps of human trafficking: prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships, with the first session on the prevention of human trafficking scheduled for Aug 5.
Programme modules will include skills training on strategic advocacy for legislative change, monitoring and reporting of human trafficking issues, as well as victim identification and assistance.
"In supporting the prevention component of the roadmap, the programme will also organise public awareness campaigns in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Kinabalu in 2022 to raise awareness and help the public recognise indicators of human trafficking and learn how to respond to it,” says Sreeni-Ong
Generating public awareness is important because everyone has a role to play in preventing human trafficking, she says.
“Having this knowledge will help members of the public see themselves as upstanders (active bystanders) who can contribute and be part of the whole-of nation approach towards addressing anti-trafficking.
“Members of the public who witness human trafficking it can report the case to the government’s helpline Talian Kasih 15999 or community reporting channels such as Tenaganita or use the anti-trafficking app called Be My Protector,” she concludes.