Human trafficking is a form of gender-based violence, which is a dramatic reality in Latin America particularly affecting women and girls. In 2020 1 in 2 of all victims of trafficking in South America was a woman. Women are trafficked for sexual exploitation – they make up 87% of the victims of sexual exploitation – as well as forced labour. Girls are the majority of the victims of trafficking in Central America.
Economic hardship, social and educational exclusion, fragile family relationships and gender inequality create the ideal terrain for trafficking networks that take advantage of the vulnerable situation of women and girls to exploit and reduce them to a form of slavery.
This is what happened to Cielo, who experienced trafficking and sexual exploitation at age 16, when she was forced to work in nightclubs with the promise of easy money to send back to her family who was struggling financially. Cielo found protection to escape her exploiters’ threats at the Therapeutic Center Sartasim Kullakita in La Paz, Bolivia. This center provides integrated care services and multidisciplinary assistance to adolescent girls between 12 and 18 who are survivors of trafficking for the purpose of sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. Cielo shared how:
‘Here I learned to take care of my own life. I regained confidence in other people who loved me and, above all, I regained confidence in myself to undertake my life project. Once I left Kullakita and returned to my family, I decided to continue my studies. Thanks to the project I was able to finish high school and I graduated as an executive secretary. I am currently studying law. Today I am happy to have got rid of the darkness, and I feel I can fly with my own wings. I value myself and I can fight for my dreams.”
GSIF supports programs and services together with its local partners in America Latina and Asia Pacific to prevent human trafficking, and support girl and women survivors in safe environments, helping them in their recovery and rehabilitation process.