The aim of the Global Seva Challenge 2012 was to raise awareness of the root causes and impact of the global sex trafficking industry, support organizations in India that are providing refuge, rehabilitation and economic opportunities to survivors, and empower survivors to lead lives with dignity and respect. In addition, Off the Mat has provided support for women and children living in rural communities as well as projects working to preserve the sanctity, beauty, and cleanliness of the Ganges and Himalayas.
More than 200 fundraisers from the Americas and Caribbean, Europe, Middle East, Asia, Australia and New Zealand participated in OTM's 2012 Global Seva Challenge. Together, we raised more than $1 million to help support our projects and partners in India. This is a historic achievement for Off the Mat, and we are so proud of our community for stepping into leadership and service in such a powerful way this year!
40 fundraisers who reached their $20,000 were invited to join OTM on a Bare Witness Tour to India which includes an immersion into the history and culture of India – the birthplace of yoga – as well as an examination of the environmental and socio-economic conditions that are the root causes of sex trafficking. OTM has partnered with organizations that not only rescue victims of sex trafficking but are actively working to rehabilitate and provide a healing process for survivors. Read daily updates from participants on the Bare Witness Tour to India here.
Addressing the Issue Locally
In addition, OTM is providing support to organizations that are raising awareness and creating economic opportunities and empowerment for survivors locally. This year Off the Mat Senior Leader Heather Snyder (New York, NY) launched the Yoga Freedom Project whose mission is to unite the yoga community around the issue of sex trafficking.
In 2013, OTM's Empowered Youth Initiative will head to San Francisco/Oakland, CA explore the dynamics that surround disenfranchised urban and suburban youth in the United States, including discussion around the issue of sex trafficking.
Sex trafficking is a global issue that is inextricably linked with limited economic opportunities as well as social and cultural factors. The problem is made worse by lack of awareness, government corruption and poor enforcement of international anti-trafficking laws. The solution must ultimately include an understanding of the root causes of sex trafficking, stronger enforcement of laws, and greater opportunities for survivors to recover and reintegrate back into society in a healthy way. As yogis, we believe in a holistic approach to healing and empowerment. The Global Seva Challenge is an opportunity to discover your true leadership potential, build community, and actively participate in creating long term and sustainable solutions to eradicate sex trafficking worldwide.
Sex trafficking is a $32 billion industry worldwide. It is the third biggest criminal industry after drugs and arms trafficking. An estimated 3 to 6 million women and children are enslaved for sex at any given time, nearly a million of whom are trafficked across international borders each year. The average age is 12 to 14.
In India, there are estimated to be 2 to 3 million sex trafficking victims. Child prostitution is socially acceptable in some parts of Indian society due to traditional practices and beliefs, and more than 30 percent of sex workers are believed to be children. In addition, recent Indian government statistics estimate that 3.5 million people (or three out of every 100 Indians) are now infected with HIV, 9 out of 10 of whom are under 45 years old.
As defined by the United Nations, sex trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Sex trafficking is accomplished by means of fraud, deception, threat or use of force, abuse of a position of vulnerability, and other forms of coercion. The majority of sex trafficking victims are women and young girls, but victims may also include men and boys. Victims are often lured into sex trafficking by:
* A promise of a good job or a better life * A false marriage proposal * Being sold by parents, husbands, or boyfriends in exchange for money * Being kidnapped by traffickers
Sex traffickers use a variety of methods to “condition” their victims including starvation, confinement, physical abuse, rape, gang rape, threat of violence to the victim and the victim’s family, forced drug use, and the threat of shaming by revealing the victim’s activities to their family.
What are we doing about it?
In 2012, OTM partnered with a number of organizations at the forefront of sex trafficking rescue and rehabilitation efforts in India and worldwide. The Seva Challenge is committed to addressing immediate needs while contributing to long term solutions through:
* Education: educate ourselves and the general public about the issue, impact, and root causes of sex trafficking * Awareness: launch the Yoga Freedom Project in collaboration with the Somaly Mam Foundation to raise awareness and funding, and implement a simultaneous campaign to explore the issue of sex trafficking in the United States as part of our Empowered Youth Initiative * Refuge: work directly with orphanages and organizations that are rescuing and sheltering victims of sex trafficking * Rehabilitation: support holistic programs to rehabilitate victims through mental health and other forms of therapy, legal aid and advocacy, and provide medical services for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases * Economic Opportunities: fund and support vocational training and job creation opportunities for sex trafficking survivors and women and girls at risk * Empowerment: fund and support peer education and advocacy training as well as job creation and micro-loans for women survivors