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Jamaica Being Proactive!


Friday, April 17, 2009

MORE than 70 youths were certified as peer educators against human trafficking in Jamaica during Wednesday’s closing ceremony of part three of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The youngsters, whose ages range from 14 to 24, were among 427 participants in the programme aimed at increasing awareness about the heinous practice of human trafficking in Jamaica.

The yearlong project also exposed the participants to training in barbering, cosmetology, information technology, photography, videography and basic language and literacy improvement activities.

The initiative was administered through the People’s Action for Community Transformation (PACT), in collaboration with other non-government organisations.

“This is the third part of the programme. In 2004 we entered into a sort of pact funded by USAID to (inform young people about the threat of human trafficking); because it was understood that our young people were being trafficked. Our young people, especially those in coastal towns, were being lured out of the society and into these negative situations, many times where they were being sold into prostitution. So we basically wanted to educate the public about this criminal practice through the projects,” said Sheila Nicholson, project co-ordinator and CEO of PACT.

Nicholson said that the youngsters were mainly from communities in St James and neighbouring parishes.

According to Ricardo Rose, a participant from the troubled March Pen Road community in Spanish Town, St Catherine, “I learned peer education in teaching young people about life, HIV/AIDS and the training that I got in Videography during the project has opened my mind on life and its expectations. The programme worked a lot and it taught us a lot about human trafficking and how to avoid getting caught up in it.”

But while Jamaica has improved in its human trafficking status, according to the United States Government, deputy director in the Office of Sustainable Development at USAID, Sean Osner, said that there is still more to be done.

He commended the efforts of the recently developed Anti-Trafficking in Person Task Force, but said that the Government should do more in encourage private sector organisations to join the fight against the practice.

Human trafficking is considered as an international crime which is of grave concern to Jamaica. Though it is difficult to obtain exact statistics, an estimated 600,000 – 800,000 persons are trafficked across international borders worldwide annually.

Often regarded as the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, the practice is estimated to rake in US$ 5-9 billion each year.

By Corey Robinson, Observer staff reporter