#AfterYolanda: The fight vs violence, trafficking

Romina Sta. Clara
#AfterYolanda: The fight vs violence, trafficking
Content is key in any relationship. It’s about key messages and stories to save lives and keep them safe from crisis to post-crisis phases.

Almost a year has gone by and I haven’t even unpacked the accumulated stuff from Bangkok, Bali and Yangon for the past years.

I was just supposed to chill when I returned home to follow my love, and ended with 5 humanitarian appeals for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 2013.

From writing humanitarian appeal proposals and raising funds for Filipino internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mindanao and Yolanda-affected areas, I ended up as the national gender and counter-trafficking focal person leading the IOM’s Protection Programme.

We have been able to cover 100,000 vulnerable individuals and reach out to 1.5 million individuals (55% women and 45% men) on gender-based violence (GBV) and human trafficking prevention.

Let me trace the key steps that helped us support and expand the reach of local efforts against GBV and human trafficking. 

  1. Respect the community. One cannot serve effectively when respect is absent. I’ve seen this many times when so-called experts alienated disaster-affected communities. IDP women and men, young and old, have a stake and critical role in crafting and implementing durable solutions for their communities. 
  2. Saving lives and protection support is a combo. Most emergency response tends to focus on saving lives via relief goods and rescue operations. Providing protection support in terms of timely and accurate information on where and how to get help (e.g. referral pathways), including services for rape, domestic violence, and human trafficking, saves lives of the most vulnerable. In my 4 decades in the Philippines and in the ASEAN region, I have never witnessed massive movements of people and so much devastation as aftermath of a typhoon until Yolanda.
  3. Train your team. I started alone giving paralegal tips to the surge teams in the Yolanda-affected areas who encountered a number of GBV incidents, including accompanying potential human trafficking victims. Following the humanitarian principle of “do no harm,” we developed key messages and common learning modules and materials suited for an hour or two-day sessions for IDPs, for local governments, law enforcers. We expanded the IOM mandatory course on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) to contextualize institutional policies against corruption, prostitution and trafficking.
    Fishermen use a net to catch fish off the coast of Anibong which was damaged by the 2013 Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City (30 October 2014). Photo by Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA
  4. Go beyond sex and age disaggregated data. Gender and rights-based analysis is critical in crunching what the numbers mean to vulnerability, access to services, and sectoral gaps through different phases of the humanitarian response. We will be missing the most vulnerable during crisis times when we do not recognize prevailing inequalities and discriminatory practices in the field.
  5. Inclusivity in mobilizing local resources. I am grateful to the speed and diversity of support from institutional donors, private sector, and the diaspora communities. We must recognize though all the IDPs – they shared their local knowledge and time in rescue operations, relief work, and set-up of temporary shelters while they were recovering from their own losses. We also included the oft-blamed part of the gender dynamics – men, particularly the male-centered thinking and privileging in many societies. Not all men are violent and the abusers – they can be allies too.
  6. Forge multistakeholder partnerships. In tandem with the UNFPA and UNICEF, and the IACAT, we held joint sessions for the members of the local governance bodies. With the UNHCR, we taught law enforcers about GBV prevention. The young and adult women and men in the bunkhouses, and in the host communities became our community educators. Local artists such as The Jerks, Gary Granada, Cooky Chua, Lolita Carbon, Bayang Barrios even created a song (“Sandugo”) for the Yolanda survivors during their 6-months-after concert-tribute.
  7. Engage the media. Content is key in any relationship. It’s about key messages and stories to save lives and keep them safe from crisis to post-crisis phases. We have to be ready to advocate for humane treatment and safer world for all IDPs, regardless of their affiliations (religious or political ones), age, sex, identity and disability.

Let us remember the dead and the missing, and most of all honor the living heroes of Yolanda. – Rappler.com 

Romina “Beng” Sta. Clara is currently the national gender focal person and national protection programme coordinator for the International Organization for Migration. 

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