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Advocacy Project Blogs - 2007 Fellow: Michelle Lanspa

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02/28/08

Migratory Projects - Staying Positive

Posted By: michelle

A few days ago, I watched a film on the trafficking of human beings through Mexico to the United States. This was not a documentary, but one of the few, Hollywood-like films made on this subject. Even though I work with "victims of trafficking in human beings" everyday, the emotion that filled me yesterday watching this movie reminded me how much I block out all the most painful, dehumanizing details of the pasts of the persons we help here at TAMPEP.

Sometimes we talk about the migratory projects of the girls we help. For example, how this or that girl's migratory project was interrupted by the strong machine that is trafficking. A girl leaves Romania, Morocco, Brazil, or Nigeria, or many other countries with promises of great job opportunities in Europe. What sometimes happens? Instead of sending money home to her children she is caught in an exploitative situation, controlled by and indebted to her madam or pimp. Should she at least escape from the debt, the possibilities of finding jobs, especially ones with legal contracts, and of obtaining real documents are slim.

Even when I'm not thinking about the more dramatic scenes, like those in the movie, of some of the pasts of these women - walking days through the Sahara to reach an embarking point across the Mediterranean, being raped along the journey before even setting foot in Europe - the everyday reality here of simply not finding work is depressing enough. Immigrants especially face difficulties. Those with documents can search out work in factories, cleaning agencies, homes of elderly people, or among businesses of their cultural community. Racism, or at least strongly held stereotypes, I feel, are relatively still strong in Italy, and limits and makes this search even harder - especially to find dignity and respect, and most importantly, a contract from one's employer.

Yesterday I went to the court house to hear the testimony of a madam several of the girls under the care of TAMPEP have denounced (see blog "Not Legal, But Tolerated" for explanation of this legal procedure). Again I witnessed disappointment - even though the woman being questioned was possibly a criminal who has profited off the shame and pain of many girls, I still felt the way some of the Italian lawyers and judges treated her and the translator was overly disrespectful. I would argue that even if the judges were already convinced of her crimes, her awfulness, I felt the whole ordeal was not taken seriously by their behavior. Granted, this was my first time at one of these proceedings, but I don't think it’s ever very polite to laugh at the responses or confusion of someone, obviously throw bored glances around the room, or blatantly not pay attention to the person speaking.

This month I have tried to call attention to the fact that the women we help here at TAMPEP have had difficult pasts, and even when they persevere to denounce their exploiters, seek legal employment, many difficulties unfortunately still await them. Of course, that's why TAMPEP exists, to help them with all these things, confrontations. It's just that sometimes it seems so depressing. But we are strong and we want to help, and most importantly, these women are also very strong, and they do not give up easily!

01/29/08

Going Public

Posted By: michelle

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to start up again my dialogue with you all on this very important work I believe I have stayed here in Italy to do with the TAMPEP Association. This month the media presented a perfect opportunity…

January 15, news about the arrest of 66 Nigerian mafia members made the front pages of newspapers around the world. The Italian Anti-Mafia Bureau's Naples office executed the bust, code-named “Operation Viola,” by arresting 51 Nigerians in Italy and 15 in Holland. The investigatory agencies had found these Nigerians guilty of, among other delinquencies, the trafficking of human beings and drugs into Europe. The group reportedly was caught by the strange adoption practices it had been utilizing to bring women to exploit into the EU. Last October, the Operation had succeeded in arresting 23 others in Holland, Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, the United States, and Nigeria.

A week later, January 22, more news came from the south of Italy of additional arrests of six Nigerian mafia members and two Italians in the city of Bari. The Italian police also took in these culprits as organizers of the trafficking of Nigerian women for the purpose of forced prostitution into Italy. The two Italians had helped to facilitate the immigration of the girls into the country. One of them used a tactic we often see at TAMPEP, advising the girls to apply for political asylum with the local authorities. Doing this leaves them with a document that allows them to stay in Italy until the request is denied or granted. Many Nigerians do this and think they face no more problems with documents, when in reality, the Italian government grants very few requests for political asylum filed by Nigerians.

These arrests, together with the media attention paid to the causative crimes of trafficking in human beings, is one of those major victories for both anti-crime organizations and anti-trafficking advocates, NGOs, politicians, etc. Events like this, however, happen infrequently. The suffering of their victims, the workings of their deep-reaching networks of smugglers, of document falsifiers, continue still, every hour, every day. The work of the TAMPEP Association, of many other NGOs around the world, to help little by little the girls who have been snatched up by such mafiosi, maybe also merit such media attention. Nonetheless, we should definitely celebrate the successes of Operation Viola.

Links to the news stories (in Italian): http://www.rainews24.rai.it/notizia.asp?newsid=77854, http://cc.msnscache.com/cache.aspx?q=72807894241219&lang=it-IT&w=815ee0c7

08/19/07

OBSERVATIONS ON THE STREET

Posted By: michelle

Written July 30, 2007

Last week, I participated in my second outing with the mobile street unit team, also known as Unità di Strada (UdS). To read about my first experience with the team, talking to the migrant sex workers on the job, read my blog “One Person at a Time.” This time, instead of driving through an industrial neighborhood of Torino at night, we ventured outside Torino, to the little farm towns surrounding the city, in the middle of the afternoon. You can read about the other AP fellow in Torino Leslie’s experience talking to the migrant sex workers out “in the cornfields” in her blog “Working in the Cornfields: Juliet and Sylvia.”

What struck me as the first difference between going out during the day and driving through little country roads versus cruising down long, depressing streets of uniform cement structures was that I felt like I actually saw the offering and purchasing of services in front of my eyes. When I went out at night with UdS, I might have saw a few clients pull up and drive away with a girl after we had left. During the day, the clients don’t seem to feel the need to drive off with the girls, because, I think, of their relative isolation out in the country; there were actually times when we stopped next to an empty chair (belonging to the girl), nestled among the shade of cornrows and big trees on some dirt path, and an empty car or motorcycle (belonging to the client) was parked some meters away. We would wait until we saw the man exit from somewhere in the foliage and drive off; shortly after, the girl would exit from the same place and we would great her and begin our dialogue of who we are and of explaining various health issues and services.

Because Tampep’s central concern is the safety and health of the migrant sex workers, they do not interfere or talk with the clients, pimps, or madams. But look how close they get! The demand that drives prostitution and sex trafficking! While governments and international organizations have tried to address demand by discouraging sexual tourism in countries like Thailand, for example, I have not read much about street outreach to clients. I don’t know if it’s possible, or safe, or smart; for Tampep’s operations at the moment, I do not believe this type of outreach would be advisable within the same organization. It’s just interesting to think about how you would have to change your message and tactics to achieve the same goals – the health and safety of trafficking victims, targeting the opposite population… I have talked to some Tampep colleagues about projects on prevention, on addressing demand. They have expressed interest in, and also previously carried out, educational and informational projects. We’ll have to wait and see what this busy and ambitious organization comes up with in the future…

Another thing that I learned during my second outing with the UdS was that a hierarchy of control seems to exist among the sex workers, or at least among the Nigerian girls Tampep frequently encounters. Out in the country, we usually found the girls sitting in groups of two. One was usually shyer, the other more outgoing. Sometimes my colleague knew the more outspoken girl, but maybe not the quieter one. We would get back in the car and she would say “I think that girl controls the other girl.” At first, I thought that we were talking to the madams, who for some reason, for extra money maybe, also worked the streets. I asked for clarification and my colleague explained that while sometimes the madams might also work as prostitutes (often they are former sex workers themselves), when she says one girl controls another, it’s not because she is her madam, rather it’s because lower levels of control also seem to exist among the girls. The more experienced girls boss around the newer girls. Older girls might have the task of watching over the newer girl. Or, the more experienced girl will intimidate the newer girls and take the better-paying clients.

What does this mean for helping victims of trafficking and promoting the health of migrant sex workers? First, it demonstrates, like I have stated before, the extreme complexity of the phenomenon. Second, it brings to light why, in reintegration programs, whether in Italy or in Nigeria, the girls have such a hard time trusting each other when trying to put together, for example, a collective micro-credit enterprise. Not only, perhaps, have their families betrayed them by effectively selling them or offering them up to the sex trade, but their only companions on the street might also be manipulating them. Therefore, trusting co-nationals might become a problem. This would also be an issue should Tampep and other similar organizations try to work more with Nigerian diasporas, like I talked about in my previous blog “A Failed Exorcism.” In conclusion, this discussion on control and trust makes me realize, yet again, how important, intelligent, and amazing Tampep’s individual psychological assistance to those girls trying to decide whether to denounce their traffickers or to return to Nigeria is. To jump into a scary judicial process, or return to a country with a history of sex work, involves trusting not only the organizations like Tampep and others trying to assist you; it also often involves trying to rebuild relationships with people you might have lost faith in, like family members and friends. What is the hierarchical situation voluntarily repatriated girls might have to enter once returning to Nigeria? These are all factors that influence the successful reintegration of the victims and the avoidance of being re-trafficked.

A FAILED EXORCISM

Posted By: michelle

Written July 23, 2007

We entered into a large second-story room, painted blue and white to resemble clouds and the heavens. Three older Nigerian women were each singing their own songs of praise in tune to a Nigerian man half singing, half reading from a very worn bible. “We” would include myself, two Tampep social workers, and yet another very troubled, young Nigerian girl, just recently escaped from the world of trafficking and sexual exploitation. To protect her identity, I will call her Anna. The social workers decided to bring Anna to this Nigerian pastor in Torino because they could not get her to open up, to realistically face the choices the available to her.

Like all foreign trafficking victims in Italy, Anna had to decide whether to denounce her trafficker and stay in Italy, or to return back to Nigeria (should the victim stay in Italy without denouncing he/she would not have documents, and therefore, no chance of obtaining legal and/or stable work). Anna claimed to be suffering from juju (voodoo), and therefore, refused either option to denounce her trafficker, or to return to Nigeria for fear of the repercussions dictated by the juju.

Juju is a spiritual ceremony most of the trafficked Nigerian girls in Italy undergo before coming to Italy. A native doctor, religious figure, or other authority might take some of the girl’s pubic hair, finger nails, or some other symbolic object and perform a ceremony “sealing” her duty to her trafficker, her obligation to work and to pay off her debt for the travel to Europe. The spiritual forces of juju then bond her to this task or promise. Should she default on the promise, her life and/or those of her family members could be seriously threatened. Whether the girl believes the power of juju or the trafficker’s gang (using juju as an excuse) will be the force threatening lives, does not really matter.

After multiple frustrating visits to a psychologist, Anna expressed interest in seeing a Nigerian priest who had dealt with cases of juju before. Without stopping their worship, the four Nigerians greeted us with handshakes and brought Anna to the front. Tampep had previously explained the situation to the pastor. At first, they continued praying and singing as before. After a awhile, the pastor made note that we were all there that day to help Anna help herself open up to God and repent her sins. While the pastor and the other women of the community guided Anna into kneeling or standing positions, bellowed out prayers of redemption, and begged her to confess, to allow God to enter her heart, myself and the other Tampep workers sat back and watched dismayed as Anna continued to be unresponsive to the priest’s efforts. Even though she herself had suggested talking to a priest, that afternoon Anna avoided eye contact with the pastor, pushed away his “healing” hands, and generally appeared bored with the entire ceremony.

It appeared that in this girl’s case, one religion could not “exorcise” the fears implanted by another spiritual force. Apparently there have been successful stories of “releasing” people from the mental control of juju with Christian ceremonies like this one, given that many Nigerians practice Christianity, but also revere or passively believe in the more local, traditional religions as well.

I felt sympathetic. After all, if you had lived through a situation of extreme sexual exploitation and faced the challenge of stigma either by staying in Italy or by returning to Nigeria, wouldn’t you be hard to talk to and reason with as well? I asked the Tampep social workers about this and they told me that of course its hard to talk to these girls, to make them open up to you, to make them understand the hard choices they have to make. Apparently, however, Anna has been the most difficult, closed girl they have tried to help.

I thought it was interesting also that Tampep knew someone in the local Nigerian community ready to help them in this case – a priest who performs exorcisms. I know Tampep has also worked with other Nigerian churches in Torino to promote some of its projects in Nigeria. I have been talking with some of my co-workers at Tampep and they would like to increase their involvement with the local Nigerian diaspora. They know, however, to create more trustworthy contacts, it takes time to build a relationship of trust. Already this summer, Tampep hosted the Nigerian Association of Torino and diplomats from the Nigerian consulate in Rome in its offices to help the Nigerian community in Torino, including trafficking victims, renew some of their Nigerian documents so they did not all have to travel to Rome. What I have noticed while working with the general Nigerian diaspora in Italy is that Tampep usually has to be very careful in its use of the words trafficking and prostitution. These are two phenomena that hold huge stigma. So while it seems like we can talk about helping out “our girls” in “cases of difficulty,” it does not really seem like trafficking and migrant sex work are topics we can out-right address yet among the co-nationals of the victims in Italy. To read a similar experience the other AP fellow Leslie had in Italy this summer, read her blog “Delicate Issues.”

07/19/07

NOT LEGAL, BUT TOLERATED

Posted By: michelle

As I mentioned in a previous blog, migrant sex workers get arrested in Italy and sent to the CPT not because they are prostitutes, but because they are clandestine (illegal) immigrants. Yesterday, I translated between my Italian colleague at Tampep and a Nigerian woman, a former sex worker, just beginning the denouncement (of her trafficker) process. She had been caught by the police for being without documents and was also falsely accused of a crime. For the crime, she received a two year prison sentence; because she was pregnant at the time, they converted the sentence to house arrest. Nowhere in her judicial story, until beginning the denouncement process, did she have legal problems strictly connected with prostitution.

Before coming to Italy this year, and seeing cases like the one above, I was so confused every time someone told me that prostitution is legal in Italy. In fact, according to a Tampep colleague, most migrant sex workers, when detained for not having documents, believe they are being arrested for having prostituted themselves. If you look at simple summary websites about the legality of prostitution, they say that prostitution in Europe is only "legal" in the Netherlands, while in several other states it is only legal if the prostitute is over 18 years of age. When I embarrassingly asked my boss, Tampep director Rosanna Paradiso, about this, she explained to me that legal was certainly not the best way to describe sex work in Italy; she would say its best described as tolerated.

Let me explain. The law in Italy that regulates prostitution is the 1958 Merlin Law; it intended to close brothels and to "outlaw the regulation, exploitation, and subordination of prostitution." What this effectively means is that those actually providing the sexual "services" are not committing a crime, but anyone who assists them or takes a share of their earnings can be prosecuted. This has resulted in the sex industry going almost entirely underground and in migrant sex workers experiencing greater vulnerability to the coercion of police. In the last ten years, solicitation has also been decriminalized - offenders are now fined instead of being incarcerated. The 1998 immigration law introduced Article 18 which penalizes those that "contraband, control, and exploit immigrants;" the victims that fall into these categories, the trafficked girls and boys that Tampep helps everyday, are eligible to participate in a program of social protection and the choice to remain to in Italy (but must stop their sex work). In 1999, Italy modified its anti-slavery law, changing article 600 of the criminal code so that the victims of trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and indentured servitude or illegal employment will be protected by the state if they cooperate with the police.

According to Tampep International (TI), "policies on prostitution enacted in Italy are typically abolitionist and tend to criminalize sex workers, and these policies are one of the causes to which can be attributed the spread of various infections." Abolitionist means that the policies try to eradicate prostitution with the rational either that it is a sin, or a social evil. It is usually seen as a very black and white stance that might not take the complexity of the situation into consideration. Despite the fact that prostitution is not "illegal" in Italy, TI notes a wave of repressive commune-level repressive policies in Italy that took place in 1998-1999 to try and rid the Italian streets of prostitution. The police chased down the sex workers so ferociously in Modena in the late 1990s, for example, that doctors at a free health clinic noted that they rarely see anymore irregular immigrant women and prostitutes. Remember, this does not mean they have disappeared or returned home.

TI: "Above all, repression generates clandestinity, which in turn fuels emergency measures and further repression, both of which in turn fuel greater clandestinity... In fact, clandestinity signifies the total domination of the racketeers, in whose clutches thousands of immigrant women would fall."

I went to Tampep Torino (TT)’s VP Simona for TT’s position on the legalization of prostitution. First of all, she stressed the importance of remembering the differences between the phenomenon of trafficking and prostitution – in the laws and in the degree of choice that exists for the women in both situations. TT recognizes a woman’s, or man’s, right to chose prostitution as his or her work. TT does not advocate for the criminalization of prostitution, but neither does it wish to see the reopening of brothels. Simona explained to me that with the opening the brothels, while it might look like a positive step – putting everyone together, registering them, having health regulations, a kind of hierarchical exploitation ends up developing inside; the women or men can still be very easily controlled and manipulated within these structures. Reopening brothels would also do nothing for migrant sex workers, or 90 plus percent of the prostitutes in Italy. TT favors, instead, the self-organization of women into cooperatives that work out of their own apartments.

While Italy has discussed reforming its law on prostitution in the last few years, it has never done so; the government is, however, in the process of rewriting its immigration law this year. Simona personally would like to see prostitution become a regularized job, a job for which immigrant women, or men, could get a residence permit (instead of just trafficking victims that decide to denounce their traffickers). While this probably will not be a part of the new bill, other measures will help the many of the women TT assists. Reevaluating the situations that merit expulsion, elongating the periods for which migration quotas are valid, making family reunification easier, and obtaining Italian citizenship faster, are all mechanisms that will make it easier for former migrant sex workers to conquer all the hurdles of finding work and getting the right documents to stay in Italy legally.

So despite the fact that the "exploitation" of prostitutes is technically illegal, and health care is available (to legal and illegal immigrants – although they often do not know this), many foreign sex workers still face huge legal fears everyday due to the fact that they are irregularly present in Italy. The trafficked sex workers were given false documents to come to Italy, and any genuine documents they might have had are often confiscated by their Madams. I learned my first night of Unità di Strada that, in practice, what happens is that the police warn the women the first time they encounter them on the streets without documents, then a second time they might get taken in for fingerprints. At times, the police have been noted to confiscate the girls' earnings, claiming them to be profits from "clandestine immigration." In the worst, and unfortunately numerous, cases the girls without documents are sent to the CPT and forcibly deported. The prostitution is tolerated, having no documents is not. As you can see, the immigration battles and debates are a hot topic, not just in the US along the southern border, but in many other higher income countries as well, like Italy.

Quote:
"Health, Migration, and Sex Work: the Experience of Tampep," edited by Licia Brussa for the Tampep International Foundation, (Amsterdam: The Tampep International Foundation, 1999), 9-98.

07/16/07

UNA PERSONA ALLA VOLTA

Posted By: michelle

Scritto: 3 luglio 2007

Giovedì scorso, sono andata con due mie colleghe di Tampep e con Leslie, l'altra stagista di AP, a partecipare ad una missione esterna di Tampep per la strada. Questa attività si chiama Unità di Strada (UDS), ed è il cuore e l'anima del lavoro di Tampep. Un piccolo mix di dipendenti di Tampep, mediatrici culturali, volontari (di solito 2 o 3 persone), preparano il pulmino con volantini che contengono informazioni sui nostri orari d'ufficio, sull'AIDS e su altri argomenti sanitari, e sui progetti di Tampep. Un altro cesto adagiato sul sedile anteriore contiene lubrificanti, preservativi, e Gildo, il nostro amico fatto di gomma che utilizziamo quando dobbiamo spiegare alle ragazze come usare in un modo corretto i preservativi.

Devo confessarlo, non mi sentivo affatto pronta per fare l'UDS. Dopo aver gustato una cena molto rilassante a casa del direttore di Tampep, Rosanna, lei mi ha suggerito di andare con Leslie a fare l'UDS. Questa è stata una novità: infatti, era stato deciso, in via informale, che avrei dovuto aspettare il turno dopo tutti gli altri stagisti dell’ufficio. Questo perché loro partiranno presto, mentre io resterò qui fino ad Ottobre.

Mi aspettavo che le donne in strada fossero molte chiuse e forse infastidite o offese dal nostro abbordaggio. Mi sono resa conto, tuttavia, dopo aver guardato le mie colleghe in azione con le prime ragazze, che tutto quello che ci vuole è solo un sorriso caloroso, aperto, e l'onestà di fare questo lavoro. Noi ci sediamo accanto a loro sul cordone del marciapiede, ci scambiamo i nomi, e poi cominciamo a chiacchierare. Le informiamo dell’esistenza del nostro ufficio, di quando possono passare, quali materiali possiamo offrire loro gratuitamente, come possiamo accompagnarle per gli esami medici o consigliarle su altri aspetti legali. Chiediamo loro cosa sanno dell'AIDS, se la polizia o i clienti danno loro dei problemi e nel frattempo prendiamo dati delle loro situazioni personali in Italia.

Non mi sembrava che le informazioni scambiate tra noi fossero prive di rispetto. Mi sembrava che fosse il modo perfetto per raggiungere una moltitudine di donne che ha tanto bisogno di molte cose, come cure mediche, conoscenza dei loro diritti o la possibilità di tornare a casa... Nonostante i moltissimi problemi che i migranti devono affrontare nei paesi ospiti, specialmente le migranti che devono prostituirsi, io so che la conoscenza delle informazioni è un punto chiave. Pensavo, beh, le campagne d'informazione sono una grande cosa ma questo metodo di informazione sulle strade, questo veramente raggiunge ogni individuo. Questa è una conversazione con ogni donna per la strada, l'unico dialogo che scopre bisogni personali e quelli collettivi. Ed ogni ragazza aveva la sua storia, come quella che è stata a prostituirsi allo stesso angolo per sei anni, mentre un'altra è arrivata in Italia solo da due giorni. Ogni bella ragazza aveva una personalità diversa che si poteva distinguere dalla pettinatura, dal modo di parlare e dai commenti sul lavoro.

La dichiarazione che vorrei fare è che, ( pensavo questo anche prima, ma ora, con questa esperienza settimanale mi sento di urlarlo ai quattro venti)– essere una prostituta non significa essere un mostro morale. Sia le vittime della tratta o no, sia chi ha scelto la professione di prostituta o no ( dirò di più su questo discorso nei prossimi blog), sia i lavoratori del sesso, e sia anche, oso dirlo, i loro clienti, sono tutti ancora esseri umani. Il punto principale è che farsi delle domande del tipo se sia lecito legalizzare la prostituzione o no, su come fermare la tratta e la violenza sulle donne, o su come curare i clienti maschi e la società dal loro bisogno psicologico e/o psichico per l'amore a pagamento con una sconosciuta, secondo me, richiede un certo grado di realismo. Aver visto il lavoro di Tampep mi ha fatto pensare che il modo migliore di essere realisti è quello di “parlare” con le persone.

Quella notte eravamo in un quartiere industriale della città, strade dove battono la maggior parte delle donne nigeriane. Abbiamo spiegato a più di una dozzina di ragazze che avevano fra 20 e 30 anni il progetto Turnaround, un progetto relativamente nuovo di Tampep. Ritengo che questo progetto evidenzi anche l'interesse di Tampep per le ragazze singole. Nel progetto Turnaround, Tampep visiterà ragazze nigeriane che sono state incarcerate nei CPT (vedi il mio blog "Non Venire - Gli Italiani Vogliono Distruggerti" per conoscere meglio i CPT) perché erano senza documenti (non perché si sono prostituite - il mio prossimo blog si occuperà su questa situazione legale). Tampep anche accoglierà queste ragazze all'aeroporto in Nigeria e fornirà loro qualcosa da mangiare, una carta telefonica ed altra assistenza.

Il lavoro principale di Turnaround e dell'ufficio di Tampep in Nigeria consiste nell’aiutare quelle ragazze che, in Italia, hanno deciso di lasciare il loro lavoro per tornare a casa in Nigeria. Alcune di queste Nigeriane, sono ragazze che non vogliono denunciare i loro trafficanti per vari motivi e quindi non possono restare in Italia a cause della difficoltà di trovare un lavoro, poiché sono senza documenti in regola. In Italia, con ogni ragazza, Tampep fa vari colloqui per assicurarsi che è pronta per il rientro. Chiamano anche la famiglia della ragazza, o incaricano il personale dell'ufficio in Nigeria di andare a trovare i parenti della ragazza. Appena una ragazza arriva in Nigeria, questi impiegati di Tampep valutano gli obiettivi di ogni ragazza e la aiutano ad iscriversi ad un corso adatto a loro.

Tampep non ha solo organizzato un progetto e trovate persone per farle iscrivere; in realtà hanno trovato ragazze in difficoltà e le hanno aiutate a partecipare ai programmi e alle risorse disponibili per aiutarle ad aiutare se stesse. Pur ammettendo che sarebbe ideale avere il potere e la conoscenza di poter fermare la tratta umana una volta per sempre, penso proprio che lo sforzo di Tampep di capire la situazione di ogni persona e di lavorare caso per caso, stia muovendo le società verso la direzione corretta.

07/10/07

One Person at a Time

Posted By: michelle

Written: 3 July 2007

Last Thursday, I went with two TAMPEP colleagues and AP fellow Leslie to help participate in TAMPEP's street outreach. This activity, called Unità di Strada (UDS, or mobile street unit in English), is the heart and soul of TAMPEP's work. A small combination of TAMPEP employees, cultural mediators, and volunteers (usually two or three persons) pack the van with pamphlets containing information on our office hours and services, AIDS, other health concerns, and TAMPEP projects. Another basket nestled into the back seat contains lube, condoms, and Gildo – our rubber friend that comes in handy when we must demonstrate to the girls how to properly use the condoms.

I have to admit, I did not feel prepared for this at all. After enjoying a nice relaxing dinner at the director, Rosanna's, apartment, she suggested I go with Leslie to do UDS. With all the other summer interns in the office, and me staying here until October, it had been informally decided that I would wait to join in on this activity.

I expected the women to be very closed, and perhaps bothered or offended by us approaching them. I realized, however, after seeing my colleagues in action after the first few girls, that all it takes is a warm smile, openness, and flat-out honesty to get the job done. We sit down next to them on the curbs, exchange names, and begin the conversation. We tell them about our office – when to stop by, what other materials we can offer for free, how we can accompany them for medical exams or advice them on other legal issues. We ask them what they know about AIDS, whether the police or their clients give them problems and meanwhile take in information about their personal situation in Italy.

I didn't feel like any of the information exchange was condescending. I felt like it was the perfect way to really reach a population of women so in need of many things – medical care, information on their rights, the possibility to go home… Despite the many other problems I know migrants face in host countries, especially sex worker migrants, I know that access to information is key. I thought, yeah, information campaigns are great and often effective, but this, this really reaches out to each individual. This is a conversation with every woman on the street, the only dialogue that discovers personal and collective needs. And each girl did have her own story – one had been on the same corner for six years, for another it was only her second night in the country. Each beautiful girl had a different personality that you could discern from her hair-do, her conversation, her side comments about the work.

The point I want to make is that, while I thought this before, it never became so urgent for me to shout it out until this week – being a prostitute does not equal being a moral monster. Trafficked or not, having chosen the profession or not (more on this argument in blogs to come), sex workers, and dare I say it, even their clients, are still human beings. The bigger point being that addressing questions like whether to legalize prostitution or not, how to stop trafficking and violence against women, or how to cure the male clients and society of their psychological and/or physical need for love with a stranger, according to me, requires realism. And seeing TAMPEP work has made me think the best way to realism is by dealing with individuals.

That night we were in an industrial part of town, streets where mostly Nigerian girls kept the pavement warm. To over a dozen girls in their 20s and 30s we explained TAMPEP's relatively new project Turnaround. I think this project also highlights TAMPEP's concern for individual girls. Within Project Turnaround, TAMPEP will visit Nigerian girls that might have been incarcerated in the CPT (see my blog "Don't Come - The Italians Want to Destroy You" for more information on the CPT) because they were without documents (not because they were working as a prostitute - my next blog will address this legal situation). TAMPEP will also greet these girls at the airport in Nigeria and provide them with something to eat, a phonecard, and other assistance.

The major work of Turnaround and Tampep's office in Nigeria involves helping girls in Italy that have decided to leave their work in Italy and go home to Nigeria. Some of these Nigerians are girls that do not want to denounce their traffickers for various reasons and therefore cannot really stay in Italy due to the difficulty of finding a job without documents. In Italy, with each girl, they have various meetings with her to make sure she is ready for the return. They also call the girls' family, or have staff in Nigeria visit family members. Once in Nigeria, they assess each girl's goals and help her enroll in an appropriate course.

TAMPEP has not just organized a program and found people to stick in it; rather, they have found girls in need and have helped them to access programs and available resources to help them help themselves. While it would be ideal to have the power and knowledge to stop trafficking or prostitution all at once, I really think TAMPEP's effort to understand each person's situation, and to move case by case, is moving societies in the right direction.

06/29/07

Lo Stato delle Case di Fuga?

Posted By: michelle

Questo è un blog per rispondere ai blog di Jennifer Hollinger, un'altra stagista di AP che sta anche lavorando sul tema della tratta umana in Inghilterra ed Albania. Jennifer ha notato che nel rapporto “La Tratta delle Persone (rapporto TIP)” del 2007, compilato dal Dipartimento di Stato statunitense, si dice che l'Inghilterra dovrebbe aumentare "i posti di letto" per le vittime della tratta. L'esperienza di Jennifer in Inghilterra ha visto, infatti, che l’Inghilterra ha pochi posti nelle loro case di fuga per le vittime della tratta.

Nelle riunioni dove ho partecipato qui in Italia con Tampep, ho sentito diverse volte che molte delle case di fuga qui a Torino sono quasi vuote. Non posso dire se questo sia lo stesso in tutta Italia, dico solo che a Torino evidentemente non c'è una mancanza di posti. Guardando cosa dice il rapporto TIP del 2007 dell'Italia, non vediamo la stessa preoccupazione di aumentare i posti di letto. Cosa dice questo rapporto , ve lo dirò durante questa estate…

Esistono sia motivi politici e sia motivi più delicati per spiegare il perché di queste comunità quasi vuote, pronte per accogliere le ragazze in difficoltà. Sfortunatamente, non possiamo dire che la causa è una diminuzione delle vittime.

Innanzi tutto, dovrebbe essere chiarito che le comunità non sono tutte vuote – forse sono quasi vuote quelle che, nel passato, lavoravano con ragazze rumene. Meno ragazze provenienti dai nuovi stati membri dell'unione europea e dall'Est Europa entrano nelle comunità perché hanno adesso meno motivi per denunciare i loro trafficcanti. La Romania è diventata membro dell'UE quest'anno, il 1° gennaio 2007. Da allora, le vittime rumene della tratta non hanno più bisogno di un permesso di soggiorno per stare legalmente in Italia. Loro possono rimanere per 90 giorni, come ogni altro turista, e tornare a casa con i loro guadagni. Prima, una parte di ragazze rumene sceglievano di denunciare i loro trafficcanti, usando l’articolo 18 della legge sull’immigrazione del 1998, perché così facendo potevano ottenere il permesso di soggiorno. Con tale permesso, non erano più clandestine in Italia ed avrebbero potuto trovare un lavoro regolare. Adesso, non devono avere tutti questi documenti per stare regolarmente per brevi periodi.

Secondo UNA persona, anche ragazze non dei paesi membri dell'UE, come le nigeriane, hanno meno motivi per denunciare i loro trafficcanti e quindi di rifugiarsi presso le case di fuga. Si dice che le ragazze ed i ragazzi trafficati in Italia non sono così maltrattati come succedeva in passato. Forse prima, le ragazze ricevevano dalle loro Madam lo zero per cento o una piccola percentuale sui loro guadagni. Adesso, le ragazze potrebbero ricevere pressappocco il 40 per cento dei loro guadagni, sono picchiate di meno e non sono poi così maltrattate. Le Madam hanno diminuito la severità dello sfruttamento e le ragazze possono spendere più soldi per loro stesse. Le ragazze, o i ragazzi, preferiscono continuare a prostituirsi per le strade vista la mancanza di altri lavori, o fanno lavori pagati molto poco , come quelli per gli stranieri presenti irregolarmente in Italia. Essi hanno, dunque, meno motivi per denunciare i loro trafficcanti.

Cos'è successo? A Torino, la tratta delle persone è diventata, per ALCUNI, essenzialmente più democratica? Le Madam o i protettori, molto furbamente, hanno dato ai loro "cittadini" più scelta per evitare più ribellioni? Come in molti altri casi, l'economia comanda. Sembra che alcuni trafficanti hanno corretto i loro metodi di business per far filare tutto liscio.

Secondo una collega di Tampep, tuttavia, quest'ultima spiegazione è un po' generalizzata. Tampep, per esempio segue molte ragazze nigeriane che sta attualmente aiutando a fare denuncie e poi farle entrare in comunità. Tampep vede ancora molti casi tristi di sfruttamento abbastanza serio.

Allora, come è la situazione attuale? Faccio ancora sforzi per riuscire a capirla. Questa estate, il governo italiano sta varando una nuova legge sull'immigrazione. Insomma, alla fine, la situazione per le strade e nei tribunali forse sta cambiando... Vi faccio sapere tutti gli aggiornamenti!

Technorati Profile

The Status of Safe Houses?

Posted By: michelle

This is a blog in response to the blogs of Jennifer Hollinger, another AP fellow working also on the topic of trafficking in the UK and Albania. Jennifer has noted that in the 2007 Trafficking In Persons (TIP) report put out by the US State Department, the UK has been recommended to increase bed space for trafficking victims. From Jennifer’s experience in the UK, she has seen that, in fact, the UK is tight on space in their safe houses for trafficking victims.

From the meetings I have sat in on here with TAMPEP in Italy, I have heard repeatedly that many of the safe houses here in Turin are nearly empty. I cannot say if this is true in all of Italy, only that in Turin, the bed space is apparently not lacking. Looking at what the 2007 TIP report says about Italy, we, in fact, do not see the same recommendation to increase bed space. What it does suggest, I will address later this summer…

Both political and more subtle reasons exist to explain these nearly empty communities, ready to welcome more girls in need. Unfortunately, we cannot say that a decrease in victims is the cause.

First, it should be clarified that the communities are not actually all nearly empty – maybe only those that, in the past, were used to working with Romanian girls. Less girls from new EU member East European countries are entering the communities because they now have less reason to denounce their traffickers. Romania joined the European Union this year on January 1, 2007. Since then, Romanian victims of trafficking no longer need a residence permit to stay legally in Italy. They can stay for 90 days, like any other tourist, and return home with their earnings. Before, Romanian girls partially chose to denounce their traffickers under Article 18 of the 1998 Italian immigration law because doing so would get them this residence permit. With the permit, they were no longer residing illegally in Italy and they could legally apply for jobs. Now, they do not need all that paperwork to come stay legally for short amounts of time.

According to ONE person, even girls not from new EU countries, like Nigerians, also have less motivation to denounce their traffickers and therefore escape to the safe houses. They say that girls and boys trafficked into Italy are not treated as badly as before. Perhaps before, girls received zero or very small percentages of their earnings from their Madams. Now, the girls might receive as much as 40 percent of their earnings, they are also beaten less and not treated as poorly. The madams have lessened the severity of exploitation, and the girls are able to spend more money on themselves. The girls, or boys, prefer to continue working on the streets given the lack of, or very low paying, jobs available to foreigners illegally present in Italy. They, also, therefore, now have less motivation to denounce their traffickers.

What has happened? Has trafficking in Turin, for SOME, essentially become more democratic? The Madams or pimps, very slyly, have given their “citizens” more choice in order to avoid more rebellions? Like in many other cases, the market rules. It seems some traffickers have adjusted their business schemes to keep themselves running smoothly.

According to a colleague at TAMPEP, however, this last explanation is a bit too generalized. TAMPEP, for example, has many Nigerian girls it is currently helping to make denouncements and put into communities. TAMPEP still sees many sad cases of pretty harsh exploitation.

So what is the current scene? I’m still struggling to figure that out. This summer, the Italian government is in the process of changing its immigration law. So, in conclusion, the situation on the streets and in the courthouses might be changing… I will keep you posted with updates!

Che Casino!

Posted By: michelle

Questo è solo un breve blog che fa riflettere su quanto sia difficile muoversi tra i documenti in Italia per ottenere un permesso di soggiorno, quel documento che tutti gli stranieri devono avere se vogliono stare qui regolarmente (con eccezione per viaggi di turismo minori di 90 giorni e alcuni altri casi).

Sono andata alla posta vicino l’ufficio di Tampep per prendere il kit che si deve compilare per richiedere il rilascio o il rinnovo del permesso di soggiorno. Lì mi hanno detto che dovevo andare in un’altra posta, dove c’era lo “sportello amico” per ritirare il kit. Così son dovuta tornare a piedi quasi a casa mia per trovare una posta che avesse questo sportello.

Dopo aver compilato il modulo, e dopo aver fatto un sacco di domande alle mie colleghe di Tampep per riempirlo, sono tornata, per spedire questo modulo, a quella posta dove avevo preso il kit. Mi dissero che anche se avevano i kit, non avevano le ricevute corrette per la spedizione.

Ho dovuto viaggiare di nuovo ad una nuova posta. Quando sono arrivata, pensavo di aver finalmente finito con tutta questa burocrazia. Ho preso il biglietto per il turno, ho aspettato il mio numero, mi sono avvicinata allo sportello ma… Solo per scoprire che invece di portare la fotocopia della pagina principale del mio passaporto più quella del visto, come sarebbe stato logico, avrei dovuto portare le fotocopie di tutti i fogli del passaporto (nessuno me lo aveva detto). Va be’, ho trovato un’edicola vicina ed ho fatto tutto. Poi sono ritornata, ho aspettato di nuovo il turno, e poi mi hanno detto che non potevo comprare la marca lì alla posta, ma dovevo comprarla fuori, da un tabaccaio. E allora, sono tornata di nuovo, finalmente con tutto a posto ed ho pagato pure i francobolli per spedire questo modulo agli uffici competenti, con la speranza che forse riceverò questo permesso prima che parto (perché tutti mi hanno detto che ci vogliono 3 o 4 mesi per riceverlo dopo aver inoltrato la richiesta).

Quel giorno ho pensato: grazie a Dio ho già un visto e validi motivi per richiedere il permesso di soggiorno. Inoltre pensavo, che fortuna che parlo italiano – non soltanto per compilare il modulo (che era scritto in italiano e tedesco, ma le istruzioni per la compilazione erano solo in italiano), ma anche per parlare con la gente alla posta, per chiedere loro cosa avrei dovuto fare. Se tu sei una vittima della tratta o se sei un immigrato presente irregolarmente, o anche un immgrato regolare, sempre occupato a lavorare, non hai tempo per frequentare corsi d’italiano. Sono stata anche fortunata perché ho potuto avere una mattina libera al lavoro. Essere un immigrato è davvero difficile, anche in un paese così bello come l’Italia, a volte anche (forse solo per un giorno) per quegli stranieri nella mia posizione relativamente stabile e facile.

What a Mess!

Posted By: michelle

This is only a brief blog that reflects upon how difficult it is to navigate the paperwork in Italy in order to get a residence permit; this is a document all foreigners must have if they want to stay in Italy legally (except for tourist trips shorter than 90 days and several other cases).

I went to the post office close to TAMPEP’s office to get the kit that you have to fill out in order to request the first issuing or renewal of a residence permit. They told me there that I had to go to a different post office, one that had a “friend window” to get the kit. So, I had to walk nearly back to where I live to find a post office with this particular service.

After having filled out the form, and after having asked my colleagues at TAMPEP a million questions to do it, I returned to the post office where I originally got the kit. They told me that even though they have the kits, they did not have the correct receipts to send them out.

I had to travel again to yet another post office. When I arrived, I thought that finally I would be finished with all of this bureaucracy. I took a number, waited my turn, and approached the window… Only to find out that instead of having photocopies of the first page of my passport and the page with my visa, I had to have copies of every single page. Ok, I found a newspaper stand nearby and made the copies. I then returned, waited again, and then they told me that I could not buy a certain stamp the form needed there, but that I had to buy it at a tobacco shop. I returned again with everything finally ready. I paid the additional money for the postage fees to send the forms off to the officials, with the hope that I would actually get this residence permit before I leave (because everyone has told me that it takes at least 3 to 4 months to receive the permit after submitting the request).

I thought that day: thank God I already have a visa and justifiable motives to request the permit. Additionally, I thought about how fortunate it was that I speak Italian – not only was it necessary to know in order to fill out the forms (which were written in Italian and German, but the instructions were in Italian only), but it was also useful when talking to the employees of the post office to figure out what I had to do. If you are a victim of trafficking or an irregular, or even legal immigrant, always having to work, many times you do not have time to take Italian lessons. I was also fortunate because I was able to miss a morning of work. To be an immigrant is really difficult, even in a beautiful country like Italy, even at times (even if only for a day) for those foreigners in my relatively easy and stable position.

06/21/07

La Mia Sfida

Posted By: michelle

Io sono già stata in Italia ed ho già studiato la situazione degli immigrati in Italia. In un articolo scritto su di me dal giornale della mia città natale, ho detto che “quest’estate vorrei imparare come si lavora con le donne che hanno subìto violenza, perché non è una cosa che si può imparare dai libri” Sapevo già che sarebbe stata una sfida molto impegnativa ed in questi ultimi giorni ho notato che lo è, in particolare nel communicare con gente nuova.

Rosanna Paradiso, direttore di Tampep, ha spiegato a Leslie (l’altra stagista di AP con me a Torino) ed a me che loro hanno qualche volta problemi con i loro mediatori culturali che non si sono prostituiti prima. I mediatori culturali sono traduttori che conoscono il settore in cui operano. Fanno un tirocinio per iniziare questo lavoro. Spiegano non solo il gergo medico agli immigrati, ma anche le differenze culturali, sia ai pazienti e sia ai medici; molte volte sono essi stessi degli immigrati. Insomma, se i mediatori non avessero quell’esperienza di sfruttamento, qualche volta potrebbero essere un po’ accondiscendenti, anche se non intendono essere cosi, con i clienti di Tampep.

Quando ho scritto la mia tesi di laurea l’anno scorso sulle difficoltà che hanno gli immigrati arabi ad ottenere i servizi sanitari in Italia, il mio obiettivo è stato quello di capire bene il ruolo di questi mediatori; questo obiettivo è nato dopo che ho intervistato uno di questi mediatori che mi ha spiegato quello che fanno.

Una cosa è imparare una lingua nuova, ma poter essere capace di ottenere la fiducia di qualcuno in difficoltà e fargli capire che si vorrebbe sinceramente aiutarlo è un’altra cosa…

Questa settimana, con la mediatrice culturale rumena di Tampep, ho accompagnato una ragazza rumena all’asl (azienda sanitaria locale) vicino l’ufficio, dove sono abituati a prendersi cura degli immigrati. All’inizio era facile chiacchierare con questa ragazza giovane, che voleva vedere un ginecologo per fare il test di gravidanza. Non aveva le mestruazioni da 2 mesi e voleva sapere se fosse incinta o no, così avrebbe potuto risolvere la situazione. Parlando con lei, mentre guardava sua figlia giocare con gli altri bambini nella sala d’aspetto sovraffollata e mentre la mediatrice stava in coda per presentare i documenti di questa ragazza, ho scoperto che aveva molta paura di fare questo esame. Allora, forse tutte le donne possono capire cos’è la paura di restare incinta inaspettatamente. Abbiamo parlato di questa situazione per un po’, ma dopo c’e stata una pausa che ci ha interrotto. Ho potuto solo dirle che la mediatrice era una donna bravissima e che qualsiasi cosa avesse avuto di bisogno, ci avrebbe pensato Tampep. Non riuscivo a parlare del suo lavoro, per esempio chiederle se mai sapesse quale cliente poteva essere il padre, se era sposata o se aveva un ragazzo.

Il giorno dopo sono andata con Leslie e la mediatrice culturale nigeriana a trovare una ragazza nigeriana, vittima della tratta, che si chiama Angel e che tre giorni prima si era spostata presso una comunità nuova. (Per leggere più di Angel, si può leggere i blog di Leslie.) Potevo parlare tranquillamente anche con Angel, ma mi chiedevo…Cosa pensano di me queste ragazze? La mia presenza è per loro fastidiosa o indesiderata? Per adesso, senza essere una mediatrice culturale, come posso essere più di aiuto, più di conforto per queste ragazze?

My Challenge

Posted By: michelle

I have already been to Italy and I have already studied the situation of immigrants in Italy. In an article that was written about me in my hometown’s newspaper, I was quoted as saying “I hope to learn to work with women victims of violence, which is something you cannot research.” I already knew that this would be a very challenging task, and in the last few days I have seen that yes it is, especially communicating with new people.

Rosanna Paradiso, director of TAMPEP, explained to Leslie (the other AP fellow with me in Turin) and I that they sometimes have problems with their cultural mediators that have not had to prostitute themselves before. Cultural mediators are like an informed translator; they receive training and explain not only medical jargon to immigrants, but cultural differences to patients and doctors. They are often migrants themselves. If the cultural mediators have not had that experience of exploitation, sometimes they might be a little condescending, even if they do not mean to be, to TAMPEP’s clients.

From left to right: Jennifer Hollinger, me and Leslie Ibeanusi. Leslie and I are working with The Advocacy Project's partner organization TAMPEP in Turin, Italy. Jennifer is working also on trafficking with AP's partner organization Chaste in the UK and in Albania.

When I wrote my undergraduate thesis last year on the challenges Arab immigrants have in accessing health care services in Italy, it was my goal to understand better the role of the cultural mediator, after a person that I interviewed explained to me what they are.

It’s one thing to learn a new language, but to be able to earn the trust of someone in a difficult situation and to make him or her understand that you would sincerely like to help them is another thing…

This week, I accompanied a Romanian girl, with the Romanian cultural mediator of TAMPEP, to the local health clinic nearby the office, which takes care of many immigrants. At the beginning, it was easy to chat with this young girl that wanted to see a gynecologist to take a pregnancy test. She had not had her period for two months and she wanted to know if she was pregnant or not, so she could resolve the situation. Talking with her, while she watched her daughter play with the other children in the overcrowded waiting room, while the mediator waited in line to present this girl’s documents, I learned that she was really afraid to take this test. Ok, maybe all women can understand what it is to be afraid to be unexpectedly pregnant, but, after our first bit of conversation, there was an awkward pause. I could only tell her that the mediator was a great lady and that TAMPEP would take care of whatever she needed. I couldn't manage to talk to her about her work, for example, or if she knew which client could be the father, or if she was married or had a boy friend.

The next day, I went with Leslie and the Nigerian cultural mediator to visit a Nigerian girl, a victim of trafficking who goes by Angel in our blogs, who three days prior was moved to a new community. (To read more about Angel, you can read Leslie’s blogs). I was able to talk relatively easily with Angel, but I asked myself, what do these girls think about me? Is my presence annoying or undesired? For now, without being a cultural mediator, how can I be more helpful, more comforting to these girls?

06/19/07

Torino - città di musica - città multietnica

Posted By: michelle

L'Orchestra di Porto Palazzo

06/18/07

NON VENIRE – GLI ITALIANI VOGLIONO DISTRUGGERTI

Posted By: michelle

Forse questo è un titolo un po’ forte, ma questo era il messaggio di alcune donne nigeriane in un film che abbiamo visto venerdì all’addestramento dei partner istituzionali di Tampep. Nel film le donne hanno parlato delle loro esperienze in Italia. Vi racconto una delle loro storie. Una ragazza,che chiameremo Cristina era di una famiglia povera di sette figli di Benin City, Nigeria. Ha detto alla sua famiglia che sarebbe voluta andare in Europa per poterli aiutare. Ha conosciuto il suo trafficante in Nigeria, e lui lei ha spiegato quanto sarebbe costato il viaggio e tutti i documenti necessari e che avrebbe fatto la babysitter per una famiglia in Italia. È partita per Lagos nel sud della Nigeria con un paio d’altre donne. È stata lì per due settimane, poi in un altro paese africano per altre due. Ha attraversato Mali, Algeria ed altri paesi per nove mesi prima di arrivare in aereo in Francia. Quando è arrivata in Italia ha scoperto quale sarebbe stato il suo lavoro: prostituzione. Doveva viaggiare fra Napoli e Madrid per un cliente ma non ha mai visto i soldi guadagnati da queste prestazioni; non sapeva quanto riceveva il suo trafficante, ne quindi quanto rimaneva del suo debito. Alla fine Cristina è riuscita a trovare assistenza in un Centro di Permanenza Temporanea.

I CPT in questo momento sono al centro di una grande polemica in Italia. Si può vedere nella foto di sotto delle scritte che ho trovato su un muro a Torino : “fuoco ai CPT.”
I cpt vengono descritti come “isole staccate.” Altri dicono che sono peggiori delle prigioni. Nel 2004, la Commissione per i Diritti Umani delle Nazioni Uniti ed il governo italiano hanno affermato il loro impegno a fornire la massima trasparenza possibile su quel che accadenei cpt. Gruppi come Amnesty International e Medici Senza Frontieri, tuttavia, continuano a documentare maltrattamenti in questi centri e chiedono “perché chiudere le porte, se all’interno è tutto ok?” Non solo alle organizzazioni internazionali, ma anche a quelle italiane (ad eccezione della Croce Rossa) è stato ripetutamente negato l’accesso a questi centri, anche per svolgere lavoro umanitario.

Nel cpt, Cristina decise di non voler tornare in Nigeria, non voleva creare problemi alla sua famiglia. Un giorno qualcuno nel cpt ha dato istruzione a tutti di compilare un modulo per l’identificazione. Non sapeva che aveva firmato il suo rimpatrio in Nigeria… Alla fine del film, dopo aver sentito tutte le storie di Cristina e di altre donne, tutte tornate in Nigeria, una di esse ha detto “non andare lì (Italia). Godono a vederti soffrire. Vogliono distruggerti.”

Malgrado questo messaggio deprimente, nutrivo ancora speranze dentro me alla fine del giorno perché tutti questi partner istituzionali erano venuti ad imparare di più sul traffico delle persone da Tampep. All’addestramento c’erano persone della polizia, dei carabinieri, dei CPT, dei centri di ricerca, della Croce Rossa che volevano sapere meglio come identificare le vittime della tratta e come poterle aiutare di più. Infatti, all’inizio del giorno hanno individuato alcune parole chiavi per esprimere le loro esperienze, numerose o meno, con le vittime della tratta. Hanno riconosciuto la paura delle donne, la loro fragilità, il pregiudizio, la condizione di schiavitù come ostacoli che impediscono alle ragazze e alle donne di chiedere aiuto e alle istituzioni di poter dare loro una mano.

Questo messaggio del film mi ha fatto pensare a come il traffico delle persone sia parte del fenomeno più grande della migrazione. Mi ha fatto pensare che sia un peccato che tante persone vedono adesso l’Italia come un paese di sfruttamento. Anche per molti immigrati in Italia che non erano trafficati, soprattutto per i clandestini, la migrazione è assai dura. La migrazione, tuttavia, può essere anche e ancora un’opportunità meravigliosa per molti. Come si possono regolare alcuni aspetti apparentemente contrastanti per creare un programma migratorio non solo in Italia, ma in tutto il mondo, più giusto, è una domanda dalla non facile risposta. Come possiamo fornire opportunità e cancellare lo sfruttamento? Uno dei partecipanti dell’addestramento ha ricordato a tutti che il traffico non è un’operazione semplice. Il traffico coinvolge molte persone… non si può denunciare e punire solo una persona o un gruppo, ma si devono studiare e conoscere bene le reti attraverso le quali si lucra sulla vendita delle persone. Mentre Tampep aiuta le vittime e cerca attraverso programmi di prevenzione di arginare lentamente il fenomeno, c’è ancor più lavoro da fare nel campo giudiziario Per questo, Tampep ha reso un servizio enorme alle vittime del traffico attraverso quest’addestramento per i partner istituzionali.

DON’T COME – THE ITALIANS WANT TO DESTROY YOU

Posted By: michelle

Maybe this title is a little strong, but that was the message from a few Nigerian women in a film that we saw Friday at the training of TAMPEP’s institutional partners. In the film, the women talked about their experiences in Italy. I will tell you one of their stories. A girl we will call Cristina came from a poor family of seven children from Benin City, Nigeria. She told her family that she wanted to go to Europe to help them. She met her trafficker in Nigeria, and he explained to her how much the trip and necessary documents would cost and that she would be a babysitter for a family in Italy. She left for Lagos in the south of Nigeria with a few other women. She was there for two weeks, and then another African country for two more weeks. She went through Mali, Algeria, and other countries for nine months before arriving by plane in France. When she arrived in Italy, she discovered what her actual job would be – prostitution. She was made to travel between Napoli and Madrid for one client, but she never saw any of the money she earned from these transactions; she never knew how much her trafficker received, nor therefore how much remained of her debt. Eventually, Cristina found herself in a CPT, a centro di permanenza temporanea, or a center of temporary detainment.

Right now the CPT are a huge controversy in Italy. You can see in the photo below some graffiti I found on a wall in Turin that says “fuoco ai cpt,” or “fire to the CPT.” The CPT are described as isole staccate, or detached islands. Others describe them and their tight control as prisons. In 2004, the Commission for Human Rights of the UN and the Italian government affirmed the commitment to provide maximum transparency as possible in the CPT. Groups like Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders, however, continue to document human rights abuses in these centers and asks Italy: “why close the doors, if everything inside is ok?” Not just international organizations, but Italian ones as well are repeatedly denied access to these centers, even to perform humanitarian work.


Via Vanchiglia, Turin, ItalyJune 17, 2007

In the CPT, Cristina decided that she did not want to return to Nigeria, she did not want to create problems for her family. One day, someone at the CPT instructed everyone to fill out a form in order identify themselves. She did not know that she had signed her repatriation to Nigeria… At the end of the film, after having heard all the stories of Cristina and the other women, all now back in Nigeria, one of them said “do not go to Italy. They enjoy seeing you suffer. They want to destroy you.”

Despite this depressing message, I was still hopeful at the end of the day because many institutional partners had come to learn more about the trafficking of persons from TAMPEP. At the training there was people from the city police, from the carabiniere (a branch of the army that works for the Italian police force), from the CPT, from research centers, and from the Red Cross that wanted to know better how to identify the victims of trafficking and how to help them more. In fact, at the beginning of the day, they identified key words that expressed their experiences, whether brief or frequent, with victims of trafficking. They identified the fear of the women, their fragility, prejudice, and the conditions of slavery as obstacles that prevent the women and girls from asking for help and also prevent the institutions from reaching out to them.

This message from the film made me think about how the trafficking of persons is part of greater phenomenon of migration. It made me think about how it is a shame that so many people see Italy now as a country of exploitation. Also for many immigrants in Italy that were not trafficked, especially irregular (illegal) immigrants, the migrant life is hard. Migration, however, is also and can still be a marvelous opportunity for many. How one puts these seemingly contrary facts together to create a more just migratory program, not only in Italy, but in the whole world, is a tough question. How can we offer opportunities and get rid of the exploitation? One of the participants of the training made everyone remember that trafficking is not a simple operation. Trafficking involves many actors… one cannot denounce and punish a single person or group, but one must study and know the complicated networks that profit off the selling of human beings. While TAMPEP helps the victims and tries with programs of prevention to little by little stop the phenomenon, there is also work to be done in the judicial field. Therefore, TAMPEP performed a great service to the victims of trafficking having this training for their institutional partners.

I PARTNER – SI IMPARA DALL’ALTRO E SI RIAFFERMANO I PROPRI OBIETTIVI

Posted By: michelle

Una delle prime cose che ho fatto durante il mio primo giorno nell’ufficio di Tampep è stata quella di conoscere un’altra organizzazione simile a Tampep in Francia. Abbiamo sentito Carlo parlare della sua organizzazione in Francia chiamata L’Amical du Nid. Come Tampep, distribuiscono preservativi e lubrificante alle donne e anche agli uomini che devono prostituirsi sulla strada. L’Amical accompagna anche queste persone presso i servizi sanitari e presso altri servizi sociali come fa Tampep a Torino.

A Montpellier, in Francia, dove quest’organizzazione si trova, il 50% di chi si prostituisce sulla strada è formato da uomini ma anche gli uomini si vestono come donne per prostituirsi, anche se non lo fanno durante il giorno. Abbiamo parlato a lungo anche dei trans e come questa è un'altra questione con la quale le organizzazioni che vogliono aiutare queste persone devono comprendere. Un’altra differenza tra Montpellier e Torino è la provenienza geografica degli immigrati che si prostituiscono: a Montpellier ci sono più persone del Maghreb e del Nord Africa, alcuni Bulgari, Rumeni, Moldavi e pochi Africani. Abbiamo imparato anche che a Montpellier c’è un problema di prostituzione fra gli studenti stranieri nelle università. Arrivano senza conoscere i loro diritti e siccome le loro borse di studio arrivano spesso fino a febbraio anziché ottobre, si prostituiscono nei bar durante le notti per mangiare e per sopravvivere.

Dopo aver ascoltato queste similitudini e differenze fra Tampep e L’Amical, una cosa interessante da notare è stata una discussione fra Carlo e Rosanna, il direttore di Tampep. Ho visto che imparare cosa fanno i partner può portare un’organizzazione ad incorporare nuovi elementi nei suoi programmi ed anche a riaffermare i suoi stessi obiettivi. Per esempio, Carlo parlava di un evento che fanno loro a Montpellier e che si chiama “tavola aperta” che consiste in una cena organizzata per tutti gli immigrati che aiutano. Carlo ha anche presentato un opuscolo che produce L’Amical che contiene informazione sui servizi disponibili nella provincia per le prostitute e gli immigrati. Parlava anche di un programma che fanno nelle scuole medie dove presentano film e provano a combattere la discriminazione fra i sessi e promuovono la prevenzione contro la domanda di prostituzione. Penso che sentire tutte queste cose sull’Amical abbia portato Rosanna e altri colleghi di Tampep a pensare a come realizzare simili progetti anche a Torino.

Durante la presentazione, Rosanna e Carlo hanno anche parlato del concetto d’autonomia. Penso che ascoltare quali sono gli obiettivi dell’Amical ha portato Rosanna a discutere di come anche Tampep voglia rendere le persone che aiuta più autonome. Parlando del problema di come le donne nigeriane non riescono a trovare lavoro a Torino una volta riuscite a liberarsi dalla prostituzione, Rosanna ha spiegato che anche se Tampep prova ad aiutare le donne che vogliono tornare in Nigeria a trovare un lavoro là, la soluzione non è quella di trovare lavoro per tutte queste donne nel loro paese perché non possono trovarlo qua, bensì di combattere il razzismo e di cambiare la nostra società (la società italiana). Con questo punto di vista e anche i vari livelli d’accoglienze che fornisce Tampep alle donne, Tampep promuove l’autonomia delle donne trafficate in Europa, un’autonomia che l’hanno persa quando sono state portate qua per essere sfruttate nelle strade. I livelli d’accoglienza sono: aiuto in casi d’emergenza, aiuto quando le ragazze decidono di scappare della prostituzione, aiuto per quelle che non hanno ancora deciso lasciarla, ed aiuto per quelle che non vogliono cambiare ancora la loro vita. Attraverso tutti questi livelli, Tampep non forza niente, ma fornisce alle ragazze scelte – l’autonomia – un po’ alla volta.

Questo incontro con Carlo è stato specialmente interessante per me perché anch’io sto lavorando con Tampep come una collega di un partner – The Advocacy Project. Mi ha fatto pensare a come io e l’organizzazione per la quale lavoro possiamo dare il nostro contributo, aiutando ed imparando da Tampep. Credo che devo ancora trascorrere un pò di tempo nell’ufficio di Tampep per capire meglio come possiamo trarre vantaggio l’uno dall’altra. So solo che The Advocacy Project è pronto per diffondere il messaggio e le storie dei successi di Tampep. Dal momento che ogni organizzazione è già impegnata nell’aiutare le persone, forse il vero ruolo dei partner dovrebbe essere almeno questo: creare una rete sostenibile d’informazione che mostra al mondo che l’attività dei partner, in questo caso il traffico delle persone, è una cosa su cui molti stanno lavorando, quindi c’è l’infrastruttura per combatter il problema, ma anche che è un problema che bisogna avere più aiuto dai vari settori per poterlo combattere efficacemente.

PARTNERS – YOU LEARN FROM OTHERS AND REAFFIRM YOUR OWN GOALS

Posted By: michelle

One of the first things I did during my first day at the TAMPEP office was to learn about another organization similar to TAMPEP in France. We heard from a gentleman named Carlo about his organization in France called L’Amicale du NID. Like TAMPEP, they distribute condoms and lubricant to the women, and also men, that have to prostitute themselves on the street. L’Amicale also accompany people to health services and other social services like TAMPEP does in Turin.

In Montpellier in France, where this organization is located, unlike in Turin, there is a greater number of male sex workers there: around 50 percent of the sex workers in Montepellier are men, and most of them dress as women when working on the streets, even if they do not do so during the day. We talked awhile also about how trans-gender issues are another factor that the organizations have to understand when helping these people. The population in Montpellier also differs from that of Turin in regards to where the immigrant sex workers come from: compared to Turin, there are more people from Morocco and North Africa, some Bulgarians, Romanians, Moldavians, and few Africans. We also talked about how in Montpellier there is a problem of prostitution among foreign students in the universities. They arrive without knowing their rights and because their scholarships often arrive in February instead of in October, they prostitute themselves in the bars at night to eat, to survive.

After having heard these similarities and differences between TAMPEP and L’Amicale, an interesting thing to note was the discussion between Carlo and Rosanna, the director of TAMPEP. I saw that to learn about what one’s partners are doing can inspire an organization to incorporate new elements in its programs and also to reaffirm its goals. For example, Carlo talked about an event they do in Montpellier called “open table,” a public dinner they put on for all those they help. Carlo also presented a pamphlet that L’Amicale produces that contains information about the available services in the province for sex workers and immigrants. He also talked about a program they carry out in middle schools in which they present films and try to reduce the discrimination between the sexes and therefore prevent the demand for prostitution. I think that hearing about all these activities that L’Amicale does has inspired Rosanna and the other TAMPEP colleagues to think about how they can do similar things in Turin, or enrich those that they already carry out.

During the presentation, Rosanna and Carlo also talked about the concept of autonomy. I think that hearing the objectives of L’Amicale brought Rosanna to discuss how TAMPEP also tries to make the people they help more autonomous. Talking about the problem of how Nigerian women cannot find work in Turin after having succeeded in leaving the life of prostitution, Rosanna explained that even though TAMPEP tries to help the women that want to return to Nigeria find work there, the solution is not to find work for all these women there because they cannot find work in Turin, but to combat racism and to change “our society” (the Italian society). With this point of view and the various levels of welcoming TAMPEP offers to women, TAMPEP promotes the autonomy of trafficked women in Europe, an autonomy that they lost when they were brought to be exploited in the streets. The levels of welcoming are: help in cases of emergency, help when the women decide to escape prostitution, help for those women who have not decided to leave it, and help to those who do not yet want to change their lives. With these levels, TAMPEP does not force anything, but gives choices to the girls – autonomy – little by little.

This encounter with Carlo was especially interesting for me because I am also here working with TAMPEP as the colleague of a partner organization – The Advocacy Project (AP). It made me think how myself and the other organization (AP) for which I work can inspire, help, and learn from TAMPEP. I believe that I have to spend a little more time in TAMPEP’s office to know well how we can all benefit from each other. I know only that The Advocacy Project is ready to spread the message and success stories of TAMPEP. Maybe the true role of partners should be at least the following: to create a sustainable network of information that shows to the world that the theme of the partners, in this case the trafficking of persons, is a field in which many are working – therefore there is the infrastructure to combat the problem, but also that it is a problem that needs more help from various sectors in order to really combat it.

un volo perso

Posted By: michelle

Quando hanno annunciato ad Omaha (dove ho trascorso due settimane per andare a trovare la mia famiglia) che il mio volo da Omaha a Chicago era stato cancellato, sapevo che quel giorno sarebbe stata una catastrofe. Sapevo che se avessi preso un volo più tardi avrei perso la coincidenza da Chicago a Washington, e quindi il volo da Washington a Londra, e anche il volo da Londra a Milano. Quando ho chiamato l’agenzia turistica con la quale ho comprato i miei biglietti e mi hanno detto che avrei dovuto aspettare due settimane prima di trovare un altro volo per Milano a quel prezzo sono quasi scoppiata a piangere. Dopo molte ore passate al telefono dell’aeroporto, sono riuscita a trovare un biglietto per l’Italia due giorni dopo, stavolta diretto a Roma. Poi da Roma ho dovuto prendere il treno e dopo 6 ore e mezza ho finalmente raggiunto Torino.

Forse il mio viaggio per l’Italia è stato un pò caotico, ma pensiamo un attimo al traffico di ragazze nigeriane e ai loro spostamenti attraverso l’Africa Occidentale e poi nel Sahara, prima di prendere un volo per la Francia e da lì un treno o un pullman che finalmente le porti in Italia.

Quando arrivano, cominciano a lavorare immediatamente. Anch’io ho deciso di cominciare a lavorare, a fare lo stage immediatamente. Ma fate attenzione alle parole chiavi – io ho deciso. Sono arrivata a Torino mercoledì a mezzanotte e giovedì mattina ho cominciato lo stage con Tampep. Lavoro in un ufficio con persone simpatiche, che mi hanno accolto con belle parole; tutti noi possiamo tornare a casa alla fine della giornata, non abbiamo un debito di 30.000 euro con il nostro capo come ricompensa per il “lavoro” che ci ha trovato. Non sono arrivata quella notte ed immediatamente invitata ad indossare vestiti corti e a prostituirmi.

Quale il senso di questo lungo paragone? Sicuramente non quello di voler mostrare come io e queste donne, quelle nigeriane e tutte le altre vittime delle tratte che passano per l’Italia (dall’ Est Europa, dal Nord Africa, ecc.), facciamo parte di mondi diversi. Anzi, serve a sottolineare come loro avessero speranze di trovare lavoro in Italia così come io con il mio stage. Pensavamo speranzose ai nostri futuri lavori e mentre io posso vivere questo sogno lavorando con Tampep loro si sono trovate con lavori non scelti a differenza del mio. Spero solo che un giorno possano lavorare con Tampep e combattere contro la tratta delle persone e l’ingiustizia. Spero che avranno di nuovo la libertà di scegliere un lavoro che permetta loro di essere libere e di realizzare qualcuno o tutti i loro desideri.

A LOST FLIGHT

Posted By: michelle

When they announced in Omaha (where I was to visit my family for two weeks) that my flight from Omaha to Chicago was cancelled, I knew that that day would be a catastrophe. I knew that if I took a later flight, I would lose my other flights – the flight from Chicago to Washington, and therefore the flight from Washington to London, and also the flight from London to Milan. It wasn’t until I called the travel agency from which I bought my tickets that I felt really dismayed – they told me that I would have to wait two weeks before finding another flight to Milan for the price at which I originally bought my tickets. After spending many hours on the telephone in the airport, I succeeded in finding a ticket to Italy, two days later, to Rome. From Rome, I had to take the train for six and a half hours to finally reach Turin.

Maybe my trip to Italy was a little chaotic, but think a bit about the trips that the trafficked Nigerian girls take across, many times, West Africa and then the Sahara. They then take flights to France, and then a train or bus to finally arrive in Italy.

When they arrive, they begin working immediately. I also decided to start working, to start my fellowship right way upon arriving. But pay attention to the key words – I decided. I arrived in Turin Wednesday at midnight and Thursday morning I began my fellowship with Tampep. I work in an office with nice people, people that welcomed me with warm greetings; all of us can return to our homes at the end of the day, we do not have a debt of up to €60,000 with our boss for finding us a “job.” Upon arriving, I was not promptly instructed that night to put on skimpy clothes and prostitute myself.

What good does it do making this long comparison between myself and trafficked women? I do not mean to show that these women, Nigerian and all the other trafficked women and girls in Italy (from Eastern Europe, North Africa, etc.), and I are worlds apart. Rather, it shows that they had the same hopes for a good job in Italy as I did about coming for this fellowship. We thought about our futures with hope, and while I was able to live this dream working for Tampep… they have found themselves with jobs they did not get to chose, like I did mine. I only hope that one day they can also work with Tampep in their fight against the trafficking of persons and injustice. I hope that they again will have autonomy to choose a job that permits them actually to keep this autonomy and to realize some or all of their hopes.

06/09/07

registering with technorati

Posted By: michelle

Technorati Profile

05/29/07

Molto emozionata!

Posted By: michelle

20 maggio 2007

La prima cosa che voglio dire è che sono molto emozionata quando penso a quest'estate! Questo per due ragioni: il mio desiderio di vivere e lavorare in Italia e quello di svolgere  un'attività che mira a combattere gli abusi contro le donne e che tocca da vicino tematiche a me care come quelle del diritto alla sanità e dell'immigrazione. Ho già avuto esperienze importanti in Italia: due estati fa ho lavorato nell'ufficio scientifico dell'Ambasciata americana a Roma dove ho avuto modo di svolgere ricerche su diverse questioni concernenti i sistemi sanitari internazionali. L'estate scorsa sono tornata in Italia per fare
delle ricerche sulla mia tesi di laurea riguardante le esigenze sanitarie delle famiglie arabe immigrate in Italia. Attraverso queste esperienze ho avuto modo di avvicinarmi a diverse organizzazioni internazionali ed è nato in me il desiderio di lavorare per qualcuna di esse. Quest'estate grazie ad "AP" avrò, per la prima volta, la possibilità di fare un'esperienza pratica in un organizzazione internazionale. Inoltre, tornare in Italia stavolta sarà un'esperienza speciale: oltre a vedere di nuovo gli amici che ho conosciuto lì in questi ultimi due anni, incontrerò finalmente i miei cugini italiani che recentemente hanno contatto la mia famiglia negli Stati Uniti. Dopo la morte di mio nonno Raphael 15 anni fa, non c'era nessuno nella mia famiglia che parlasse italiano o che avesse i numeri di telefono dei nostri parenti italiani. Sono molto emozionata di conoscerli quest'estate e di condividere con loro la mia passione per l'Italia e quella di lottare per un mondo migliore.

In vista dello stage che svolgerò quest'estate con Tampep, oltre ad informarmi in maniera più dettagliata sul traffico di persone rispetto a quanto non avessi fatto prima, ho avuto occasione di partecipare a parecchi iniziative svoltesi a Washington e di discutere del mio lavoro con diversa gente. Io, il direttore di The Advocacy Project Iain e Leslie Ibeanusi, l'altra collega di AP che viene a
Torino a fare uno stage con Tampep, siamo andati al gala annuale internazionale del club Zonta International a Washington. Zonta International è un'associazione formata da donne che promuovono iniziative per una giustizia sociale più efficace in tutto il mondo. Alcune di queste persone saranno utili nel consigliare e indirizzare me e Leslie quest'estate. Al gala, abbiamo conosciuto molti membri ed ospiti di Zonta e abbiamo discusso con loro su quella che sarà la nostra attività quest'estate. Molte di queste persone si sono dette  interessate a leggere questi blogs e per me è stata una grande emozione! Mary Ellen Bittner, ex presidente di Zonta e giudice di Washington, si è dimostrata molto disponibile nei nostri confronti e ci aiuterà a metterci in contatto con i membri di Zonta in Italia. Inoltre abbiamo conosciuto Maureen Bunyan, un presentatore televisivo di Washington, e ricevere il suo supporto è stato molto incoraggiante.

Ho preso, inoltre, parte ad un'altra iniziativa a Washington: un convegno riguardante il traffico di persone promosso dalla Social Investment Forum (Tribuna sociale di investimento) alla banca mondiale (World Bank). Ho sentito degli interventi dal Polaris Project, Free the Slaves (Libera gli Schiavi), Shared Hope International (Speranza Comune Internazionale), Not For Sale Campaign (Non In Vendita) ed altri interventi dal Governo degli Stati Uniti. Inoltre, ho parlato del mio stage con molte altre persone ed ho avuto il loro supporto ed interesse. Spero che quel che ho avuto modo di fare in America prima della mia partenza mi sia di aiuto ad "advocate" o dare voce ad un pubblico largo la question del traffico di persone quest'estate per Tampep.

In conclusione, non vedo l'ora di cominciare l'addestramento con gli altri stagisti di AP domani e di salire a bordo di quell'aereo per l'Italia! Spero che l'esperienza di quest'estate mi sia di aiuto a trovare ancora più stimoli per combattere in favore dei diritti delle donne e degli immigrati. Le questioni relative alla violenza contro le donne e all'immigrazione sono molto complesse. Tale complessità ed il loro risvolto nel mondo politico e giudiziario è ciò che mantiene vivo il mio interesse e la mia volontà di adoperarmi in questo campo. Sono pronta ad esserne coinvolta fisicamente e ad affrontare la realtà di queste situazioni che, negli Stati Uniti e in molte altre parti del mondo, si presentano quotidianamente.

05/24/07

So Excited!

Posted By: michelle

20 May 2007

The first thing I have to say is that I can barely hold back my excitement for this summer! This excitement stems from two issues: my desire to eventually live and work in Italy and my desire to find a job working to stop violence against women and to have some work experience in the field of health and migration. I have already had some experience working in Italy – two summers ago I worked for the Science and Technology Office of the American Embassy in Rome. There I had the chance to deal with several international health issues. This past summer I went back to Italy to do research for my honors undergraduate thesis on the health statuses and needs of Arab Muslim immigrant families in Italy. With each of these experiences, I got closer to talking to the kinds of organizations I would eventually like to work for. This summer, I think I have finally been given the opportunity, through AP, to do the hands-on type of work I did not really get to do before in all of my other research and volunteer endeavors. Returning to Italy is also going to be a special experience for me this time around. In addition to seeing again the friends I have made over the past two years there, this summer I will finally get to meet Italian cousins of mine that my family recently initiated contact with again. After my grandfather Raphael’s death 15 years ago, there was no one left in my family who spoke Italian or visited Italy or knew the phone numbers of the relatives my grandfather used to call. I am very excited to meet these individuals this summer and share with them my passion for Italy and for making the world, and particularly Italy, a better and less corrupt place.

To prepare for the fellowship with TAMPEP this summer, in addition to reading up on more detailed literature on trafficking than I had read before, I had the opportunity to attend several events in the Washington DC area and tell people about my work. Myself along with Iain Guest from the Advocacy Project and Leslie Ibeanusi, the other AP fellow also going to Turin to work with TAMPEP, went to the Zonta International annual Washington DC gala. Zonta International is a network of professional women that supports many social justice initiatives around the world. A group of Zonta women from the DC area will be mentoring Leslie and I this summer. At the gala, Leslie and I had the chance to meet with many Zonta members and guests and to talk to them about what we will be doing this summer. Many of these ladies expressed a lot of interest in reading these blogs, which was very exciting! Mary Ellen Bittner, former Zonta president and DC based judge, welcomed us and is providing us a lot of help in contacting Zonta members in Italy as well. We also had the opportunity to meet Maureen Bunyan, a prominent DC television announcer; receiving her support was also very encouraging.

Another DC event I attended was a conference on trafficking given by the Social Investment Forum at the World Bank. I heard speakers from the Polaris Project, Free the Slaves, Shared Hope International, the Not For Sale Campaign, and other speakers connected to the US government. I also was able to talk to many of these individuals at the end of the day about my fellowship this summer and again received a lot of support and interest. I hope that all this prep-work I have done in DC prior to departure helps me advocate to a wide audience this summer on behalf of TAMPEP.

In conclusion, I am psyched to start training with the other AP fellows tomorrow and to get on that plane to Italy! I hope this summer fires me up and keeps me motivated to fight for the rights of women and migrants. The issues of trafficking, violence against women, and migration are all very complex. The complexity of these issues and how they tie into the various political, judicial, and health systems of countries today is what keeps me intellectually involved and committed to working on them. I am ready to be more physically involved, to face the reality of these issues in Italy (which also present themselves everyday here in the US).



Originally from Omaha, Nebraska and a big family of nine, Michelle has just graduated this May from Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She majored in science and technology in international affairs with a concentration in international health.

During college, Michelle participated in many social justice activities and groups, including the Georgetown-UNICEF club, Education Without Boundaries – Project Argentina, and Global Justice Now – the Student Campaign for Child Survival. Michelle loves language learning and has been studying Italian and Arabic for several years; she had the chance to practice these language skills as an intern at the US Embassy in Rome and while studying abroad at the American University of Cairo in Egypt.

Michelle’s interest and passion for studying migration and health issues began with her decision to write her senior honors thesis on the health statuses of Arab Muslim immigrants in Italy and their problems with accessing health care. Michelle feels called to help give women more choices and respect in today’s world by helping them gain more economic freedom and experience less fear of violence and exploitation.

This year, Michelle will work as an Advocacy Project (AP) Peace Fellow. AP is sending her to work with its partner organization, Transnational AIDS Prevention among Migrant Prostitutes in Europe Project (TAMPEP) in Turin, Italy. TAMPEP works to prevent and protect victims of human trafficking. Michelle will support the NGO in its efforts to identify and reach out to trafficked women and children, and to provide comprehensive services and safe alternatives. The goal is to eradicate violent and sexual exploitation of women and children.

Michelle’s objectives are to assist TAMPEP in its efforts to gather, organize and distribute information, in addition to participating in the organization’s everyday work with the trafficked women in order to gain a more local, on-the-ground perspective of the highly complex human rights issue of trafficking.

Through outreach efforts, both while in Italy and upon return to Washington, DC, Michelle will advocate for TAMPEP and spread awareness about its work and about trafficking in general, focusing on current efforts against trafficking in the US, Europe and Africa.

I would like to give special thanks to the sponsor of my fellowship, Irene Crowe, and many thanks to everyone else that has helped me get to Italy!

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