Donna Laveriere (India)

Donna Laverdiere (Butterflies, India): Donna grew up in a small town in Maine and received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Tufts University. After college, she spent three years in the publishing industry, and then worked for AT&T and Cadillac. During this time Donna was heavily involved in political organizing on women’s issues and helped found a nonprofit privacy rights organization. At the time of her fellowship, Donna was pursuing her Master of Public Policy at Duke University’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, with a focus in global policy.

A Missing Lesson

06 Jul

As I mentioned in my last blog, my main task over the last two weeks has been crafting lesson plans for the tourism training program. To assist in this effort, I drew up a comprehensive list of all the lesson plans I thought should be included. I reviewed this list with my supervisor, and he provided comments.

He told me the one lesson I had missed in the life skills section was how to deal with pedophiles. He wanted me to create a lesson instructing the children on what to do when they suspect an adult is a threat. My eyes widened at the thought. Of course this is an important issue to consider, but it hadn’t even crossed my mind that I should create a lesson focusing on it.

Suddenly it occurred to me that the children we send out to give tours may be targeted by pedophiles. I sat quietly, my mind reeling. Was I creating a situation in which children would be extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse? Was I putting them in a dangerous situation?

Sex tourism is a serious problem in South Asia which is part of a greater global phenomenon of the exploitation of children commercially. The term child sex tourism refers to three different situations: the prostitution of children for tourists, pedophilia-related child abuse, and the production of pornography involving children. The nature of the tourism environment provides many factors that make children vulnerable to abuse. Tourists may feel outside the law of a nation that is not their home, they are difficult to arrest, detain, and prosecute, and children are often encouraged to sell products and services to tourists, particularly in India.

This latter factor concerns me the most given my particular project. The children in the tourism project could fall victim to tourists who attend the tour knowing it is led by a child, planning to prey upon the tour guide. Or they could be in the vicinity of a historical monument and see a child alone who is looking for visitors to take on a tour. Either of these situations poses a threat to the children in the program.

I feel almost guilty for being ignorant to this very real concern that impacts my project. The children need to be prepared to handle these situations, and to know when a feeling of suspicion is accurate. And they need to be prepared with a place to go should they feel threatened. Luckily, the tourism sites we have chosen are close to Butterflies contact points, so these children, if they feel unsafe, do have a place to go for protection. The difficult part for them will be reading the situation and knowing when to get away.

Posted By Donna Laveriere (India)

Posted Jul 6th, 2006

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