Michelle Lanspa

Michelle Lanspa (Transnational AIDS Prevention among Migrant Prostitutes in Europe Project – TAMPEP): Michelle is from Omaha, Nebraska. She graduated from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown university, where she majored in science and technology in international affairs with a concentration in international health. Michelle participated in many social justice activities and groups at college, including the Georgetown-UNICEF club, Education Without Boundaries (Project Argentina), and Global Justice Now (the Student Campaign for Child Survival). Michelle loves learning language learning. She learned Italian and Arabic, and had a chance to practice her language skills as an intern at the US Embassy in Rome and while studying abroad at the American University of Cairo in Egypt.


06 Feb

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.

Posted By Michelle Lanspa

Posted Feb 6th, 2009

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