Human trafficking is a horrible crime so widespread and complex that it can often seem too distant and difficult to prevent. Every year millions of people become victims of human trafficking, and while human trafficking can take on many forms and target diverse types of victims, sex trafficking predominantly affects women and girls. In San Diego, sex trafficking is an $810 million industry, with an estimated 3,000-8,000 victims every year. The other side of the U.S.-Mexico border is similarly experiencing a high rate of human trafficking. Hispanics in Philanthropy’s recent human trafficking report found that Tijuana is one of Mexico’s hot spots for sex trafficking. Yet, PCI’s analysis of the sex trafficking response in both cities identified a gap in prevention efforts.
In San Diego, we have responded with programs to reduce the vulnerability of women and girls to sex trafficking, campaigns to educate the public, and partnerships to reduce demand, and we are aiming to expand those efforts to Tijuana with your helep. PCI’s mission of empowering some of the world’s most vulnerable people to enhance their health, end hunger, and overcome hardship has its roots in the San Diego-Tijuana border region where we have worked for over 50 years. This is our home, and we know it well–allowing us to effectively work with our partners and our communities to design programs that not only have meaningful impact on people’s lives, but also achieve the maximum impact possible with the funds we receive (89% of all cash donations directly support our programs) and are sustainable once project funding comes to an end. Our work in both cities has brought PCI face-to-face with how sex trafficking is destroying lives, and has prompted us to ask ourselves how we can prevent this from happening in the first place. PCI’s response to human trafficking in San Diego has included the successful implementation of two empowerment programs in the city’s immigrant and refugee neighborhoods–one focusing on girls and the other on women. When vulnerable women and girls are provided with appropriate education, emotional support and life skills, their awareness and resiliency in risky environments are increased, making them less likely to become victims of sex trafficking.
Girls Only!, is an after-school program that empowers girls through the promotion of positive self-esteem, education on the dangers of trafficking, and life skills development. Girls Only! builds resiliency in girls by providing them with inspiring mentors and collaborative peer guidance, interactive lesson plans, and a place to be listened to and feel safe. This unique program gives young girls the resources to find alternatives to the kinds of abusive relationships that often lead to involvement with trafficking, substance abuse, sexual assault, and eventually the criminal justice system.
Women Empowered (WE) serves migrants in San Diego’s migrant-heavy neighborhoods and in over a dozen countries. WE is a savings-led microfinance program that strengthens the life skills and financial knowledge of participants. The goal of WE is to empower women to become agents of change by equipping them with the income, tools, abilities, and confidence to transform their lives and those of their families and communities. These efforts lead to increased income-generating opportunities and connect under-served communities to social support systems.
Factors such as low levels of education and self-esteem, poverty, and domestic abuse increase the vulnerability of women and girls to sex trafficking. With your help, PCI can bring our prevention programs to Tijuana, Mexico.
Why it Matters:
Improving resiliency on our side of the border will positively affect the other and vice versa–given how interconnected both cities are. Implementing a trafficking prevention program in Tijuana will allow PCI to raise awareness and bring other key players to the table. This prevention program will serve as a platform for collaboration and coordination, providing a synergy that is very much needed given the scarcity of resources to address this issue in a comprehensive manner. Expanding this work in Tijuana will complement other efforts in the community to address key factors that are contributing to trafficking vulnerabilities faced by young women and girls.
By combining life skills with confidence-building and community strengthening activities, these programs enable girls and women to be the authors of their own destinies, like Jasneek and Maria.
Jasneek, an 11-year old Girls Only! participant began participating in the program when she was nine and is now involved as an older student helper. Recently, she wont the Student-of-the-Year award at her school and continues to thrive as a strong young women. Jasneek’s story is documented in the virtual reality film below, demonstrating the importance PCI’s programming has on her life and her community.
Maria, a WE member in the highlands of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, was concerned about the fate of children from her community that were being sent to the United States with traffickers promising parents that their children would be safely delivered to relatives. As more information came to light that these promises weren’t always kept, and that the fate of these children may have actually been a nightmare of the worst kind, she and other members of her Women Empowered group brought the issue up at a WE meeting. They ultimately decided to prevent trafficking by educating their community about the dangers of human trafficking and how to avoid being lured into sending children with traffickers, as well as avoid falling victim to it as an adult. As a result, the number of children in the community sent to the U.S. dropped.
Success of both projects is carefully measured through multi-dimensional, innovate monitoring and evaluation tools that look at participant’s increased resiliency and self-esteem, as well as increased knowledge and other factors. For more information on how PCI measures the impact of its programs, check out our annual report.
PCI has over five decades of experience and demonstrated impact in integrated and community-driven programming. We currently have 65 active projects with significant focus on: community mobilization and resilience; local capacity strengthening; women’s empowerment and gender-sensitivity; and, youth leadership. Worldwide, we are increasingly recognized for our forward-thinking leadership, particularly in the areas of innovation and sustainable impact. Our organizational commitments to equity, non-discrimination, inclusion, the empowerment of women and girls, the engagement of men in areas where they typically don’t participate such as maternal and child health and nutrition, and joint household decision-making are guided by the theme of “nothing for us without us”, reflecting our sensitivity to the need to truly engage people, including the most marginalized, not only as recipients of program services and products, but as actively engaged partners in program design and implementation.
How we’ll put your donations to work:
Eighty-nine cents of every dollar donated to PCI goes to programs. These campaign funds would be no different. The full $50,000 will enable us to plan and launch these female empowerment pilots in Tijuana. If the full amount is not received, PCI will allocate the funds to the creation of WE groups and Girls Only! programming targeting Hispanic populations in San Diego in the following amounts:
Enroll one woman in a WE savings group $250
- A goal of this size can enroll one woman in PCI’s 18-month Women Empowered program. Women learn financial literacy and gain social support from other women in their group; providing endless opportunities for all.
Support a WE savings group $1,000
- Women are stronger when they stand together. A fundraising goal of this size can support a savings group. Groups can support each member when they need it the most, and they work together to make positive changes in their communities.
Fight trafficking and violence $10,000
- A fundraising goal of this size can expand after-school programs to build the resiliency and self-esteem of young girls to inspire, motivate, and empower youth against the dangers of trafficking and violence.
Other ways people can help:
While funds are essential, you can make a strong contribution to the efforts just by sharing this campaign with your friends, famliy, and office. Peer-to-peer fundraising is very effective, and we’d be grateful for your support as a campaign ambassador. Below is some language you can use to share this cause through social media:
The fight to end sex trafficking begins with prevention. Join me and PCI in our efforts to expand successful female empowerment programming from San Diego to Tijuana, and together we can prevent more victims of human trafficking.
We also invite you to follow our social media and blog which continuously highlight the impact of our work and continued needs and opportunities.
Blanca L Lomeli
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