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WOAM & IJM Join Forces to Shed Light on Anti-Trafficking in the Philippines

Updated: Oct 9

For Immediate Release

Credit: IJM Philippines

Singapore, October 3, 2022 – Women on a Mission (WOAM), a non-profit organisation headquartered in Singapore that supports and empowers women survivors of violence and abuse, has partnered with International Justice Mission (IJM), a global organisation that protects those living in poverty throughout the developing world by combatting violent forms of oppression, including sex trafficking, forced labour and online sexual exploitation of children.


In December 2022, an international delegation of women from Singapore will head to Manila, Philippines, to learn more about how IJM’s efforts are helping to protect vulnerable populations. During the 5-day visit, the team will learn how IJM supports and partners with the local public justice system in the Philippines to help protect children from a particularly harrowing form of modern slavery – online exploitation of children (OSEC).


What is the online sexual exploitation of children? In this crime, children are sexually abused by traffickers who then spread or sell images or videos of the exploitation online—even livestreaming the abuse for sex offenders to direct from anywhere in the world.


IJM staff will draw WOAM participants closer to their work on the frontlines and IJM lawyers, investigators, prosecutors, and social workers will share first-hand accounts with them. The women will also meet local government power actors who combat OSEC. “IJM is thrilled to be partnering with Women on a Mission (WOAM), specifically in the Philippines, where we are fighting against the evil of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC). IJM’s ambitious goal – to end OSEC – will require the tenacity of not only governments and NGOs, but also individuals, networks, and civil society engagement. We are thankful that the WOAM community is willing to draw close to the very dark issue of OSEC and we look forward to multiplying our efforts through this intentional engagement in December 2022.” – Evelyn Pingul, National Director of Communication, Activations and Partnerships, IJM Philippines.


OSEC Primarily Fuelled by Predators in the West

OSEC is a growing problem in the Philippines, with thousands of referrals coming to the Philippines every month. 48% of OSEC victims rescued by IJM are 12 years old or younger, and the youngest victim rescued by IJM and local authorities was a two month-old baby. Today, abusers located anywhere in the world can exploit children without ever leaving their homes. There are no reliable estimates on how many children are trapped in the industry, where predators from around the world pay to watch and direct the sexual abuse of children via livestreams, with the median age of victims being just 11 years old. However, the United Nations estimates that at least 750,000 sexual predators are online at any given time. There is a very real and urgent need to strengthen laws and penalties in Western countries and raise awareness of the realities of OSEC. This is a global issue that will only be resolved with a very clear and coordinated global response.

Credit: IJM Philippines

Rescue Efforts

Since 2011, IJM has partnered with local law enforcement to rescue more than 1,000 children from dens of online sex abuse. With the support of government social workers, these children are placed in partner aftercare shelters, which are equipped with trauma-informed care trainings to support survivors. After a period of sustained and intense rehabilitation, social workers assess opportunities for next of kin to take over the responsibilities of raising the child. Because of the complexity of the crime, some children cannot return home, and instead remain in long-term residential facilities to continue their healing process and finish their studies. In a small number of IJM-supported cases, very young children can be placed with foster carers.


In IJM-supported cases, 41% the local traffickers are biological parents and 42% of local traffickers are other relatives, close family members or neighbours of victims. OSEC thrives in environments where laws are not effectively enforced, and many perpetrators believe they will never be caught. Because OSEC generates “easy money” with a seemingly endless supply of customers, we need a strong, united, and closely coordinated strategy within local and global law enforcement teams in order to fight and ultimately end OSEC.

Credit: IJM Philippines

Immersive podcast series tackles online sexual exploitation of children

‘The Fight of My Life: Finding Ruby’ released on 5 September 2022


A podcast series was released on 5 September 2022 to shine a light on the online sexual exploitation of children and fuel a growing movement to end this crime. Produced by Australian creative agency Cadence and in collaboration with IJM, The Fight of My Life: Finding Ruby is a six-part immersive podcast series that walks hand-in-hand with 16-year-old Ruby* from her rural home in the Philippines to enslavement in an online sex trafficking den and then into the light of justice.


“It was important for us to create an almost cinematic listening experience, to pull listeners alongside Ruby* and on the journey through the highs and lows,” said Rich Thompson, Creative Director at Cadence. “Online sexual exploitation of children is a confronting topic and people are quick to turn away – but Ruby’s story reminds us that there is great triumph and hope to be celebrated, too.”


From behind a veil of acronyms, statistics and niche terminology, Finding Ruby aims to make the livestreamed sexual abuse of children a talking point by highlighting the human side of a hidden crime from the perspective of Ruby, her rescuers and those who walked with her toward justice and healing.

Using vast soundscapes and gripping first-hand accounts, the podcast takes listeners inside Ruby’s mind as she leaves her rural home – tricked by a fake job offer – and is forced to endure seemingly endless hours in a dark world lit only by computer screens. The podcast takes listeners into the trafficking den for the dramatic day that police kicked the door down to free Ruby and others in an IJM-supported rescue operation – and it continues with her journey through recovery and restoration, the legal system and onto becoming a vital voice in elevating livestreamed child sexual exploitation as an issue of critical importance, for households, tech companies and governments worldwide.


The episodes are now live on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcast.

To see the show website, please visit: findingruby.com


Mount Pinatubo Lake Hike

The trip will end with a half day hike to the beautiful Mt. Pinatubo crater lake. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in June 1991, it spewed out more than five cubic kilometres of magma and sent an ash cloud 35 kilometres into the air and was the second largest eruption of the 20th century, exceeded only by the 1912 eruption of Mount Novarupta in Alaska.

Today, if you drive out two hours from Manila to the historic town of Capas in the Tarlac Province, you can follow a 25-kilometre trail to the stunning crater of this 1,486-metre-high volcano. Four-wheel-drive vehicles take you across approximately 18 kilometres of the terrain, through a deserted valley flanked by huge lahar mountains, formed by the tremendous volume of mud and ash deposited after the eruption and you hike up the last 6km to the stunning vivid blue-green lake, which is 2.5 kilometres in diameter, and about 800 metres deep - incidentally making it the deepest lake in the country.


"Through this eye-opening and educational trip, we hope to shed more light on the issue of OSEC and bring international attention to the need for societies, governments and corporations to get involved and help put a stop to this horrific form of violence against children," said Christine Amour-Levar, Co-Founder of WOAM.


FIND OUT MORE

About WOAM

WOAM is a non-profit organisation headquartered in Singapore, which combines challenging, self-funded, expeditions to remote and majestic locations around the world as a way to raise awareness and funds for women survivors of war and to support and empower women who have been subjected to violence and abuse. The organisation works with well-established non-profit institutions that already have programmes and structures in place dedicated to serving the underprivileged with a particular focus on women's issues.

Now in its tenth year of operation, WOAM has raised well over $1,000,000 Singapore dollars to date, to support organisations that advance the position of women around the world. In addition to IJM, WOAM also supports Women for Women International, an NGO that provides practical and moral support to women survivors of war, and the following Singapore-based charities: AWARE - Singapore’s leading gender equality advocacy group; UN Women;Aidha - a Singapore NGO empowering domestic workers; and Pertapis Home for Women and Girls. The past eleven WOAM expeditions have been to regions of the Himalayas, the Middle East, Africa, Central and Southeast Asia and the Arctic Circle.


To learn more please visit: http://www.womenmission.com


About IJM

International Justice Mission (IJM) is a global organization that protects people in poverty from violence. IJM partners with local authorities in 24 program offices across 14 countries to combat slavery, violence against women and children, and police abuse of power against people who are poor. IJM works to rescue and restore victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and help strengthen public justice systems. Learn more at www.ijm.org.




To find out more please contact:

Lydia Bowden, Director of Strategic Partnerships, IJM APAC: lbowden@ijm.org

Christine Amour-Levar, Co-Founder, WOAM: christine@womenmission.com




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