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WOAM & IJM Unite to Combat Trafficking in Asia - $250k Raised & 2nd Philippines Mission Set

For Immediate Release


Singapore, November 6, 2023 – Women on a Mission (WOAM), a Singapore-based non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting and empowering women survivors of violence and abuse, has joined forces with International Justice Mission (IJM), a global organization committed to combating violent forms of oppression, including sex trafficking, forced labour, and online sexual exploitation of children in countries that lack the capacity to protect their citizens.


Fundraising Success in Singapore


In December 2022, upon returning from a deeply moving visit to IJM’s operations in Manila, Philippines, the WOAM team in Singapore organised an online Christmas fundraising campaign that successfully raised SGD $40,000 to support IJM’s work there. Encouraged by this achievement, the team aimed even higher, planning a more significant event in October 2023. This initiative materialised as a Diwali-themed fundraiser and an exclusive dinner event held at The Swiss Club of Singapore. The night, themed “Justice Illuminated” gathered 85 distinguished friends of IJM and WOAM for a private event with special guest speakers including media personality Paul Foster and IJM Ambassador Amanda Griffin Jacob, both of whom are deeply invested in IJM’s work. The event generated an impressive additional SGD $210,000, resulting in a cumulative fundraising total of SGD $250,000.

This substantial funding infusion will play a pivotal role in bolstering IJM's ongoing efforts in the region, enabling them to expand their reach and rescue more victims from the clutches of human traffickers. Throughout Southeast Asia, IJM focuses its efforts on combating two specific forms of human trafficking: forced labour and online sexual exploitation of children. Collaborating closely with governments and civil society organisations, IJM's multifaceted approach encompasses rescuing victims, apprehending perpetrators, reinforcing public justice systems, and aiding survivors in rebuilding their lives.




Empowering Women for Change


WOAM is dedicated to empowering women who have faced violence and abuse, with a focus on helping survivors rebuild their lives. This partnership with IJM is particularly meaningful as it reinforces their shared commitment to supporting women and girls. It emphasizes the transformative role women can play in their communities, highlighting their resilience and strength. WOAM recognises the global importance of empowering survivors and the ripple effect it has in promoting positive change, fostering a world free from the burdens of violence and abuse. Through their alliance with IJM, WOAM continues to provide survivors with a platform for healing, recovery, and advocacy, amplifying their voices and their potential to drive societal transformation.


Illuminating and Understanding the Dark Issue of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC)


In November 2023, WOAM will lead a second international delegation of women from Singapore on a mission to the Philippines, this time to the city of Cebu, where IJM is actively engaged in safeguarding vulnerable populations. During the 5-day visit, these women will delve into IJM's crucial initiatives focused on protecting those most at risk. The mission to Cebu offers a unique opportunity to gain first-hand insights into IJM's collaborative efforts with the local public justice system in the Philippines, specifically in their dedicated fight against the disturbing issue of online exploitation of children (OSEC).

OSEC involves the sexual abuse of children, with traffickers disseminating or selling images and videos of the abuse online, often live-streaming it for offenders worldwide to direct. It is an alarming crime that preys on the most vulnerable, leaving devastating physical and emotional scars.


To deepen their understanding of the problem of OSEC, the women from Singapore will receive first-hand accounts from IJM staff who work on the frontlines. IJM's lawyers, investigators, prosecutors, and social workers will share their experiences, shedding light on the challenges they face while fighting against OSEC.


The Urgent Need for a Global Response


OSEC is a growing problem in the Philippines. In September 2023, IJM released a ground-breaking study which showed that in 2022 alone, 500,000 Filipino children were trafficking to produce new child sexual exploitation material (CSEM). In this crime, a local trafficker sexually abuses a child in person while an offender, typically from countries like the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia, directs and watches the abuse real-time via a video call. This is the first time the trafficking of children to produce CSEM for profit has been measured. Survivors and IJM are calling on leaders across governments, tech companies and financial institutions to protect children and prevent this growing problem from escalating further.


Shockingly, the median age of OSEC victims is 11, with the youngest victim rescued being a two-month-old baby. The abusers are located worldwide, exploiting children without ever leaving their homes. The United Nations estimates that at least 750,000 sexual predators are online at any given time, emphasizing the urgent need for a coordinated global response to tackle this grave issue. The Philippines has become a global hot spot for this financially motivated crime. Survivors of OSEC, alongside IJM, are calling on leaders across governments, tech companies and financial institutions to protect children. Strengthening laws and penalties in Western countries is paramount to addressing OSEC. Awareness and education are equally crucial. This global issue can only be resolved through a united front involving societies, governments, and corporations worldwide.


Rescuing and Restoring Lives


Since 2011, IJM has partnered with local law enforcement to rescue more than 1,100 children from dens of online sex abuse. These children receive trauma-informed care in IJM partner’s aftercare shelters, where they begin the long journey to recovery. In some cases, children cannot return home due to the complexity of the crime and continue their healing in long-term residential facilities or foster families.


To raise awareness of OSEC, an immersive podcast series titled "The Fight of My Life: Finding Ruby" was launched on September 5, 2022. Produced by Australian creative agency Cadence in collaboration with IJM, the podcast tells the story of Ruby, a survivor of OSEC. It offers a unique and powerful perspective on this hidden crime and aims to inspire collective action to end it.


A Glimpse into Ruby's Journey


The podcast takes listeners inside Ruby's mind as she leaves her rural home, tricked by a fake job offer, and is forced into the dark world of online sexual exploitation. It continues with her rescue in a dramatic operation supported by IJM, her journey through recovery, and her transformation into a vital voice advocating against livestreamed child sexual exploitation. “The Fight of My Life: Finding Ruby" is available on popular podcast platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. More information about the podcast can be found on the official website.


Ending on a Positive Note


The visit will conclude with a day hike to the famous Chocolate Hills Complex, offering participants breath-taking views of the iconic chocolate-brown hills and insights into local culture and flora. It's a fitting end to a journey that started with the determination to combat a dark issue and ends with hope and empowerment.


"Through this eye-opening and educational trip, we hope to shed more light on the gravity of the issue of OSEC and draw global attention to the imperative role of societies, governments, and corporations in coming together to eradicate this appalling form of violence against children," said Christine Amour-Levar, Co-Founder of WOAM.


FIND OUT MORE


About Women on a Mission (WOAM)


WOAM is a non-profit organization headquartered in Singapore, conducting self-funded expeditions to raise awareness and funds for women survivors of war and those who have experienced violence and abuse. WOAM supports various non-profit institutions dedicated to serving the underprivileged, with a particular focus on women's issues. Now in its 12th year of operation, WOAM has raised well over $1,400,000 USD to date, supporting organizations that advance the position of women around the world. www.womenmission.com


About International Justice Mission (IJM)


International Justice Mission is a global organization dedicated to protecting 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. IJM works to rescue and restore victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and strengthen public justice systems. 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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