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Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. &the Fight Against Human Trafficking » Women's Courage

Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. &the Fight Against Human Trafficking

February 23rd, 2012 by rachel Leave a reply »

After a variety of Google searches, I was able to find what one group called the Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. (VF) in the Philippines was doing to help combat the trafficking of Filipinos that was founded by Cecilia Flores-Oebanda who I quoted in an earlier blog post in regards to what should be done to end human trafficking.

As written on their website, this NGO has a vision of “a world where vulnerable migrants are free, protected and empowered.”Their missions are as follows:

Mission 1: To develop and share models of interventions in source, transit and destination areas to reduce vulnerabilities to human trafficking, domestic servitude, slavery and other forms of exploitation.

Mission 2: To enhance core programs and specialized services to ensure the transformation of individuals from conditions of vulnerability to a state of empowerment.

Mission 3.To build and facilitate social movements that address root causes which perpetuate abuse and exploitation.

Mission 4: To advocate for the public and private sectors to adopt policies and effective measures that promote concrete, practical and sustainable solutions.

Mission 5: To promote international solidarity for awareness, action and resource sharing and mobilization  (Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.).

VF has certainly done well on these missions through the work they do in the Philippines, as they are located in 20 provinces and cities with 11 offices, and they have been recognized internationally for their work:

VFFI’s work with child domestic workers has been cited by ILO-IPEC and the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) as an international best practice. Its anti-trafficking partnership with the Philippine government and private shipping companies was also hailed as one of the international best practices by the U.S. State Department in its 2005 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.  (Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.)

VF has three Migrant Empowerment Programs through which they are accomplishing their missions: the Anti-Trafficking Program, the Campaign for Decent Work for Domestic Workers, and the Community-Based Prevention &Protection Mechanism (Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.).

The Anti-Trafficking Program fares well first and foremost because VF’s great knowledge of the geography of the Philippines and location of possible trafficking points. VF combats trafficking at these transit points such as shipping ports and airports across the country (HumanTrafficking.org).

Located at these seaports are a well-entrenched Anti-Trafficking Task Force, consisting of Port Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the managers and key personnel of Maritime and Shipping Companies, used to enforce laws, detect traffickers, and protect possible victims. They monitor and facilitate the rescue and interceptions of potential and actual trafficking cases in the area. They also help collect evidence needed for prosecution. This sustainable group also helps distribute informational materials and has developed television “infomercials” to warn passengers about trafficking (HumanTrafficking.org).

Near these seaports of interest, VF operates halfway houses run by a multi-disciplinary staff that provides integrative services to protect and heal trafficking victims. These services, mostly for women and children, include temporary shelter, counseling, legal assistance, skills training, and referral for aftercare services. These houses are also the “nerve centers” for information and advocacy inside the ports (HumanTrafficking.org).

There are many integrative services which VF offers to these trafficking victims as listen above. In more detail, they offer personality development seminars, counseling, processing activities, and other psychological interventions facilitated by registered Social Workers and Psychologists. Legal assistance is also provided for those who want to prosecute their traffickers. Skill training and IT training are provided to prepare those for alternative and sustainable work after their case is over and they are reintegrated with their famillies and communities. Education assistance is also provided (HumanTrafficking.org).

Bringing the issue of trafficking beyond the ports, VF has established the Multi-Sectoral Network Against Trafficking in Persons (MSNAT), a national civil society-led initiative whos purpose is to provide direct action, build capacities of partners, advocate for policy reforms and network with local and international agencies  (Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.).

The Campaign for Decent Work for Domestic Workers is another great program that works well due to the active involvement of domestic workers themselves in its implementation. This migrant empowerment program provides specialized crisis services such as temporary shelter, hotline counseling and medico-legal services to reach out to abused domestic workers. VF does not do this on its own but works with a wide array of partners,  which allows them to build the capacities and mobilize to develop and implement their own programs to promote their rights and protection. Currently, VF is lobbying for the passage of a Magna Carta for Domestic Workers to better address the gaps in existing laws, and VF is also a leader in the campaign for the adoption of an International Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers  (Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.).

Lastly, the Community-Based Prevention and Protection Mechanism were created to address the root causes of human trafficking and other modern forms of slavery. These programs are modeled with parents, children and youth in the urban poor communities of Paco and Pandacan in Manila and in the source region of Negros Occidental. It includes the provision of specialized community based services and genuine participation for and empowerment of parents and children. Bantay-Bata sa Kumunidad or Community Child Watch Network was established to monitor the condition of working children and cases of child abuse. In this network, parents play an important role by watching out for traffickers and ensuring that children go to school. The children and youth of the community also organize their own workshops, seminars and sports festival  (Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.).

This intevention is very promising for human trafficking in the Philippines because it has been created so specifically for the Philippines, especially regarding the use of the Anti-Trafficking Task Force at the ports, knowing where to look for trafficking, and also having halfway houses closeby to help the victims through a tough transition period. This intervention not only finds the victims but helps them holistically. It also has aspects that reach further than the border of the nation and makes connections with locations where trafficked humans may be transported which is good because just as globalization makes trafficking easier, a global network can be just as useful in bringing an end to human trafficking. Other aspects of what this NGO is doing that I like is its work with domestic workers in helping those abused but now trying to lobby for laws to help protect these workers, and the community-based interventions are also very crucial to protecting whole communities against traffickers. The more vigilant communities are, hopefully the safer they will be from traffickers.

What is great about this intervention is that it can be tailored to do have similar effects in other countries where human trafficking is a problem. Hopefully these programs can serve as models for more interventions in other locations against human trafficking or even continue to be improved to better serve victims of human trafficking.



- HumanTrafficking.org. “Experts Corner: Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, Founder and Director, Visayan Forum Foundation (VFI)” Retrieved from http://humantrafficking.org/expert_corner/7

- Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.visayanforum.org




  1. Deepa says:

    The best part of this intervention is how the people in the organization know just as much about the trafficking trade as the traffickers themselves. They know what signs to look for and where to look for them (ports, etc). They also have partnered with local authorities that have the enforcement power to back up the organizations efforts. Thank you for sharing this intervention and for pointing out the factors that make it successful. Like the above commenter mentioned, its easy to feel helpless about this issue because of the economics and of the sheer number of places these girls are moved from and to (its too global to be controlled), but it’s good to know that there are some models that actually are helping these girls.

  2. abrown says:

    This was a very refreshing read after completing this week’s articles and feeling very helpless. This sounds like an amazing NGO that is truly targeting the population and their situation. I was most impressed with the halfway house aspect. It is one thing to track down the victims and bring them to safety, but they must be given support in that transitional period. It’s important to provide them with emotional support and guide them in the right direction; the holistic approach sounds very effective. Thank you for sharing the work and success of this NGO!

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