Thailand is a source, destination and transit country for trafficking in persons according to the 2006 report by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs. Thousands of uneducated women from impoverished rural villages migrate to Bangkok each year in search of work to support their families. They are at risk of sexual exploitation because they lack the basic job skills and education needed to support themselves.
Fueled by a growing demand, countless women and children from around the world are victimized by gender inequality, poverty and cultural obligations. They are sold or pressured into prostitution and trafficked in and out of Bangkok to sustain an increasingly global network. Estimates are that 80% of Thai men frequent women in bars and 60% of foreign men entering Thailand participate in the sex industry, generating approximately US $1.2 billion annually.
In January 2005, NightLight began to address the lack of opportunity for women trapped in Bangkok’s sex trade by providing them with a viable alternative means for supporting themselves.
NightLight Thailand, operates under two branches: NightLight Design, Co. Ltd, the registered jewelry business offering holistic employment, and NightLight Foundation, the non-profit branch focusing on holistic intervention for women, families and communities affected by the global sex industry.
As of June 2009, NightLight Design currently employs 80 women in Bangkok. Over 125 women have been employed by NightLight since it was established. Once a week, every woman is involved in a small group session for personal development. As women develop their skills they are given the opportunity to develop new skills in other areas such as technology, accounting, purchasing, management, marketing, networking and public relations. Salaries are above minimum wage and raises are given annually based on a performance evaluation. NightLight also provides medical insurance and a savings plan. Scholarships are given to those who choose to continue their education. NightLight also has a small childcare center for the children of the women employed at NightLight.
NightLight continually carries a waiting list of 10 to 15 women who want to leave the bars. They cannot be hired until there is adequate work provided through jewelry orders and until funds are made available to pay for supplies and salary equivalent to US $250 per month. The company has experienced tremendous growth since it’s inception, making it necessary to expand jewelry markets and increase awareness of NightLight’s transformative work.
The NightLight outreach team maintains a presence in the red-light district of Nana Sukhumvit, building relationships with women and children, and offering them a way out of their situation. In Bangkok, the NightLight outreach team meets hundreds of women and children every year through bar visits and street level interactions. These women and children come from as many as 20 different countries including Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Kazakstan, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Iran, India, and Bangladesh.
NightLight has assisted in the rescue of a number of women from Central Asia and Africa since August 2007. NightLight partners with organizations such as the International Organization of Migration (IOM) for safe and successful repatriation. There are many more women needing assistance but it takes time to gain their trust. Funding is needed to purchase tickets, pay visa fees, and to provide for the women as they prepare to return to their countries of origin.
NightLight provides emergency relief for women and children at risk in the Nana/Sukhumvit area and engages in local and international advocacy on behalf of women and children working in the sex industry. NightLight recognizes the need for strategic partnerships, coalition building and community efforts worldwide to see an end to human trafficking.
The women of NightLight have also recently begun a church called “Send the Light”. Through their leadership, “Send the Light” seeks to bring spiritual growth, development and transformation to friends, family and community around them.
Coming soon: A Coffee House Ministry and Outreach Center in the redlight district.
NightLight Bangkok Seeks To:
- Build trusting relationships through bar visits. Raise awareness about the risks of working in the sex trade and educate women about avaialble resources.
- Provide assistance and intervention through emergency shelter, rehabilitation/counseling, child-care and basic necessities to both national and international victims of trafficking and prostitution.
- Provide economic alternatives and leadership development through employment, job training and life skills training at NightLight Design, Co., Ltd.
- Offer educational opportunities while on the job and support continuing education through scholarship assistance.
- Intervene when children are solicited for prostitution. Work with guardians to protect at risk children.
- Introduce women and children to the love, mercy and healing power of Jesus Christ by giving them opportunities to grow strong in their faith and become influencers who impact their communities.
- Educate the public, including Thai and foreign, religious and secular, on the physical, psychological, legal and economic consequences of prostitution and trafficking. Encourage their involvement in advocacy and follow-up care.
- Equip and train leaders, visionaries and catalysts from around the world with resources and skills to combat trafficking and prostitution in their own communities.
- Set up global networks to assist in the repatriation of trafficking victims.
- Address the demand side of the sex industry through advocacy, outreach, counseling, referral, and intervention.