Once girls have been rescued from the sex industry, this is followed by a long period of processing and healing. Free a Girl USA has an obligation to ensure that victims receive good shelter and care after they have been rescued.
In the rehabilitation process, we consider whether the children can be returned to their own families. Growing up with one’s own family is always preferable to growing up in a shelter, but sometimes this is impossible – or only possible after some time. This might be because the family was involved in selling the child, for example, or because the victim is HIV positive. In such cases, the children are provided with shelter, education and vocational training for a longer period.
Free a Girl USA aims to provide the best aftercare for victims of sexual exploitation, based on the principles of love, protection, safety, care and growth. For this purpose, further research will always be carried out into best practices around the world.
Effective reintegration is an enormous challenge, because exploitation in the sex industry carries a huge stigma. In their own communities, the girls are often seen not as victims of human trafficking and exploitation, but as “bad girls” who have violated the family’s honor or even that of the whole community. If there is no support from the family, it is all the more important to ensure that the girls can learn the skills they need to find a job and take care of themselves. This can be a major challenge in poor areas where job opportunities are limited.
Access to Justice
We want to ensure that within the complex legal systems of our program countries, the CSE survivors we work with receive fair treatment within the legal systems. So that they can find justice in the form of compensation and/or a conviction.
Free a Girl USA uses a bottom-up approach by operating at the local and district level. We take care of the legal process of individual victims and try to ensure a fair course/ trial of justice for these victims in cooperation with local and district authorities. With this, we can do much for the victims themselves. As assisting them in their legal process and by creating social awareness for the need to improve the position of CSE victims at local authorities and within communities through the individual cases that we take on. This could mean that activities can take on different content and forms, on a case-by-case basis. We are working on what is needed to provide access to the justice system for each survivor.
Among other things, we do this through training and workshops, providing good lawyers, providing legal and psychosocial assistance for survivors and families. But also, through training law-enforcement and police on knowledge of sexual exploitation of children, detecting sexual exploitation of children cases and the importance of tackling this. Including child-friendly legal process and child-friendly interview techniques. Our target group of underage victims remains central in all our work.
The School for Justice program forms part of this access to justice. The School for Justice is an award-winning program for survivors of sexual exploitation who have the chance to become change agents. They want to end sexual exploitation of children by becoming empowered themselves and playing an active role in the fight. The School for Justice facilitates this path by building their confidence and knowledge.
The students become professionals in human rights-related areas, such as lawyers, para-legals, public prosecutors, journalists, counsellors and policewomen, to change the system from within.
They are active in national campaigns, fight impunity, join and organize child rights marches, organize conferences, speak in schools, and raise awareness through the media and in communities. Having been denied justice, they are fighting for it for themselves and others. The School for Justice program has received international recognition and was mentioned in a UN report “as an innovative model of social inclusion.