'Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf's Nightmare'
At the Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sai, HOTS staged a drama production to raise-awareness on combating the child sex trade. There were over 250 children that came from NGO shelters in Mae Sai, Cheng Sean, Mae Jan and Chiang Rai. This event was hosted by a child development organisation in Mae Sai. Two other local child development organisations were also invited to participate at this one day event.
This HOTS production entitled 'The Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf's Nightmare' highlights the vulnerabilities of disadvantaged children to become victims of commercial sexual exploitation. A combination of pantomime, improvisation, audience participatory theatre and stage direction are intertwined in this adapted tale that explores the problems faced by a girl who enters the child sex trade. Fortunately, Little Red Riding Hood is equipped with information and knows how to help the girl out of this exploitative situation.
Through the scenarios outlined in the production the audience is provided with information about how to report offenders and also what signs to look out for when trying to establish if someone is an exploiter or a genuine well intentioned person. Although the subject matter was serious, the actors did a good job in expanding the humorous and lighter parts to make the production entertaining for their young audience.
Photos © HOTS
HOTS organised a film workshop for cross-border children at a mountain retreat along the Thai- Burma border. The children that participated in this two day workshop were from three children's NGOs working in and around the border town of Mae Sai. Many of the participants were rescued from a desperate life on the streets of Mae Sai. Most have experienced an inconceivable life of physical and emotional suffering yet they possess immense hope for a better life even though their future remains uncertain.
One of the aims of this participatory film workshop was to raise awareness amongst these kids about how they might be able to help other children out of a sexually exploitative situation. Another aim was to provide the children with basic filming techniques so that they could use the video cameras to film things that are of importance to them. Some of the footage shot by the children at this workshop was incorporated into the HOTS film, 'Garland Princess and the Neon Prince'. Along with presenting a response to the problem of the child sex trade, this film highlights the needs and hopes of street children and hopes to help overcome the prejudice faced by hill tribe people.
Photos © HOTS
Night Market Vendors
HOTS conducted a participatory workshop for night market vendors that work in the tourist area.
The objective of the half day workshop was to mobilise this group of night market vendors to report any suspicious people that might be involved in the buying or selling of children for sex. Since these vendors work in the tourist area, HOTS considers it important to raise awareness on how to combat the child sex trade amongst this group.
The participants showed a genuine disapproval and intolerance of child sex offenders. Knowing that they could report offenders anonymously instilled confidence in the participants to report without fear of repercussions.
Photos © HOTS
Forty rickshaws advertising the brightly coloured HOTS campaign banners gathered at two locations in the old town of Chiang Mai on Saturday 31st March. Parents and children were invited to participate in a rickshaw parade that toured the tourist area. The banners advertising the campaign message and details on how to report were produced in English because this highly visible event was targeted at the English speaking tourists and residents. Based on ECPAT UK research the majority of tourists would report offenders if reporting details were made available in their holiday destination.
Participants included street children, Thai students, staff from International law enforcing agency, school children and their parents from the US consulate, university lecturers and night market vendors. One foreign family who are long term residents showed their support by cycling in the parade with their own rickshaw, displaying the HOTS banner. The feedback received by the HOTS team was very positive, participants were glad to be part of the event and to help spread the message.
Although it is a difficult issue to deal with, parents and childcare workers mentioned that it was a good opportunity to discuss the issue with their kids. When explained to the street kids what the event was about, some kids mentioned that they had encountered child sex tourists while selling flowers in bars and on the streets. The childcare workers were then able to address the issue further with this group of kids.
Given the relentless nature of the problem, we can only hope that by continuing to keep this issue in the public eye, and calling on all those in our community to have the will to take action, affected and at risk children can live a life free of extreme, incomprehensible abuse.
Photos © HOTS
Theatrical performance for slum community
The HOTS drama team captivated an audience of over 150 people at a Christmas event for slum children and their families . HOTS was invited to give a theatrical performance to raise-awareness on CSEC at an annual Christmas event organised by a NGO working in slum communities.
The HOTS drama team performed a modern version of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ to a largely ethnic minority audience of young children and adults. The play cleverly forged the current situation and scenarios faced by street children/slum children into the story line.
Using a mix of traditional hill tribe costumes and modern dress, the HOTS performers held the attention of both children and adults alike as the audience were able to identify with the characters. The HOTS drama team also encouraged the children to participate in the performance. A few children did some role play exercises at the end of the performance to highlight practical steps that can be taken when a child is at risk of sexual exploitation.
Since many children from these slum communities are at risk or are involved in the sex trade, it was a good opportunity to address the issue in a relaxed, fun and non-threatening manner. The vast majority of adults interviewed by the HOTS team following the performance said that they would report such abuse. They were also glad to be informed that they could anonymously report child sex exploitation.
Photos © HOTS
Payap UniversityDespite the sensitive subject matter of using children for commercial sexual exploitation, the Payap university students enjoyed the awareness-raising activity that HOTS held in conjunction with Payap University.
The session started with an animation entitled ‘Journey into the child sex trade’. This was followed by a short overview of the problem of CST and ways to help combat the problem. The HOTS drama team then performed various thought provoking sketches that involved the participation of the audience. The comic characters in the play helped subdue the intensity of the scenarios that the actors portrayed. This also made it easier for the audience to continue watching the performance which dealt with difficult subject matter.
Students indicated that they appreciated the participatory style of the session and the majority said that they would report abuse. As a practice run, one student even took up the challenge of actually calling the appropriate organisation to report one of the offences that was sketched in the play. Although HOTS had informed the organisation prior to the activity that this would happen as part of the performance, the students were unaware of this when they initially telephoned to report the abuse. The display of courage to report the abuse was very promising and we hope that actions like this continue in real life situations.Photos © HOTS
International Day to End Violence Against Women
HOTS was invited by TRAFCORD (Anti-trafficking unit for Northern Thailand) and CCPCR (Chiang Mai Coordination Center for the Protection of Child Rights) to join the coordinated activities that NGOs an GOs staged in Chiang Mai to mark the International Day to End Violence Against Women.
The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines Violence against Women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.”
A stage and booths were set up in the car park of the municipality office behind the Three Kings Monuments. HOTS was given a booth and was able to distribute HOTS campaign material to interested NGOs, GOs and individuals.
It was a good opportunity to meet other groups working to help promote equality and justice and a life free from violence for all. The GABFAI community theatre group performances were strong in projecting an anti-violence message and the street children from the Volunteer Group for Children’s Development also performed enchanting songs and entertaining dance routines.
Photos © HOTS
NGO Staff Training
The HOTS team held a one day training session on combating CST through community action for NGO staff members working on HIV/AIDS awareness in Chiang Mai and hill tribe village communities.
Twenty staff members mostly of ethnic background attended this participatory training in November. Participants were energetic and also appreciated the opportunity to learn and discuss the issue amongst their co-workers and the HOTS team.
When addressing intervention methods to assist a child at risk of sexual exploitation, the role play exercises were very beneficial.
HOTS will continue to work with staff from this NGO to help them further adapt material on the issue for their individual communities.
Photos © HOTS
In early October HOTS gave its first awareness-raising and educational training on the Child Sex Trade and how to help combat the problem in Chiang Mai through community action. The training was held at an informal school for ethnic minority woman and their children. At night, it is also a place where street children and their mothers can take a short rest from selling flowers around the tourist area.
The awareness-raising session was successful at engaging the participation of the Thai and ethnic minority women. These women informed the HOTS team that they found the activity highly beneficial in helping them understanding the factors that surround a child’s entry into the sex trade.
In the past, some of these women had seen street children going with local and foreign men but did not know the full implications for the child. A small proportion of women admitted that they had sometimes even envied these children that were receiving lavish gifts from foreign men. The awareness-raising session however helped change their perspective and gave them an understanding of the reality of the situation for affected children. Most said they felt more empowered to act now that they were equipped with information on how to report offenders.
Photos © HOTS
Eyes Wide Shut
Heart of the Street's (HOTS) team of Journalists, Scholars, University Professors and staffers, set out on the weekend of 16 September to observe the current issues facing cross-border street children in Thailand and Myanmar. In an effort to sensitize media professionals to the phenomenon’s facing street children, we accomplished just that. In a case of Eyes Wide Shut, we watched a woman try to sell her eldest son, something that we’d prefer to not have witnessed with wide eyes, but an occurrence we cannot shut our eyes and minds to. As we sat there, a little boy in a faded red t-shirt and a toy gun in his hand, slapped his mothers shoulders as he clutched her from behind. His little swollen belly beating like a racing heart as tears ran down his cheeks and snot dribbled from his nose, it was a vision of a childhood lost at age 4. The mother sat there, flanked by her two other children, with a seemingly stoic presence.
During the two-day trip, we visited various cross-border organizations and were given a personal tour by a 15 year-old street child, who with visions of a better future in her eyes, was leaving the next day to enroll in beauty school. Though the trip had heartbreaking moments, it was also heartwarming to enlighten people on this phenomenon in hopes that they will take what they learned back to their professions to help draw more attention to the eradication and reporting of child sex tourism.
Photos © HOTS