THE PEER PREVENTION PROJECT
Suggested citation: Aura Freedom. (2021). Aura Freedom’s Human Trafficking Peer Prevention Project. Fourth Edition. Lecture presented in Toronto.
When addressing gender-based violence sexual exploitation and human trafficking, Aura Freedom’s HTPPP goes deep to the root of the issue: inequality. Patriarchy, gender inequality, systemic racism, colonialism, homo/transphobia, ableism, classism, and capitalism are all actively contributing to gender-based violence and human trafficking.
Aura Freedom, we know and understand these root causes.
We also know that it is very difficult to traffic and exploit an empowered person.
Through this project, Aura Freedom has trained, mentored and coached a team of young women from different marginalized communities to facilitate gender-based violence prevention workshops in schools, shelters, and other youth spaces in the city. These youth facilitators come from diverse backgrounds and some have various lived experience including human trafficking and violence, which gives them unique insight to address human trafficking in their communities.
“Being a young, Black Muslim woman and being in a position to educate young folks has been truly life-changing. My main mission is to highlight to youth that when we are empowered, we can do anything.” Asha Dahir, Former HTPPP Project Coordinator.
Youth who are ready to contribute to society must be empowered to do so. It is crucial to provide them with the opportunity to make a difference. Not only does it benefit them and their families, but programs for youth are much more powerful when delivered by youth themselves. Viewing young people as agents of change can shift the course of an entire nation.
By entering youth spaces and providing education developed “for youth by youth”, Aura Freedom’s youth team creates an environment where students learn from people who look like them and sometimes, when our facilitators feel comfortable, might even hear stories of personal experience, ensuring the greatest possible impact. In a word: prevention.
Due to the powerful nature of the Peer Prevention Project’s awareness, the different lived experiences of the facilitators and the unique safe space created, we often have disclosure of sexual violence and human trafficking from youth, who are provided with immediate access to crucial services. The youth team travels with a trained trauma counsellor who is there to receive disclosures and provide the appropriate support.
We have partnered with the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre and other freelance counsellors to provide this service, which has proved to be essential to the project. The counsellors are also there to support the project staff themselves.
In 2019 alone, the Peer Prevention Project operated in over 36 youth spaces across Toronto with 2,000+ participants. From those 36 presentations, 19 survivors of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and sexual violence came forward and were referred to crucial services.
Grassroots, youth power.
The project’s disclosure rate shows the prevalence of the problem and the power of youth-led programming that focuses on addressing the root causes of violence, as opposed to focusing on the crime of human trafficking itself.
More importantly, gender-based violence and human trafficking is prevented through empowerment, increased self-esteem, and increased knowledge of equality, colonization, racism, consent, and healthy relationships. This impact cannot fully be measured as these changes are internal, but the result in time will be a massive generational shift.
Let us not forget about the impact the project has had on our youth facilitators, who increased their knowledge and capabilities, while changing the trajectory of their lives. Some used their lived experience, things which normally stigmatized them, to become true agents of change; while all of them improved their skill sets, increased their self-worth, and empowered their communities.
“The Peer Prevention Project has opened even my eyes to just how many girls are affected by human trafficking,“ says Marlena Hendry, one of the project’s Youth Facilitators. “Working on this team and empowering younger girls makes me feel more empowered, too. And it helps to know that, as a survivor of human trafficking myself, what happened to me wasn’t my fault.”
The ripple effects of this work will be seen for years to come. When women and girls know their worth, they are empowered to make their own decisions. When youth are able to recognize what a healthy relationship is, they understand what their own relationship may be lacking. When young men understand the meaning of consent, they act more responsibly. When Indigenous youth understand how their ancestors’ history has impacted them today, they demand better. When LGBTQ2S+ youth feel a sense of community, they can lead vibrant lives free from violence.
See our 2019-2020 Project Impact Report here: Peer Prevention Project 2019/2020
See our 2018-2019 Project Impact Report here: Peer Prevention Project 2018/2019