Where are they now?: Chhaya, Cambodia

Chayay then now

In 2015 when IOM X was just a few months old we brought together 20 youth leaders from all 10 ASEAN countries in Bangkok for the IOM X ASEAN Youth Forum. The goal was to connect with amazing young people who were passionate about social change and the issue of human trafficking and to share knowledge and resources to help them make an impact.

Now, more than two years later, what are they up to? We reached out to five of the participants and asked them for an update!

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 3.47.46 PM

  1. What have you been up to since the IOM X ASEAN Youth Forum?

I’m still living in my homeland, Cambodia. For the past years, I have done a lot of things. I must say that IOM X ASEAN has taught me a lot and led me to this path. I have been working part-time as a radio presenter. I worked at Destination Justice. I have organized various youth activities, workshops, programs, digital campaigns related to human trafficking issues. And one project that I am most proud of is our Cambodia-ASEAN Youth Ending Slavery which could not be successful without support from groups of young people who are really passionate about fighting against human trafficking. And now I continue to work in this field at the International Organization for Migration.

  1. Are you still involved in the issue of human trafficking in any way?

Absolutely, the International Organization for Migration rescues trafficking victims and offers them options of safe and sustainable reintegration and/or return to their home countries. I’m very glad to be a small part of a big team that works together to create a positive change.

  1. Is there anything that has stuck with you from the youth forum?

There’s no way to take away my memories from the youth forum, everything has always stuck with me. The forum has provided me with two main things that I could never forget: human trafficking knowledge and teamwork experience. 

I had an opportunity to learn from experts from different sectors and backgrounds. I gained a deeper understanding about human trafficking and its main cause. For example, I used to think that the main cause of human trafficking is poverty. But the truth is it’s because of the demand. Human trafficking could happen to anyone, anywhere and in many different situations and industries. We all have a responsibility to prevent and to stop it.

The teamwork experience I had at the forum was far more than I  expected. I  learned about social life, culture and friendship. I also learned from all the participants from ASEAN countries. All these experiences helped me improve in many aspects, they made me become stronger, more matured and helped me become the person I am today. 

  1. Do you have any advice for young people who want to take action against human trafficking?

Welcome to the anti-human trafficking world! You have made the right decision to become part of a great team that saves humankind. The best way to start is to join programs or organizations that are working in this field. You will have a chance to learn and understand more about the issue. The more knowledge you have, the more ideas and actions you can have to fight against human trafficking. We need fresh ideas and energy to continue what we’ve started! We all are human beings. Nobody wants this to happen to your loved ones or anyone else. Please do not stay silent. You have the power to create positive change. Together, I believe that modern day slavery will no longer exist in our wonderful world.

Learn to act, stop exploitation — a memorable visit to IOM


As a member of the VIA Global Leadership & Engagement Program, I got a chance to tap into a pressing and acute issue facing the world today, which most of us felt powerless to resolve–safe migration and the prevention of human trafficking.

I can still recall when we were sitting on soft office chairs in a bright and spacious meeting room, watching a video by IOM X, and reading data collected by government institutions, the feeling of unease and sadness that motivated me to take on my share of responsibility.

But how? We are neither police nor government officials. No direct combat or policy making can be done. Usually, we feel nothing but vulnerable to it. However, what IOM X has always specialized in offered us a good example to follow.

  1. Incentive

Before the start of the discussion, lecturer Emily first introduced us to IOM X, the International Organization for Migration (IOM and the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) innovative campaign encouraging safe migration and preventing human trafficking.

“Our focus is prevention,” said Emily, which indicates that IOM X doesn’t act as a problem-solver but tries to cut the source of the problem.

Taken in this way, the seemingly dangerous and unattainable issue for most individuals became quite clear and tangible: if every one of us is equipped with basic knowledge about migration and human trafficking, and always a careful observer, we can simply help prevent others from becoming victims and prevent the crime.


  1. Offer

“This Song Changed My Life” by Simple Plan is one of the videos  IOM X played. It told the story of how a child in forced labour managed to escape. This changed her life as well as thousands of others who lived the same life as her. The crack-down on the crime happened when a man found a note for help sewed secretly into his new shirt’s collar by the girl. Just as Emily told us, “Learn, Act and Share” are three steps that are inseparable from that man’s actions. Only by obtaining knowledge about human trafficking and exploitation will we be able to take more precise action targeting criminal gangs.

In addition to video programmes for television, online platforms and community screenings, IOM X also offers a collection of learning package, tips for taking offline actions and information sharing. During the 2-hour lecture, we learned about ten forms of human trafficking and exploitation (forced marriage, organ trafficking, labour trafficking, debt bondage, child sex trafficking, forced begging, forced domestic work, forced child labour, child soldiers and trafficking for sexual exploitation), staggering numbers of victims and several causes of such crime (poverty and lack of education can be two major ones).

If you are now starting to feel more attracted to this issue as I did, we can move on to the next step—online learning through the IOM X website (IOMX.org).


  1. Mesmerize

We were lucky enough to be the first of a few to engage in their learning prototype. Following the instructions to enter into the learning platform, what we saw were pages of colourful and vivid comic figure with clearly explained definitions for human trafficking and specially designed questions to deepen our memory and understanding of what we learned. We were also encouraged to give feedback and constructive criticism.

For me, this was my favourite part. For one, I was excited to witness what we were taught about the elements of “design thinking”—a way of promoting projects that focus on the user experience, which is employed and practiced by IOM X. I really did learn actual knowledge in a flexible and interesting way, without spending a large amount of time or enduring the boredom of heavy analysis.


  1. Xie Xie

 “Xie Xie” is Chinese way of showing thankfulness and appreciation. I’d like to use my mother language as the ending of this blog. Thank you IOM X for providing a platform for people to get closer to human concerns and figure out what they can do about it.  It is a way to use every possible strength together to build a future society that bears less human-caused tragedy.

Post was written by Muki a member of 2017 VIA Global Leadership & Engagement Program.


Cleaning up supply chains

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 2.38.06 PM

Supply chains in this globalized world are massive and extremely difficult to oversee, and this leads to problems such as human trafficking and forced labour. Fortunately, there are different actors that taking action, and these actions are leading to promising outcomes.

One of these actors is government. As supply chains span across different continents, it is difficult to implement laws that will successfully lead to positive change. In recent years there has been an increased effort from governments to take action. Some examples of this are the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (2010), Executive Order 13627 (Strengthening Protections Against Trafficking in Persons in Federal Contracts) (2012) and the UK’s Transparency in Supply Chain Provisions (2015). These initiatives require companies to increase their transparency and outline clear solutions to end forced labour in their supply chains.  

Another set of key actors who are producing change is non-governmental organizations (NGOs). A good example is the Responsible Sourcing Network program by As You Sow, which launched the Cotton Pledge in 2011. To date, more than 260 companies have signed, pledging that they will not knowingly source cotton for any of their products from Uzbekistan, a country notorious for using child and forced labour in their cotton industry. Pressure from the Cotton Campaign has caused several large companies to voluntarily sign the pledge. Although tractability is often difficult and companies may unknowingly be producing goods with Uzbek cotton, the Cotton Pledge is a step in the right direction. 

Arguably the actors with the most power are companies themselves, and while many companies have Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) guidelines on forced labour and human trafficking, this are not enough. Regular CSR monitoring mechanisms such as audits, even if done unannounced and through third parties are often ineffective, as companies instruct auditors how deep into the supply chain they should look.[1] Unfortunately few companies look further than the first tier, the factories that supply the finished goods to the companies.

Fortunately some companies are taking concrete steps that can help stem issues such as human trafficking and forced labour. For example, HP Inc., Hewlett-Packard Enterprises, Coca Cola, Unilever and Ikea together with the Institute for Human Rights and Business, Verite, and the Interfaith Centre for Corporate Responsibility, formed the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment. This group calls for the abolition of recruitment fees for migrant workers. The ‘Employer Pays Principle’ has been outlined as one of the group’s core goals. Without recruitment fees, it is more difficult for workers to fall into debt bondage, thereby decreasing the likelihood of forced labour. Collaboration such as this, especially with amongst competing companies, is powerful as it can help create industry standards.[2]

No initiative alone can fix the use of forced labour and the lack of transparency in supply chains. Because supply chains are so big and difficult to oversee, it is important that both public and private actors are vigilant and act in a preventative fashion. For companies, this means understanding their supply chains and the labour that feeds into the factories and farms that are related to suppliers.[3] For government and NGOs/CSOs it is important to take measures such as policy engagement, awareness raising and reaching out to companies to seek joint solutions.

Despite companies’ best efforts, it is likely that cases of forced labour and human trafficking will rise. It is important to remember that the victims need to be protected. Actors in this sphere must do their best to implement corrective actions. Victims must have rights to redress and compensation. It is also essential to support the victims’ economic and social rehabilitation and, especially for migrants, their reintegration into the community.[4]

[1] LeBaron, G. and J. Lister (SPERI – Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute), Ethical Audits and the Supply Chains of Global Corporations (2016).

[2] http://www.supplychainquarterly.com/topics/Global/20161107-three-ways-to-combat-the-risk-of-forced-labor-in-supply-chains/

[3] Vertie, Corruption & Labor Trafficking in Global Supply Chains (December 2013). Available from https://www.verite.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/WhitePaperCorruptionLaborTrafficking.pdf. 

[4] The Ashridge Journal, Corporate Approaches to Addressing Modern Slavery in Supply Chains, 360° Journal (2016).

Who is making your stuff? A look at labour exploitation in supply chains

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 12.04.42 PM

Stories of labour exploitation make headlines time and again. It seems that forced labour is in almost every product – shoes made in factories where workers labour 18 hours a day with meagre salaries and no overtime pay, clothes sewn by children who are not attending school, batteries for phones made with minerals extracted in conflict zones by people who see none of the profits. Unfortunately there is no certainty that the clothes we are wearing, the shoes on our feet and the cell phone in our pocket are not affected by this problem.

Companies usually are not purposefully producing their products with forced labour. The problem is that companies’ supply chains are extremely long and complex, making them difficult to oversee. Take for example, the bed sheets you sleep on; first, the cotton must be planted and picked. Next, the raw cotton is sent to spinning mills where it is turned into fibre. After that, it is processed into fabric. This fabric is then sent to a factory where it is cut and sewed into a final product. Until the bed sheet reaches the consumer, the materials to produce it have travelled thousands of kilometres and were processed by countless pairs of hands. There could potentially be labour exploitation in every one of these production steps as it is difficult for the company that sells the sheets to keep track of every worker involved.

The company that sells the bed sheets does not typically own the fields where the cotton is grown, or the factories where the raw material is turned into fabric. Companies are also unlikely to own the factories that create the final product. Instead, suppliers (usually in developing countries) are contracted to produce certain goods. These suppliers are in charge of hiring their own workforce.

The people who are employed in these types of factories are usually low-skilled workers, and often migrants. Labour migration is crucial to our economies as migrant workers fill the labour and skills gaps that exist in countries. However, migrant workers are susceptible to labour trafficking and exploitation. This is because migrants are often marginalized, have limited access to legal and medical services and lack the protection of family and social networks that locals may have. Migrant workers are often recruited under false promises of good wages and working conditions. Once at their workplace they can have their documents confiscated and may be threatened or coerced to work under bad conditions. Products from exploited migrant workers then get distributed all over the world through the intricate supply chains that exist in this era of globalization.

Despite the difficulty of overseeing complex supply chains, there are plenty of motivations for companies to implement strategies that can fix these problems. Primarily, human trafficking is a crime and companies can face legal penalties if found guilty of forced labour. Additionally, cases of human trafficking can cause severe damage to a brand’s reputation and this can be costly as 30 per cent of a business’ value is attributed to its brand. Conversely, a company that publically aims for a clean and sustainable supply chain may also attract more customers, as a study suggests that 87 per cent of customers are likely to change to brands that are associated with a “higher purpose”.

Consumers are becoming more aware and conscious about the products they buy and are increasingly calling on companies for more transparency in their supply chains. In the United States consumers have filed a number of class action lawsuits against companies for not disclosing that there was forced labour involved in their supply chains. Employees themselves are also starting to file lawsuits against companies. Even if such lawsuits are not successful, it is another motivator for companies to eliminate forced labour from their supply chains.

Cleaning up human trafficking and forced labour in supply chains is unfortunately not a quick and easy fix, because there are so many suppliers and workers involved, often spanning multiple continents. Yet since a series of stories broke about child labour in creating goods for major sports brands in the 1990s, companies seem increasingly motivated to clean up supply chains; a study shows that 54 per cent of Fortune 100 companies have policies in place that target human trafficking and 68 per cent have made a commitment to monitor their supply chains. There are a number of effective solutions that are being implemented, some of which you can read about in our next blog.

Give your audience what it wants

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 4.32.05 PM

When we make a video here at IOM X, our research team steps in to make sure that what is being created will be clear and appealing to our target audience. Getting feedback along the way helps improve the final product, which will increase the likelihood of having a strong impact with viewers.

One way to get feedback is by holding focus group discussions. This means getting a small group of people together, who ideally match the characteristics of your target audience and presenting them with the idea or the draft product. They are then asked to discuss their thoughts, feelings and emotions towards it.

IOM X recently released a YouTube miniseries that revolves around exploitation and human trafficking in the garment industry. The story is about a fictional clothing company, ‘Torres Fashion’. The company is run by Winston, a young entrepreneur, and the clothes are produced by Mr. Cho, a factory owner. Like some clothing brands we wear on a daily basis, the factory in the miniseries cuts corners, exploiting workers under conditions tantamount to forced labour.

The aim of the miniseries is to make viewers aware of the fact that their clothing may be produced with the use of forced labour or exploitative practices. The viewers should be left thinking and caring about the labour that goes into the products that they use on a daily basis and moved enough to share the videos with their friends.

Armed with the first two scripts of our YouTube miniseries, IOM X’s research and learning team set off to find participants for our focus groups. Three separate discussions with students from Mahidol University and Thammasat University in Bangkok took place. A mix of about 30 bachelor and master’s students, from many different countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam participated in the focus groups.

While each group had different preferences and feedback, some of the same points were raised in all three discussions. For example, Winston’s sister, Lian came across as too stereotypical. In the original script, Lian was an unfashionable intern who cares about the environment and human rights. One participant pointed out, “I think it is a stereotype that people who are not fashionable care about human trafficking”. Another agreed, “It seems very Ugly Betty-ish,” she said.

In two of the three focus groups the idea of having facts at the end of each episode to help raise awareness about exploitation of factory workers came up. A student suggested, “Something that is visual is easier to understand. Maybe have evidence at the end, facts about what trafficking really looks like”. This prompted IOM X to include a quiz question at the end of each episode to let viewers test their knowledge about trafficking and exploitation in the garment industry.

Another common point of feedback from focus group participants was that they do not like to wait for new episodes of a series to be released. One participant explained, “Our generation likes to binge watch. I won’t remember to come back next week to watch the next episode”. Another said, “A week between episodes might be too long. All episodes should be released at the same time. Netflix made me this way. I hate when there is only one episode because then I can’t binge”. Based on this feedback IOM X decided to release all episodes of the YouTube miniseries at once.

Once the focus groups discussions were finished, the IOM X team sat down and discussed the comments generated in the three discussions. The issues that were most often raised were then noted, and this feedback was delivered to the production company, which made the appropriate changes to the scripts. The YouTube miniseries you can now watch HERE, features all these changes.

To learn more about forced labour, visit IOMX.org/ForcedLabour

Campfires & Campaigns: Young people tackle human trafficking in Belarus

Belarus group 1


Human trafficking is something that seems to happen somewhere far from us. Many people think that slavery is a holdover from the past. But then arises the question: why are there still millions of victims of labor and sexual exploitation, organ removal and economic abuse? The answer is clear. Human trafficking is the problem of the modern world that we cannot underestimate.

With such thoughts in my mind I was leaving for the youth summer camp “Learn.Act.Share” organized by IOM Belarus. I was ready for learning, as any conscious action starts with knowledge. Every day I had a unique opportunity to meet with experts in the field of counter-trafficking and related fields as well, such as gender equality, HIV prevention, Internet security, children’s rights protection, etc. I admire those people as all of them are highly qualified specialists who are really committed to what they do. Their experience and adherence inspires me, it means that if they can do something – so can I.


Participants at the summer camp.
Participants at the summer camp.


After the camp we opened a new facet of our personalities – readiness to act: I’m going to organize the training on safe migration, employment and studies abroad for students I work with at school; Kostya will tell his groupmates about refugee issues; Vlada will create a social video on the matter with her colleagues; Nikita will create a network of volunteers. And these are only our first steps!


Summer camp activity.
Summer camp activity. 


Some people say that global problems cannot be solved as it is impossible to change the whole world. Indeed, it’s very difficult to stop human trafficking as it is a crime that brings a lot of money for traffickers. It will take time. However, I believe in our success because we will make it together. By uniting our efforts and supporting each other’s initiatives, we won’t let anyone get into trouble, we will help and we will make our world better.

You can view a video from the summer camp here.

Maria is a facilitator at a school in a small town called Zhodino close to Minsk in Belarus. She likes traveling, rock and roll, learning new languages and making post cards. 

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons: Adapting for Impact



On 30 July, as we mark World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, it’s important to look beyond the usual facts and figures to take stock of how this crime is evolving and how our prevention responses can be equally adaptable.

This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report from the U.S. Department of State highlights the need to recognize the vulnerability of men and boys as potential victims of trafficking. Male victims are found across nearly all work sectors and yet most counter-trafficking programmes continue to focus on women and girls.

In addition, the online sexual exploitation of children is an alarming trend that appears to be growing, enabled by new technologies such as live-streaming the sexual abuse of children using web cameras or cellphones.

And in 2016, United Nations Action for Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons

(UN-ACT) released a report on the phenomenon of forced marriage, which is receiving increasing recognition and attention in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region as an emerging trafficking trend.

Clearly, the vulnerabilities and resiliencies of a man who is at risk of being trafficked into the construction or fishing industries is vastly different from those of a woman who is at risk of being trafficked for forced marriage, or a child who is being coerced to perform sex acts online.

This is true across all forms of exploitation. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for the prevention of human trafficking.


Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 1.03.42 PM

Addressing the many manifestations of human trafficking requires tailored responses. There is a need for programmes with structures in place that allow for flexibility to target specific audiences, and to learn and adapt based on feedback from those same audiences.

One way that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has found to do this is through the IOM X programme, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

IOM X encourages safe migration and public action to stop exploitation and human trafficking by moving beyond awareness raising to effecting positive behaviour change. It does this by applying an approach called Communication for Development, or ‘C4D’ for short.

C4D is a people-centered process that uses communication tools and activities to help create social and behaviour change in a meaningful and sustained way. It uses a participatory process to understand people’s knowledge, attitudes and practices (behaviours) around a certain issue, in order to work with them to develop empowering messages and tools. The approach has far reaching application, which is the reason IOM X has facilitated trainings on C4D in collaboration with IOM offices in Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, the Philippines and Thailand.

An example of how IOM X uses C4D is the campaign’s recent animated video called Know Before You Go, which provides pre-departure safe migration tips. As with many prevention activities, this video targeted aspirant migrants in origin communities who are known to be particularly vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation. In this case the video targeted aspirant male migrants in Cambodia and the content was informed by a series of interviews and focus groups. After watching the video, those surveyed were 83% more likely to visit a migrant resource centre. IOM Cambodia has found this video helpful as a resource in their migrant resource centres, and has screened it for over 12,000 returned migrants.


IOM X’s targeted, sector-specific C4D approach helps identify the various influencers around a particular trafficking trend to determine what kind of intervention can have the greatest impact, and this includes demand audiences.

When IOM X decided to create the Happy Home campaign to address the exploitation of live-in domestic workers, consultations with domestic workers and employers showed that, once a domestic worker has joined a household, the majority of the power to prevent exploitation lies with the employer. As a result, IOM X made employers the primary target audience for Happy Home and the flagship drama Open Doors: An IOM X Production. Rather than berating employers for exploitative labour practices, Happy Home focused on promoting positive relationships between employers and domestic workers, based on trust, respect and communication with the key call to action of giving one day off a week.

Knowledge on domestic worker rights increased an average of 27% among surveyed viewers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Engaging with national governments in those same countries, as well as the ASEAN Secretariat, for feedback, endorsement and participation at the Jakarta launch event further strengthened the impact and messaging of this campaign.

The value of investing the time and resources into applying this participatory C4D approach to creating outreach materials was further proven by the extensive reach these materials can have. In the year since the Happy Home campaign launched, the flagship video series, Open Doors, has been viewed more than 110 million times on Facebook. And people aren’t just watching, they are taking action: 1.5 million have shared it to their own walls and 55,000 have left comments, furthering IOM’s efforts to protect the rights of migrants globally.

Interested on how you can apply C4D approaches to your counter-trafficking efforts? All IOM X videos and resources are rights free and free for distribution! Whether you’re a student, an educator, a member of a community group or a counter-trafficking practitioner, IOM X has factsheets, videos, toolkits and workshop ideas that can help you take action.

For more information, please contact Tara Dermott, IOM X Program Leader, at tdermott@iom.int.

With 110 Million Views, USAID and IOM X Domestic Work Video Hits Home


“Treat people with respect so your children can do the same.”

Good advice from Facebook user Pearlena, and just one of 55,000 comments on Open Doors: Singapore, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and IOM X’s drama that follows the story of Lisa, a young Filipina domestic worker, as she begins working for a Singaporean family and taking care of their daughter, June. She’s travelled thousands of miles for this job, but Lisa soon realizes this isn’t what she signed up for.

Within minutes of entering their home, Lisa is pressured into surrendering her work permit and passport to her employer, Serene, and forgoing her day off – all signs of forced labour. Her protests are met with indifference: “I’m just doing what every other employer is doing. And you are not special,” says Serene.

USAID and IOM X premiered Open Doors last year, aimed at preventing the exploitation of domestic workers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

In January of this year, the video struck a nerve. One Filipino user shared it on her Facebook page, where it gained momentum as thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers, employers and citizens from across the world began commenting with how much this story resonated with their own experiences. With 110 million views and more than 1.7 million likes, 1.5 million shares, and 55,000 comments, Open Doors: Singapore had clearly hit home with viewers.

Christine commented, “I was treated like this by my past employer. Three hours of sleep every day, my passport was kept by her… I couldn’t leave and come back to their house without her checking my bag.”

Employers chimed in about how they know abuse is still happening but that they try to treat their domestic workers with respect.

One woman from a Muslim family noted that she employs a Christian domestic worker from Myanmar and is teaching her two- and three-year old kids to respect her: “I tell them to say sorry and hug her every time they throw a tantrum at her. They need to learn to respect elders despite race and religion.”

In the thousands of comments, one take-away message emerged, resonating with people not just in Singapore and the Philippines, but across the world: “Your children learn from you.”

“The script started off as a straightforward story about a maid’s ordeal. Then we realized it would be more impactful if the story angle is driven by the employer – where she realizes her deeds have came back to haunt her,” said video director Daniel Yam

Open Doors: Singapore director Daniel Yam.
Open Doors: Singapore director Daniel Yam.


The climax of the film comes when Lisa, forced to wake up in the middle of the night to prepare food, accidentally spills a bowl of soup on Serene and her table covered in work papers. Seeing as everything is ruined, Serene lashes out and shoves Lisa against the wall. Only then does Serene realize that her daughter has been watching the whole time.

The following day Serene gets a call from June’s school. When she’s called in, she learns that June had yelled at and pushed a school employee, eerily reminding her of scene that unfolded the night before. Recognizing that June has been learning from her own actions, Serene sets out to make things right, giving Lisa back her passport and work permit and showing June that they both need to treat “auntie” Lisa with respect.

Domestic workers are employed in private homes, providing services such as cleaning, laundry, shopping, cooking and caring for children and the elderly. Of the estimated 67 million domestic workers worldwide, 35 per cent are in Asia Pacific. It is estimated that 1.9 million of the domestic workers from Asia Pacific are being exploited.

Sometimes it takes a reminder for people to step back and realize how their actions affect those around them. More than 110 million views later, Open Doors: Singapore instills this simple message of basic humanity, showing that viewers have the power to make these changes in their own lives.

Open Doors: An IOM X Drama was produced with Love Frankie and the Sweet Shop, and distributed by BBTV Channel 7 and Viddsee.

View Open Doors: Singapore at IOMX.org/HappyHome

From Victim to Activist: A Trafficked Fisherman Speaks Out

From Trafficking Victim to Activist


Rizky Oktaviana spent months stuck at sea, a victim of forced labour on a fishing vessel thousands of miles from his home. Now he’s speaking out about his story and leading activism to reform the fishing industry in Indonesia as the Advocacy Coordinator of Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia (SBMI). We sat down with him to hear about his journey from victim to activist, and to get his take on how to protect migrant workers. In his words, “Every victim needs a space to voice their rights, and I think SBMI is the right place for me to do so.”


What were you doing before you took the job as a seafarer? How were you recruited?

I was working as a waiter at a Japanese restaurant in Jakarta, but in April 2012 I was approached by a recruiter who promised me a job as a seafarer on a fishing vessel that would sail to Africa. The recruiter also promised that I would earn a huge salary, get a large bonus and even have vacations abroad because this was a “proper job”. Because of his promises I thought these things would happen.


Can you describe your experiences on the ship: who were you with and what did you do each day?

I worked as a seafarer on a fishing vessel with a crew mostly made up of other Indonesians. My ship was a longline fishing vessel.

I would start work at three in the morning and finish around midnight every day. We caught tuna, marlin and shark. Just the fins of the shark were cut off; then their bodies would be thrown back into the sea. We often stored shark meat to sell because the captain told us that we would get a bonus if we did so.

If there was a hailstorm at sea, the captain would still force me to work, and if I refused, the captain would get furious and threaten to not pay me. I realized I was in trouble, but I couldn’t do anything because I was stranded on the ship.

Until now, I’ve never been paid.


What happened when your ship finally went to shore? How did you get back to Indonesia?

When my ship docked, immigration officials and the police came aboard. A few days after that, the ship’s catch was confiscated by local authorities because they found that the ship had been fishing illegally. All of us were put in jail but somehow the company arranged for bail for the captain, so he was able to leave. The rest of us were stuck.

I managed to return to Indonesia with the help of International Transport Workers’ Federation and IOM, once they interviewed me and determined that I was victim of human trafficking.


How did you feel when you saw your family again? What was their reaction? 

I felt sad because I came home with absolutely nothing. At first my family thought I wasted all of my money abroad and didn’t believe that I was a victim of trafficking even though I tried to explain to them that I was abused and suffered on the ship.


What happened to the company that exploited you? 

Unfortunately, until now the foreign company that trafficked me still operates as before, still sending crew to foreign countries.


What advice would you give to people who want to work as a seafarer?

In my opinion, those who want to become a seafarer must first find out if the company that wants to hire them has a permit in Indonesia. Secondly, they must carefully read their work contract.

If they are not given permission to read their contract they should refuse to board the ship and request that the money they paid to the company’s recruiter be given back to them.

They should also attend training and education sessions specific to their future work. If they receive no training, these seafarers are very vulnerable to becoming victims of exploitation. Working on a ship is extremely difficult for people who are doing it for the first time.


What do you think needs to happen to stop exploitation in the fishing industry? 

I think the government should play a big role, starting from giving clear and accurate information to Indonesians about the risks of working as a seafarer. Furthermore, law enforcement and the legal system need to sanction and firmly punish companies that illegally operate without a license.


What can the public do to support victims of human trafficking?

The public needs to first fully understand the issue of human trafficking. From there, they can take an active role in monitoring companies and their recruitment procedures. I also really hope that society can also campaign to stop human trafficking through social media.


To report a case of trafficking or exploitation, contact SBMI at:



Domestic Worker Rights: Gauging the Impact of Open Doors

SG screenshot


Hiring a live-in domestic worker in Southeast Asia is not uncommon among middle and upper income families. These domestic workers are often migrants from other countries. Unfortunately, domestic workers – and especially those living with families – can face abuses such as no weekly day off, having to be on call 24 hours a day, not being allowed to keep their passports and not being paid a fair salary.


To address exploitation in the domestic work sector, IOM X created a regional video programme called Open Doors: An IOM X Production.


Open Doors aims to reach as many employers in the region as possible, in order to increase awareness of the exploitation of domestic workers and encourage employers to adopt better behaviours towards them.


Testing the impact of a regional programme requires a regional approach. Open Doors was tested with viewers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand by IOM X’s research partner, Rapid Asia. In each of the countries, the video was shown to a sample of the intended target audience – people between the ages of 15-50. Most of the survey participants employed domestic workers (47% of Thai, 62% of Indonesian and 100% of Malaysian respondents), some of which were migrants and some of which were nationals of the country where they work.


Over 700 people were surveyed before and after watching Open Doors, to see what impact the programme had on viewers’ levels of knowledge, attitudes and intended practices towards domestic workers and their rights.


MALAY screenshot


Surveyed viewers from Malaysia and Indonesia appear to have learned the most about domestic worker entitlements after watching Open Doors, as their knowledge levels increased by an average of 32 per cent. Thai viewers’ knowledge also increased, although to a lesser extent, at 17 per cent.


In all three countries, knowledge of a weekly day off and paid rest days was high, about 85 per cent of those surveyed knew about these rights. However, across the board, audiences from all three countries showed low awareness on what constitute fair working hours. This shows that there needs to be more efforts to inform employers that domestic workers deserve fair working hours, just like employees in any other sector.


Unfortunately, negative attitudes towards migrant domestic workers were still expressed by an average of 42 per cent of the people surveyed after watching Open Doors. Shifting attitudes is generally an extremely difficult task that is unlikely to be accomplished after seeing one video. However, despite the high levels of negative attitudes, Open Doors was able to make a small dent. When comparing the scores of all three countries, ignorance, measured by asking participants if they agree or disagree with the statement ‘live-in domestic workers should be available to work at any time’, on average decreased the most (by 18%) in all three countries. The most remarkable shift in attitudes was found in Malaysia, where negative attitudes decreased by 19 per cent. Such a high decrease in negative attitudes speaks for the effectiveness of Open Doors to connect to employers.


The three-country survey found that intended behaviours towards domestic workers were high; although in general behavioural intent was high in the pre-survey already (at an average of 72%), it increased in all three countries, especially in Indonesia (up 16%). The most significant increase in behaviour was concerning the practice of advising friends who are about to hire a domestic worker. On average this behaviour increased by 18 per cent.


THAI screenshot


One interesting finding was that those who employ migrant domestic workers always showed higher levels of knowledge, attitudes and intended practices than those who employ local domestic workers. It was also found that those who were previously exposed to news around domestic workers had higher levels of knowledge, attitudes and intended behaviour, compared to those who didn’t. This shows that experience and exposure to information, and interaction with domestic workers, may contribute to a better understanding about domestic worker rights.


With about 84 per cent of surveyed viewers saying they found Open Doors interesting and learned something new, it can be said that across the region the programme accomplished its objective. The programme set out to raise awareness of the exploitation that domestic workers face, and to encourage employers to adopt positive behaviours that will reduce exploitation. Encouraged by these positive findings, IOM X continues to disseminate Open Doors across the region.


To read the full comparative impact assessment study of Open Doors in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand click here.