Amy Jersild, an evaluation consultant to the United Nations and other international organizations, paid a virtual visit Nov. 1 to the roughly dozen seniors in a Global Scholars capstone course to discuss the complex issue of human trafficking.
“I hope I’ve given you something to think about,” said Jersild, who added how impressed she was by the depth and breadth of the Q&A session which followed her remarks.
Jersild — who had been invited to participate via Zoom by Upper School History Faculty Karen Jersild, her second cousin and that course’s teacher — is currently a Ph.D candidate in interdisciplinary evaluation studies at Western Michigan University. In her 25-year career she has served in multiple capacities in the international development sector as a manager, advisor, and evaluator of programs with intergovernmental agencies and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Her focus has largely been on mobility and labor, including human trafficking, labor migration, and migrant labor.
In her remarks as guest speaker, Jersild discussed several conditions that may contribute to human trafficking in Southeast Asia, including poverty and lack of educational access, as well as what she called “the three Ps” of the response to human trafficking: protection, prosecution, and prevention. Her role, she told students, largely focused on protection in the time period discussed: the early 2000s when she worked on the return and reintegration of young migrants from Laos who had become caught up in human trafficking and were being exploited in factories and the commercial sex industry in Thailand.
“We were dealing with and supporting the Lao and Thai governments to identify, assist, and develop standard operating procedures to coordinate the safe return of these girls,” said Jersild, who later explained that, while there were some boys and adults, the majority of victims were girls ages 12-19. The program, she added, was funded by the governments of both Australia and the United States.
Jersild discussed the various approaches to the work. “It’s not one-size-fits-all,” said Jersild, pointing out that agencies and NGOs have to deal with differing governments, borders, laws, cultures, and agendas of multiple stakeholders. A common challenge in the work, she told the class, is not truly understanding the scope and nature of a problem and a programmatic response appropriate to the problem.
And the work evolves, said Jersild. Two decades ago, she told students, human trafficking was seen primarily as a mobility issue with a focus on girls and the sex industry. Today, the problem is viewed through multiple lenses — including those of labor laws, exploitation, and workers rights — more broadly by a range of types of organizations. There is also greater understanding and acknowledgement of the labor exploitation of boys and men in the shipping industry as among the worst kind of human trafficking in Southeast Asia today.
According to the U.S. State Department, there are an estimated 24.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide at any given time.
Thayer Academy's Global Scholars Program promotes greater awareness of and engagement in global issues by combining interdisciplinary academic learning with application to real-world experiences. Students who successfully complete all of the program requirements are recognized as Thayer Academy Global Scholars at graduation.