UN-ACT partners with Microsoft to prevent human trafficking from affecting youths

December 18, 2016

Limited opportunities for education, skill development and employment have contributed to the prevalence of cross-border human trafficking and left youths in the Greater Mekong Sub-region including Thailand vulnerable to forms of exploitation.

To address this important issue, Microsoft has initiated ‘Microsoft YouthSpark: Computer Science and ICT Education to Empower At-Risk Youths in Thailand’ in a joint effort with UN-ACT, the National Council for Child and Youth Development (NYCD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and World Vision Foundation of Thailand.

The two-day program empowers disadvantaged youths in high-risk areas by enhancing their IT skills. Such IT skills help young people to access information, which in turn can help them to protect themselves, pursue a career path towards self-reliance or become involved with social initiatives. Participants also learn how to use technological tools to create sharable content that raises public awareness of the human trafficking problem. This helps participants to build an in-depth understanding of the issue in order to better protect themselves and their communities. Finally, the program encourages creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills.

YouthSparks is particularly important as it innovatively uses technology classes to combat human trafficking. The sessions are effective in both informing young people about issues related to exploitation as well as developing concrete skills that will reduce the participants’ risks of falling victim to the crime in the future. This is the first time that human trafficking has been targeted in this way in the region, signaling an exciting new development in counter-human trafficking efforts.

The program also demonstrates how UN-ACT can engage with young people as well as the private sector – two of its key partners. Kaori Kawarabayashi, Regional Project Manager of UN-ACT, emphasises:

“Youths are especially vulnerable to human trafficking. UN-ACT is pleased to support the YouthSpark Project, which equips young people with essential computer skills that will enhance their professional opportunities and reduce their risk of exploitation.”

The program has yielded positive results so far. For example, one youth participant says that the sessions gave him “(…) an understanding of the human trafficking problem, which means we can protect ourselves better.” He also says that “[o]n top of the fun activities, we realized that we are actually better problem solvers than we thought we were, and this encouraged us to spread the word for others’ safety.”

Somsak Mukdavannakorn, Public Sector Director, Microsoft (Thailand) Limited, similarly explains:

“With various criminal groups operating in large networks, human trafficking is a highly alarming threat that is close at hand. (…) Our YouthSpark activities allow at-risk youths to access useful information while also putting to work their creativity, analytical thinking, and problem solving skills. Ultimately, we hope that these opportunities will allow them to discover the potential within themselves, which in turn will open up new career opportunities that enable them to contribute to society.”

After two successful sessions in February 2016, Microsoft has already run an additional 5 extended training classes in various at-risk locations across Thailand. The participants in each session have been active in developing brochures, posters, presentations, videos as well as interactive reports and stories that relate to combatting human trafficking. These publications have been shared on social media or within participants’ own communities.

More than 220 youths have been trained so far. The project will continue throughout 2017 and aims to empower 1325 youths in high-risk areas. For more information on the program, please also see:

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