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Spotlight on ECPAT activist

Meet Debbie Beadle, Head of Youth Development Programme at ECPAT UK and focal point for ECPAT International’s Child and Youth Advisory Committee (EICYAC).

How do you work with survivors?

Youth participation and including the voices of young people who have experienced trafficking and exploitation is very important to our work. We run two youth groups of young people who have experienced trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labor, criminal exploitation and forced marriage. One for young men, which we run in partnership with The Children’s Society and one for young women. The groups are set up to help young people recover from the trauma they have experienced and to start to rebuild their lives.

The groups run on a weekly basis and provide a safe space for young people to gain independent living skills, understand their rights and build resilience. For those that want to become young campaigners and advocates for their peers, we facilitate participatory projects with other partners cross the UK and creative projects which feed into ECPAT UK’s training and campaign work. Young people also have the opportunity to become young trainers themselves.

Our current project is called ‘Speak Out’. The aim of the project is for the young people to gain confidence and assertiveness. They will learn how to communicate their opinion and stand up for their rights in every day life, with their peers, professionals and with media.

What is the most memorable lesson you have learnt in your work with survivors?

I am humbled and amazed every day from the work with the young people. The most memorable lesson would have to be that you could never underestimate the human will to survive. These young people go through horrendous experiences no child should ever have to. They then are often not received well by the authorities, face discrimination, disbelief and lack of support, however despite all that, once they are giving space to, they thrive and find the way to fulfill their potential.

What are your key recommendations to the UK Government to fight CSEC?

I have been working for ECPAT UK for 10 years now. There has been a lot of changes to legislation and awareness. However I haven’t seen much change on the ground and in the lives and experiences of young people. I would recommend that the government now ensure that legislation and guidance is implemented and that frontline professionals are trained in how to effectively support young people who have been trafficked and exploited.

Find out more about ECPAT UK’s work here: www.ecpat.org.uk