Xiao Fang is Getting a Second Chance (Thanks to 6Degree.org)

"A successful example of the crowdfunding approach, Xiao’s case was fully funded in just 15 days by individuals from around the world."

“Twenty-three-year-old Xiao Fang is from West Kalimantan, in Indonesia. She was still a minor when she was first offered a job in a restaurant with promise of good wages in Java.  Instead she was tricked and forced to work as a domestic worker in Surabaya, East Java, ultimately enduring psychological and physical abuse for six years without being paid.”

These lines opened the story of Xiao Fang, a 23-year-old woman exploited as a domestic worker. This appeal, along with three other cases, went live on 23 June 2015 at the launch of IOM’s new 6Degree.org platform. For anyone who clicked through to read more about Xiao Fang, they would have learned that Xiao Fang was only 16 years old when she first left home for a job opportunity to help support her family.  She moved in with a family to be their domestic worker and she was promised USD 1.26 per day for her labour. She was never paid, and suffered psychological and physical abuse by the family. After six years in these exploitative conditions, Xiao Fang was finally able to contact an organization for help.  Xiao Fang wants to settle and work at home so she can take care of her father.  She loves to sew so would like to take a sewing course and have her own sewing machine.

It took only 15 days for 13 individuals from around the world to donate a total of USD 1,500 to support Xiao Fang’s dream of becoming a seamstress through reintegration costs associated with psychological support, vocational training and trafficking resilience as well as clothes and basic necessities.

Determining the specific amount of funding required for each victim’s voluntary return is the responsibility of IOM Case Officers who do so with the consent and active participation of each survivor. IOM has been supporting victims of human trafficking since the mid-1990s, and 6Degree.org is the first time the organization has been able to provide the public with a direct way to help individual survivors of trafficking. This is because 6Degree.org is the first crowdfunding portal that meets the strict requirements of IOM’s victim protection and privacy standards. Because a survivor’s anonymity is their most important form of protection, 6Degree does not use photographs of faces and modifies information that could compromise their safety or chances of a normal life. Each survivor’s story is told through interactive story maps, which strike a balance between protecting the victim’s identity, and telling a compelling story to potential funders.

The interactive map, built on top of Microsoft’s Bing Maps, allows users to follow the journey of each former victim, with significant milestones illustrated by clickable icons. When clicked, the user is presented with a narrative elaborating on the survivor’s experience at that point in their journey. By following the stories icon by icon, the user can understand the circumstances that led to the person being trafficked, appreciate the challenges faced during exploitation, learn how they reclaimed their freedom and discover what their dreams and ambitions are for the future.

6Degree.org is the result of a strong partnership between Microsoft and IOM. In late 2014, Jonathan Martens, Senior Regional Migrant Assistance Specialist, IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, met with Stefan Sjöström, Vice President for Public Sector, Microsoft Asia, to brainstorm how IOM and Microsoft could potentially join forces to combat human trafficking. It was during this meeting that Martens highlighted that IOM has provided more than 70,000 survivors of human trafficking with humanitarian, medical, legal and migration support since 1997.  While IOM has the human resources, processes and facilities to help victims, additional funding means the cost of shelter, medical and legal assistance, repatriation, and education or skills development to prevent re-trafficking for more victims could be provided.

Harnessing IOM’s expertise in supporting the reintegration of human trafficking victims, combined with Microsoft’s leading technology solutions, 6Degree.org was born. The development of 6Degree was led by IOM X, IOM’s new campaign to encourage safe migration and public action to stop exploitation and human trafficking, produced in partnership with USAID.

On 23 June, IOM and Microsoft launched 6Degree at an exclusive demo for regional media in Bangkok, Thailand.  Over 30 journalists attended the demo, generating more than 50 articles and broadcasts around the world, and reaching millions of potential donors.

The widespread interest in 6Degree led to 68 potential donors registering on the portal in the first month, ultimately demonstrating that the global community is primed to take advantage of opportunities like this to support their fellow citizens, to whom they are never more than 6 degrees removed. 

For more information visit 6Degree.org