Expertise: Maria Velizarova and THB in Thailand

In this edition of Expertise, Maria Velizarova, assigned to the MIEUX Action Thailand II, discusses her experience working with the Thai authorities, describing how to tailor the contents of training sessions so as to ensure that they are relevant to the recipients and aimed at resolving practical challenges in the day-to-day workflow of practitioners.

Maria Velizarova works for the LEFÖ-IBF Intervention Center for Trafficked Women in Vienna, Austria, and her main areas of interest and experience include psychosocial support and legal counselling for Victims of Trafficking (VoTs).

Thailand II is a follow-up of the first MIEUX Action in this country, during which the team collaborated with the Division of Anti-Trafficking in Persons (DATIP) within the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) (link in Thai) and other relevant authorities on protection of VoTs and prevention of issues related to homelessness. While the first Action dealt with trafficking in general, the current one, through a series of workshops and a study visit to Ireland, aims at sharpening the theoretical and practical knowledge and skills behind the relationship between trafficking and:

  • Specific forms of intervention (prevention and protection)
  • Groups (women and children)
  • Approaches (gender-based approach and psycho-social support)

MIEUX: You have accompanied this Action from start to finish. What were the main highlights?

Overall, being able to accompany this Action from the first until the last workshop was an enriching experience. However, the main highlight for me was the process that we followed in order to arrive at the identification of topics for the final deliverable, three brochures. We managed to create a good environment to exchange experiences and expertise while identifying challenging topics to start working on. It was very pleasant to see that our exchanges and input from the previous workshops were helping to identify the challenges that our Thai colleagues face on a daily basis.

My personal highlight was when I had the feeling that I could understand the local culture and my counterparts well enough so that I could share my experience in a relatable way. At the same time, it was very fulfilling to be exposed to the topic of THB from a Thai perspective and to experience the different approach they offer to support of VoTs, which is much more collective than what I am used to.

MIEUX: In your role as an expert and trainer, how do you tailor the training to the needs of the partner authority?

As there was always very clear feedback from both sides after the end of each workshop, it was very easy to adjust and adapt to the specific needs of the group and improve the way we would work during the following one. We managed to involve the participants while giving them enough space to share and exchange their experiences. As we had a diversity of positions and fields of expertise within the larger group, it was very useful to build smaller working groups dealing with specific topics to focus on certain challenges from different perspectives and then exchange experiences amongst themselves.

MIEUX: What are the main points to consider when moving from a general approach to combating THB towards a more targeted one?

The main things to consider are the specifics of each topic in theory and its challenges in their application. It is important to have a short overview of the topics (child sensitivity, gender-based approach and treating psycho-social trauma) in general and then be able to link them with specific issues related to THB. Each of these topics is quite broad on its own, so it is best to tackle the main challenges that Thai authorities are facing in practical situations for each one of them in addition to building a basis for improvement and understanding of the specific needs of trafficked persons, who are dealing not only with their traumatic experience but also with other vulnerabilities connected to their age, gender and psychological health. 

MIEUX: Three brochures, one per topic, will be developed. How do you think these brochures will help the government officials and others to assist VoTs?

The brochures provide a short overview of our discussions during the workshops, where we identified the main challenges the Thai colleagues are facing in their practical work, along with initial steps to overcome them. Thus, they can be used for awareness-raising purposes by showing the challenges encountered in the practical application of theoretical principles; provide a baseline to build strategies to deal with these challenges; and ultimately, act as a helpful tool for Thai authorities in their day-to-day work protecting VoTs.