On the outskirts of Tiraspol, a small town located in the Transnistrian Republic on the east of Moldova, you may be lucky enough to stumble upon a black metal door, leading to a basement in an old apartment building. Inside you’ll find a shabby basement office teeming with life. This is where Interaction wages a war against human trafficking. The team is small, only about 10 people, but still large enough to have to share computer and desk workspace. If you travel in any of the more modern mini-buses around town, or glance at a passing trolley-bus, or chance to look upon one of the few billboards in the town, you’ll catch a glimpse of their work. One of Interaction’s major initiatives is raising awareness about the danger of human trafficking, a danger posed to both men and women. They have, somewhat miraculously, set up a free hotline available to anyone within Transnistria’s borders. The advertisements serve as part of this public awareness campaign.
Far from receiving support from the local government, Interaction has encountered stiff opposition in fighting this monster of modern-day slavery. Transnistria is not an officially recognized country, and government officials keep a close watch on the only NGO in the region that has even tried to do anything about trafficking in persons – an issue that Transnistrian officials maintain does not exist within these borders. The director of Interaction has encountered the kind of persecution typically reserved for leaders of underground, radical political groups, and has been the target of a campaign intended to tarnish her stellar reputation here and abroad. Interaction offers information and advice to help prevent trafficking, but also rehabilitation and counseling services for victims. They certainly won’t receive help from anyone else here.
As members of the Yearn to Learn Team, we’re heading up a fundraising campaign for Interaction right now. If you’d like to find out more, please check out our application to the “Ending Global Slavery” competition sponsored by Ashoka and Changemakers here. You can register for free, create a profile, and help us by commenting on our application and then voting for it later on. Also, stay tuned to this blog for updates on how to make any financial contributions to Interaction. The website is currently only in Russian, but we are working on creating an English version as well.