Because Plan International’s programmatic work focuses on the empowerment of children, the organization has created an institutional framework that provides support to those most vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation. Though these efforts have not been traditionally marketed as antidotes to exploitation, the nature of Plan’s preventative approach is that it proactively addresses the root cause of exploitation, rather than waiting to react once exploitation has already occurred.
Plan’s areas of expertise have led to the identification of four necessary building blocks from which human beings can create safe, healthy, and empowered lives. Together, the components form a strong inclusive network of support responsible for sustaining the capacity of these individuals to succeed.
These components are:
STRONG SOCIETAL STRUCTURES OF SUPPORT
Inclusive political frameworks, effective educational institutions, strong health care systems, equitable judicial systems, accessible legal support, and a sufficient job market are all structures of support.
Adequate food, water, shelter, sufficient income to meet basic needs, sanitary hygiene skills and practices, access points to job market and/or demand for earned skills, financial literacy, and health awareness and information all provide economic opportunity.
Governance and community support, inclusive policies and practices, positive spiritual/relational expectations, healthy family dynamics, respectful relationship with authority, and adequate role models all provide support.
A SENSE OF SELF-ESTEEM/PERSONAL AUTONOMY
Social inclusion, encouragement, empowerment, social engagement and recognition, and personal/physical/emotional autonomy all provide a healthy sense of self-esteem.
While each factor is important on its own, cohesion between all four is what empowers an individual to succeed. A gap or failure in any of the four can lead to a breakdown of the entire system, which could then result in the kinds of exploitation Plan is working to avoid. While fighting each specific instance of exploitation is imperative, a reactive approach is not comprehensive. To only focus on human trafficking, child marriage, forced prostitution, or other exploitations that emerge after an individual falls through a systematic gap overlooks original vulnerabilities.
Plan’s work is most effective because it instead asks and answers the question: “Why are people exploitable?”