A few years back, I was watching a documentary on human trafficking in The Philippines and either because of the harsh tales the subjects told, or because it suggested Senator Manny Pacquiao went missing when he was needed, it really stuck with me.
Fast foward to about two months ago when I was doing a bit of “research” for a throwaway post about the Japanese name for a platypus, and I came upon something far more worthwhile; the Kamonohashi Project – a Non-Profit Organization head-quartered in Tokyo, with a mission to create a world without human trafficking.
I decided to get in touch to see how and why this project came to be. The folks at the Kamonohashi Project were kind enough to answer my questions…
Why did you start the Kamonohashi Project?
It all started in 2002 when our founder Sayaka was told of a tragic story about a little girl who was sold to a brothel for the price of the dress she was wearing. After years of exploitation and sexual servitude, HIV/AIDS took her life. She was determined to create a world without child sex trafficking, when she met Keisuke and Kenta, two university students who were determined to make it as social entrepreneurs.
Kamonohashi Project’s journey truly took off in 2004 when we opened an office in Cambodia and began holding computer classes for children living in orphanages. After spending time establishing meaningful relationships on the ground and understanding the needs of vulnerable communities, we built a factory in the province of Siem Reap in 2006, which provided vocational training to local girls and women. Over the years, our Community Factory has helped break the cycle of human trafficking by creating sustainable jobs for the at-risk population by empowering the women it employs. The Community Factory has had an important impact on their lives. In 2009, we began working with the Ministry of Interior by conducting police training. By sensitizing police and strengthening law enforcement, we were able to contribute to a decrease in human trafficking in Cambodia.
Over the years, we have crafted our identity as a funding partner with detailed knowledge of project implementation. We found that with so many great local NGOs, our strength lied in funding the right projects to tackle human trafficking efficiently and strategically. Today, we work with a wide variety of individuals and organizations, including social entrepreneurs, traditional NGOs, UN agencies, government entities, corporations, and philanthropists.
With the experience we gained in Cambodia, we officially expanded our activities to India in 2012. We have been an active member of the Anti-Human Trafficking Ecosystem ever since. We work hard to develop relationships built on trust and respect with our partners in India, and together we hope to create a world free of violence and exploitation.
What is the significance of the name “Kamonohashi”?
Sayaka wanted to become a bridge between Cambodia and Japan, and the Japanese word for bridge is kakehashi. Combining the words “Cambodia” and “kakehashi”, the name Kamonohashi came to be.
Please describe the “Theory of Change” and how it works.
Our Theory of Change (ToC) believes that systemic changes in the criminal justice and rehabilitation systems will increase deterrence to the crime of human trafficking and increase access to justice to the survivors of human trafficking. We implement our ToC by connecting key stakeholders, fostering an environment of shared learning, funding transformative projects and empowering survivors.
What countries do you primarily concern yourselves with?
We are primarily concerned with Cambodia and India. In Cambodia, we run the Community Factory which provides economic independence and develops the life skills of their employees. We also supported the Cambodian government (the Ministry of Interior) by offering a police training programme that focused on prosecuting offenders. In India, we support local NGOs and we are trying to make one big system to help ease the problem.
What are your hopes for the future of the Project?
We hope that the world can one day exist without human trafficking and we hope to allow all children to live safely.
How can people get involved in helping you rid the world human trafficking?
If you are interested in helping our cause, you can become a monthly supporter, you can donate, and you can buy products made by the Community Factory. You can also visit and see the Community Factory to interact and learn more about the lives of those working there.
Kamonohashi Project – The Issue