Last fall, Natalie Jesionka – Fulbright scholar, college professor, reporter, and human rights activist – approached Shine about an untold perspective on child trafficking that she believed deserved documentation. We agreed wholeheartedly and are now in development on SELLING OUR DAUGHTERS (working title), a feature length documentary that tells the untold story of children trafficked by those one would least expect: their parents. We’re very excited about this film and are actively raising the $50,000 needed to go to Thailand in January to shoot a presentation tape.

Natalie will serve as consulting producer on the project.  We asked her to share some of her concerns about child trafficking and why she believes this film is essential. In her words:

“I have been researching human trafficking for the last seven years. No matter what country I was in, I would come across cases of labor and sex trafficking. I became fascinated by the subject and driven to understand it. This research has enabled me to witness some of the most hopeful moments in humanity, and some of the worst. No child or human being should ever be exploited for sex, labor, domestic servitude or organ trafficking.

“I have been going to Thailand for five years to report on refugees’ migration, human rights and to conduct research. Three years ago, I met Mickey Choothesa, the Founder and Executive Director of the Children’s Organization of Southeast Asia (COSA), an organization that works to rescue at-risk and formerly-trafficked girls, and prevent trafficking at the community level. Mickey served as a powerful mentor and enabled me to learn about trafficking in the Golden Triangle between Burma, Laos and Thailand.

“Most of the time, children are trafficked by their families who consider it to be work, and simply have no other options. The problem is that there is a great invisibility when it comes to child trafficking, but a lot of visibility when it comes to adult sex work. This contrast leads to trafficking being hidden in plain sight — and those who are really trafficked, chained to toilets, and held against their will remain hidden in the back streets, in massage parlors and restaurants behind the facades of daily life.

“Upon my return from Asia, I was grappling with this tremendous story; child trafficking is vastly different than what we see in the media, that it has many elements of choice, and culture, and traffickers are often the families and communities themselves. The team at Shine Global listened to my experiences and understood the importance of illustrating the reality of child trafficking. They are committed to show the complexity of child trafficking in its entirety.

“By telling this unique story, I hope we can help policymakers understand that trafficking solution must be effective on a local and global level. As a society, we must understand the unique cultural, economic, and geopolitical circumstances that lead to this practice around the world in order to best combat it.”