Rethinking the Professional: The Role of Dutch Anti-Trafficking NGO Workers in the Representation and Empowerment of Trafficked Women
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This study is concerned with how Dutch anti-trafficking NGO workers represent and empower trafficked women. It critiques the popular image of the innocent, naïve trafficking victim in need of ‘saving’ and argues that NGO workers present a more complex image of their clients. It asserts that NGO workers’ position has given them a nuanced understanding of trafficking and trafficked women, where the line between woman-as-agent and woman-as-victim is not so easily drawn, and trafficked women are seen to be a highly heterogeneous group with diverse experiences and needs. This complex understanding of trafficked women means that NGO workers have a more effective method of empowerment that takes into account the abilities, strengths and knowledge base of their clients and rejects the traditional hierarchical client-professional divide. At the same time, NGO workers can be constricted by their institutional position as a professional, and show that it can be difficult to challenge hegemonic power relations. The empowerment process is also frustrated by wider cultural notions of trafficking and legal frameworks that restrict choices for formerly trafficked women. Ultimately, I argue that anti-trafficking NGOs provide valuable insight into the representation and empowerment of trafficked people and that further research needs to made into how to further harness their knowledge in anti-trafficking policy and discourse.