Sompop Jantraka

Ashoka Fellow


This profile was prepared when Sompop Jantraka was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Although officially illegal, prostitution is woven into the fabric of Thai society. The system of prostitution "recruitment" has become pervasive in rural areas since many families who live in impoverished villages will sell their daughters into prostitution when faced with financial crisis. The parents are subsistence farmers or villagers with few work opportunities and are trapped in a cycle of poverty and debt.

While several programs exist that attempt to rescue young women from prostitution, Sompop Jantraka's Daughters' Education Program is pioneering earlier stage preventive intervention before parents make the crucial decision to sell their girls to brothel owners. The program first identifies the villages and girls most at risk. After gaining the trust of the girls and their families, the program provides education on human worth and vocational alternatives. The girls acquire enough self esteem to resist their own sale into prostitution and, if necessary, to leave home and build new lives. The program supports their search for alternate life and career choices.

Through his research into the economics and root causes of prostitution, Sompop first identified several villages that were regular "suppliers" of young girls to brothel owners. Typically, the girls are sold by their parents around the time they graduate from the compulsory six years of primary education, at the age of thirteen or fourteen. The Daughters' intervention cycle begins six months before this point in a girl's life, allowing sufficient time to learn about the families' problems and help them develop other courses of action. The priorities of the Program are to develop, educate, and protect. If any girl is unable to remain with her family, the Program will help find a solution. From an initial nineteen students in 1989, the program now supports over 400 girls.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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