Emily Tan
Jul 31, 2012

BBH interns create LinkedIn profile for sex worker to raise awareness

To drive home the indignities suffered by women in Singapore's illegal sex trade, four interns at BBH have chosen to highlight their plight on professional network LinkedIn.

Kim Diya's profile is a composite of several real sex trafficking victims
Kim Diya's profile is a composite of several real sex trafficking victims


One principle of the BBH Barn Internship programme is to charge the agency's interns to "Do good, famously", and four interns, Alex Dickinson, Vera Chung, Holly Attrill and Andries Vaisman (pictured below), have decided to use their budget of US$1,600 to raise awareness and support on the issue of sex trafficking in Singapore. 

"We chose this issue because it seems like such a contradiction to everything Singapore represents," explained Vaisman, "It's so clean and well-regulated, but there's this seedy underbelly. A report by the US Department of State listed Singapore as a Tier 2 nation, which means it still does not meet international standards against sex trafficking but is attempting to do so."

When they explored the issue, the interns learnt that the lives of illegal sex workers were akin to that of modern-day slaves. "They didn't choose this, they were lured in with promises that they would be singers, dancers or even cleaners and were then held in debt bondage and sold into the sex trade," Vaisman said. 

Based on a series of interviews with several illegal sex workers, the team created a composite character, Kim Diya, whose personal work history on LinkedIn reflects that of the girls they interviewed. 


"We chose LinkedIn because it's the place you go to talk about your professional history. Kim's voice represents the voice of many, and this is her work history," Vaisman said. 

A second reason the team chose LinkedIn is its primary user base of professionals. "Businessmen tend to be the ones who go out with escorts and engage with prostitutes who are soliciting," explained Vaisman. "They may not know that those girls are illegal, the only legal prostitutes in Singapore are in [licensed] brothels."

Education is the primary goal of the campaign, and the team is working closely with Home (Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics) to help raise awareness and support for the NGO's work with these illegally trafficked women. 

"People in LinkedIn have the loudest voices, they are the people the Singaporean government will listen to," added Vaisman. "Singapore has published a national plan of action to fight sex trafficking, and awareness will help catalyse its implementation."

The team has also created a website, TrickedIn, which will be shared across all social platforms and have created business cards (pictured below) for Kim Diya, which they plan to hand out on the streets. The interns will also be reaching out to the media and have already seen some coverage online.

Unfortunately the campaign has run into a major snag. Just before the campaign's official launch today, Kim's profile has slowed down to 180 connections because LinkedIn has suspended her account. The interns are currently working on getting her profile unfrozen

Jolovan Wham, executive director for Home, commented that the pervasiveness of social media has made the campaign, TrickedIn, an ideal platform to raise awareness of sex trafficking. "We hope the awarenss will lead to action from individuals to exert more pressure on governments and corporations to step up their efforts to combat trafficking in the region and in Singapore," he said. 

The campaign will continue until the internships end in mid-August unless Home or BBH choose to keep it going. 

Update (27 July 2012): LinkedIn hs responded to Campaign's coverage of this initiative with the following statement: 

"LinkedIn was built to help professionals become more productive and successful within a network of trusted relationships. To achieve this purpose, we require our members to share accurate information on their profile. While we recognize the seriousness and enormity of the issue that the BBH Asia Pacific Barn Interns are championing, it’s important that we keep the integrity of the network by only allowing profiles that contain accurate and verifiable information."

The article first appeared on Campaign Aisa

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