Education Overview

STREETS’ educational programs have been built upon the understanding of human trafficking as a complex social, political, and public health problem, heavily influenced by migration, and largely rooted in intersecting inequities in gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, power, class, opportunity, education, culture, politics, and race among other factors. We analyze human trafficking as part of a spectrum of interrelated violence, exploitation, and systemic inequities that are influenced by various social determinants of health and wellbeing. 

As an important part of our curricula, we employ a ‘pedagogy of care’ that is grounded in a survivor-centered, culturally relevant, evidence-based, gender-sensitive, and trauma-informed perspective. It also includes creative forms of expression through the arts, embodied language, and mutual learning through care and connection. Our courses use an intersectional human rights lens to understand the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual trauma experienced by exploited and trafficked people. We draw from interdisciplinary sources and present a variety of perspectives to provide students with a holistic understanding of the health and wellbeing challenges associated with labor and sex trafficking to improve service provision and policy advocacy on behalf of survivors. 

Study abroad group picture of students and Araceli Alonso, instructor.

Pedagogy of Care

Artistic Tools for Discussing Human Rights

This 4W-STREETS Plenary for the Women and Gender Studies Consortium spring conference 2021 highlights part of the work we have been doing with students, survivors, and international partner organizations since 2015. Here, undergraduate students Justine Hill, Rachel Sina, and Sruti Mohan share some academic experiences from their participation in our course Circle of Care for Global Health and Human Rights. On behalf of our partner organization Minority Globe (Casablanca, Morocco), Charity Atikpo from Nigeria and Olive Nzatsi from DRC sing a song in their own languages Otwa and Lingala expressing the sorrow but also the hope embedded in experiences of migration and trafficking.  

Social Work Education

Social Work Education that Addresses Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation

Practice, policy, and research focused on trafficking for sexual exploitation and commercial sex involvement occur in the United States within a white, heteronormative social environment that must be addressed pedagogically in the classroom. This paper critically analyzes how key anti-oppressive theoretical and practice frameworks should influence education on trafficking for sexual exploitation and commercial sex involvement in social work.  

In 2022, Dr. Lara Gerassi received a Chancellor’s Inclusive Excellence Award from the UW-Madison Distinguished Teaching Awards Committee in recognition of her outstanding teaching, mentorship, and strong attention to inclusive practices.

L B Gerassi and A J Nichols, ‘Social Work Education that Addresses Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation: An intersectional, anti-oppressive practice framework’Anti-Trafficking Review, issue 17, 2021, pp. 20-37, 

Teaching Tools

Cartonera Cardboard Cover Books created by Residencia de Estudiantes at UW-Madison.

Explore the online exhibit.

Cartonera Books

The project Migrations: Mapping the Body and Memory was inspired by Esperanza Jorge Barbuzano and Araceli Alonso’s activism and extensive fieldwork on human rights, women’s migrations, and human trafficking. Working with students from the Residencia de Estudiantes de Español at UW-Madison, we organized a series of movie screenings and reflections on these topics, followed by the discussion Migrations, Human Trafficking and Maps of the Body and Memory (Migrant Women from Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa), by Dr. Barbuzano and Dr. Alonso. This learning journey led us to the last stage of the project: two creative workshops, or Talleres de libros cartoneros, where the participants made hand-painted, cardboard cover books, a modest tribute to all women who migrate, to all migrants in transit.

Theater for Healing

In our in-person courses abroad, we use Theater for Healing, or what Augusto Boal called in the 1970 “Theater of the Oppressed.” With this technique, we address with our students and with victims/survivors the issue of resilience. This teaching tool is based on the idea that each of us are actors in daily life and that we have the keys to resolve our challenges and to access knowledge. With this technique, we not only teach conflict situations based on structural violence and oppression but we also provide group-based theatrical techniques to resolve those conflicts.  The Theater of the Oppressed makes it possible for us to address migration, health including mental health, human rights, and resilience in a very active way because we, the learners, are also the actors.


Members of Theater for Healing gathered on stage

Collage constructed of various paintings created by a trafficked victim to express their journey.

Collective Narrative Collages

On our virtual courses, we heavily rely on the creation of collective narratives through “directed collages” as a pedagogical tool for victims/survivors to explore and express their migratory journey from origin to destination. We provide images of paintings that they can use to construct their journey in a collective way. People linked to trafficking cannot speak about their experiences, and the creation of collective narratives challenges their imposed silence. For the women, this trauma-informed technique becomes an artistic tool and a different type of language based on a very reflexive experience about their victimization process.

STREETS Educational and Training Resources

Standard Undergraduate and Graduate Course (3 credits)

Requires 135 hours of student learning: reading, writing, discussion, studio time often with the benefit of guest lecturers who have lived experience and expertise.

Alonso Syllabus: Gender and Health in the Context of Human Trafficking and Migration

Geran Syllabus: Human Rights Issues and Advocacy in East and Southeast Asia

Gerassi Syllabus: Sex Trafficking and Sex Trading

Young Syllabus: Contemporary Law Problems: Domestic Violence

Members of Geran’s undergraduate and graduate course.

Study Abroad (3-credits)

Requires intense travel and work with relevant human rights organizations internationally. These courses use a pedagogy of care and trauma-informed techniques to work with victims/survivors of human trafficking and rely on inductive learning that is student-centered.

UW Circle of Care for Health and Human Rights

Virtual Field Course (3-credits)

Involves intense virtual training and working closely with international human rights organizations. The first of this course type was developed from the experience of the women victims and survivors of sex trafficking, and from the perspective of the experts who work with them—psychologists, social workers, educators, health professionals, and lawyers in Spain, Morocco, and Nigeria.

Alonso Syllabus: Circle of Care for Global Health and Human Rights in Spain, Morocco and Nigeria

Virtual Field Course Final Project Video

Finding Common Ground Across Borders

Expressive artwork accompanied by text that reads “Europe is Not the Land of Milk and Honey”.
Human Trafficking presentation cover page.

Health Sector Training

4W STREETS has been conducting training for healthcare workers since its launch in 2014. Our health sector training is now led by STREETS Affiliate, Dr. Jagpreet Sekhon, who is a resident physician in family medicine. Our training materials draw from the presentation shared here but have been tailored to specific groups as well as different regional or country contexts.

Download Human Trafficking : Clinician Perspective Presentation.