Project Concern International (PCI) is a health and humanitarian assistance organization headquartered in San Diego, CA and is currently operating in 13 countries around the world. PCI’s mission is to end hunger, enhance health and overcome hardship to the world’s most vulnerable populations.
In 2010, PCI developed and published the first Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Resource Manual in Ethiopia with funding from the United States Department of State in furtherance of PCI-Ethiopia’s commitment to fight human trafficking and to protect vulnerable populations in Ethiopia from the devastating impacts of TIP. Three years later, PCI assessed the needs and assets related to anti-human trafficking efforts in both San Diego, CA and Tijuana, MX. Both assessments revealed that while there are a few highly committed organizations dedicated to victim response and recovery, there is an overall lack of emphasis on primary prevention for youth known to be marginalized and at risk. In other words, an overall lack of programs designed to prevent young girls and boys from becoming victims and/or perpetrators of human trafficking; subsequently, PCI strategically decided to focus on primary prevention programming.
To address the gap in primary prevention strategies, PCI partnered with the San Diego District Attorney’s Office to implement Girls Only! a prevention education and mentoring program. Girls Only! was developed by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, the City of San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention in 2009 and was enhanced and expanded by PCI in 2015. The Girls Only! curriculum aims to prevent girls ages 8-15 from getting involved with risky behaviors such as drug use, gang activity, prostitution/sex trafficking, the criminal justice system, with a specific emphasis on CSEC/sex trafficking by building their self-esteem and empowering them to make healthy choices. Girls Only! began operating at the Boys and Girls Club in Encanto, a neighborhood of southeastern San Diego and is now actively being implemented in 12 sites across San Diego County. To date, the Girls Only! toolkit has been accessed 186 times, across 28 states (www.girlsonlytoolkit.org).
Shortly after partnering with the San Diego County District Attorney’s office, partners regrouped as they recognized the urgency for a program that created a safe space for community mentorship where young boys could discuss issues that, at their core, paralleled the same issues of their female counterparts. In December 2017, PCI finalized the Boys Only curriculum, a prevention education toolkit designed to instill empathy and empower boys to achieve equality. Its overall goals are to “reduce gender-based violence including sex trafficking, rape, domestic violence and sexual exploitation in San Diego County.”
Boys Only! aims to elicit compassion, forgiveness, self-love, and mindfulness. The goal of working with boys at the critical period between childhood and adolescence is to offer them life skills and practical tools as they physically and developmentally mature. These learned skills can inspire them to realize their goals and dreams and to prevent them from becoming involved in the criminal justice system, and from potential victimization such as sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
Exploitation of youth, whether for commercial sexual exploitation or gang exploitation, begins during the transitional period from childhood to adolescence, a critical developmental stage. Youth are highly susceptible to becoming involved in either type of violence, because of their maturational deficits and the highly sophisticated manipulative techniques of the traffickers. In San Diego County, the average age of entry into CSEC/sex trafficking is 16 years old and many trafficked individuals live in ten zip codes, primarily in the central zone of the City of San Diego, most of which are home to one or more street gangs.  This reinforces the vulnerability of the Girls Only’s target population.
The Girls Only! program currently has 12 modules with a total of 57 activities, each ranging from 15 to 90 minutes, all which were intentionally created to build participants’ self-esteem and self-efficacy, to develop life skills and inspire positive motivation in young girls. The program directly addresses the growing problem of CSEC/sex trafficking in the San
Diego community and includes specialized modules and activities that raise awareness of the issue as well as educates vulnerable girls on how to avoid becoming a victim.
It is through gender specific programming, as in the Boys Only! curriculum, that dominant forms of masculinity can be discussed, what Mark Greene (2013) and others have described as the “Man Box” or hegemonic masculinity, defining the current configuration of practice that legitimizes a man’s dominance and a woman’s subordination. Toxic Masculinity, on the other hand, refers to the harm inflicted by socially constructed attitudes that dictate men as violent, apathetic, and sexually-driven. From a young age, boys are urged to compete instead of cooperate, to suppress emotions instead of communicate. Hostility is revered over companionship. Boys are in continuous opposition against emasculation, a process that deems them “less than” their peers and relegates them to second-class citizenship.
The Boys Only! space invites self-exploration, inclusivity, emotional freedom, and mutual satisfaction in relationships. This model is designed to bolster socially conscious youth who embrace diversity, and reject the objectification of both men and women. Simply put, empathy is the driving force behind it all, equality is the knowledge of empathy and empowerment is the manifestation of empathy in action. The Boys Only! curriculum currently consists of 45 activities, also ranging from 15 to 90 minutes and is currently being piloted in 5 San Diego County locations.
 National Gang Intelligence Center. (2011). National Gang Threat Assessment: Emerging trends. Washington, D.C. Author
 92113 (Logan Heights) has seven street gangs; 92114 (Southeast San Diego) has six gangs; and 92102 (Golden Hill; Market Street) is home to four gangs with multiple cliques as cited in: Carpenter, A. C. and Gates, J. (2016). The Nature and Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego County. San Diego, CA: University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University.
 Greene, M. (2013). The Man Box: The link between emotional suppression and male violence. Retrieved from http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/megasahd-man-box-the-link-between-emotional-suppression-and-male-violence/.
 Connell, R. W. 2005. Masculinities. Second Edition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press
 Heilman, B., Barker, G., and Harrison, A. (2017). The Man Box: A Study on Being a Young Man in the US, UK, and Mexico. Washington, DC and London: Promundo-US and Unilever
 Edwards, K.E. & Jones, S.R. (2009). “Putting My Man Face On”: A Grounded Theory of College Men’s Gender Identity Development. Journal of College Student Development 50(2), pp. 210-228.