India: Delivering Through Shared Responsibility: Private Sector joins hands with UNODC and GoI in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

In recent years trafficking in persons has gained visibility as a crime and a major violation of human rights, and is a priority concern for UNODC. Trafficking occurs when an individual's environment is under threat from conflict, economic hardship, and discrimination, increasing the risk of trafficking. Poverty is one of the most visible causes for trafficking in human beings in India. Socio-cultural prejudices and the prevalence of gender based discrimination further exacerbates the problem.

Effective combating of trafficking in persons, especially on the 'prevention' front has gathered momentum over the past years. There is greater political awareness, translating therefore into concrete commitments to address this phenomenon, as demonstrated by the adoption of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its three protocols by the international community and countries. However, it also becoming increasingly evident that the problem is complex and therefore requires a coherent and comprehensive response involving multiple stakeholders such as governments, civil society, international and bi lateral agencies as well the private sector and media.

Private sector involvement is becoming critical to the overall development of national economies and is being woven into the development agenda. Companies are now looking at adopting a triple bottom line approach: economic, environmental and social. The business community can play a crucial role in fighting human trafficking: they can address and reduce the factors that allow human trafficking to proliferate, they can adopt ethical practices and codes of conduct which are rights based and take a stand against human trafficking, they can also help spread knowledge and awareness on human trafficking .

UNODC recognizes the private sector's strength in quick deployment of resources and promoting employement linked vocational training across a wide geographic area that make it an effective and sustainable model in the fight against human trafficking when partnered with international organizations, states and other civil society groups. In furthering the objective of the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, (UN.GIFT), UNODC South Asia initiated a pilot initiative with the Minsitry of women and Child Development (MWCD), Government of India and Apparel and Export Promotion Council of India (AEPC), a group of nearly 8000 private garmet and textile exporters, to address the issue of anti-human trafficking as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts.

At the AEPC tarining centre, 30 young men and women ranging from 22 to 25 years of age who were considered vulnerable to being trafficked are being meticulously trained on apparel tailoring. The red bricked building stands prominently amongst a cluster of half built buildings. The area where the children are being trained is spacious providing comfortable room for interaction and work. Each child is provided with a sewing machine that is used in mainstream apparel factories. This helps them to develop their skill in line with the standards of market demand. Close supervision by production experts ensure that the participants learn rapidly on the job. At times, the work on the machines is being handled by the more experienced and adept girls who team up with the new learners and train them as well. Skill rotation is integrated into the system and this ensures that the girls are trained in all stages and aspects of tailoring increasing their chances of economic opportunities in the apparel business. Also the participants are capable of setting up their own independent units if they want to and also have a variety of skills which would help them get jobs with other apparel units.

The organization is currently helping the participants understand the various dimensions of the enterp rise - produ ction, maintenance of plant and machinery and marketing. A protocol, which would define the rules and regulations to modulate the working environment, is being drafted. Though some may exhibit entrepreneurial traits, they need to be recognized and strengthened. Being children of sex workers, most are unwilling to take risks and want to be assured a secure livelihood. To ensure this, they were handed certificates for their training by Cristina Albertin, Representative of the Regional Office for South Asia. It was a significant moment for the children who proudly walked down the aisle to receive their certificate - a symbol of hope, ability, identity and eventual financial independence for them. Soon each of these children will be employed by reputed garment factories.

In keeping with the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, UNODC South Asia recognizes that efforts to mitigate human trafficking cannot be undertaken by member states and non-private actors alone but through a multilateral participative approach involving all stake holders. It is incumbent upon us to work together, along with the private sector to respond to the challenges and enhance the contribution to mitigating the crime of trafficking in persons - and this is one such example.

Story of Laxmi: one of the girls being trained at the factory:
Demonstrating proudly her skills on a scrap of pink cloth on her sewing machine, Laxmi smiles and says, "After joining this training course, I feel confident and empowered. Confident because now I can earn well by joining a garment factory and empowered because I have an identity. I can take decisions now at home as I will earn more than my husband and secure a stable future for my children". Laxmi is 24 years and grew up in very difficult circumstances. She comes from a family where women have been traditionally oppressed and denied opportunities. She is married with one son and worked earlier at a small local tailoring unit taking measurements of customers. She worked hard under challenging conditions like without a sheltered roof, unhygienic environment and no proper meals throughout the day for a sum of Rs 1000 (USD 20) a month. She learned about this initiative of training young girls and boys on garment tailoring from a local Non Governmental Organisation (NGO). She enrolled in this training program to seek a more viable and sustainable livelihood option. What this training program did apart from equipping her with a job skill is instill in her a sense of hope and self worth. She explains holding the certificate, 'the feeling that we will be independent earning members of the family is a new experience. Although this will not make us the sole decision makers of our life, it will definitely increase our chances of participating in decision making and expressing our choices". Nervous yet full of resilience for her new beginning, Laxmi looks forward to completing her training and working with a reputed garment factory that will enable her to fulfill some of her desires like buying her books and pencils for her son and seeing him wear a clean and new uniform.