India: 'Journey of Hope' - a UNODC compendium of anti-human trafficking and victim support initiatives

Balmani - a young girl from the rural hinterland of Jharkhand (a high source state for human trafficking), who received livelihood training in housekeeping and is now able to support her mother's medical treatment

Chandni - a 14 year old girl from Kishanganj, Bihar (another high source state for human trafficking), who narrowly escaped being sold to a 45 year old stranger for marriage

Jamila - a caregiver from a boys' shelter home in Calicut, Kerala who has learnt to view children under her care as 'individuals needing care and protection' and not as 'problem cases'

These are some of the people one meets while going through the 'Journey of Hope', UNODC's recent publication on prevention of anti-human trafficking and victim support initiatives.

In March 2008, UNODC embarked on two projects related to anti-human trafficking and victim support in India. The project 'Building the capacity of and expanding anti-human trafficking networks for improved support to victims of trafficking' aimed at providing assistance to trafficking survivors and securing their legal and human rights. The other project 'Reducing children's vulnerability to abuse and rehabilitation of survivors' was designed to provide quality care and support services to vulnerable children at risk of physical and sexual abuse as well as comprehensive rehabilitation opportunities to trafficking survivors.

UNODC implemented both projects in collaboration with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, state governments and NGO partners in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, with support from USAID. The experience from both projects has now been documented in 'Journey of Hope' - an attempt to bring together and visualize stories of hope, endurance and voices from the field.

The 'Journey' begins in the states of Jharkhand and Bihar in North India. It highlights the factors that make girls and  women vulnerable to trafficking. Case studies demonstrate how communities and local organizations are working to prevent human trafficking and rehabilitate survivors through different means, such as livelihood trainings, education and awareness generation programmes, village vigilance committees and local advocacy. They also describe the numerous constraints under which these interventions are carried out. Above all, they highlight the need for many more initiatives involving communities and local institutions to address human trafficking, especially in high source areas.

The 'Journey' continues into Southern India to government-run shelter homes in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, which provide temporary shelter to women and children who have been rescued from human trafficking and other difficult circumstances. For most of them, the transition into a shelter home is not an easy one as they often face numerous physical, psychological and social problems during their stay. Some of the reasons include stigma, lack of understanding, poor standards of living and fear of the future. Restoring the confidence and wellbeing of the women is a task that requires much patience, empathy and initiative. Children in shelter homes need love and support, to help them regain their confidence, channelize their energies and rebuild their lives for a better future.

The 'Journey of Hope' describes some of the life skills and livelihood programmes that are being carried out by state government departments in the shelter homes for women and children. Critical to make such interventions work are the staff and caregivers in these institutions. The book explains how training programmes on 'psychosocial support' helped the staff and care givers become more sensitive about the psychosocial needs of the residents and taught them practical techniques to address those needs. The book also brings to life the energy and exuberance of the children in shelter homes in Calicut (Kerala) and Chennai (Tamil Nadu), who brought some magical moments into their lives through theatre and sports - an initiative of the Kerala and Tamil Nadu state governments.

In conclusion, the 'Journey of Hope' sums up the learning from the projects and makes recommendations to strengthen anti-human trafficking and victim support initiatives.

The above mentioned interventions and the documentation were possible thanks to the support of USAID. Special thanks to all government and NGO partners who shared their thoughts and experiences for the documentation.

Click here to read the 'Journey of Hope'