Sisters changing attitudes to Human Trafficking

Sisters preventing trafficking of women and children

The Challenges

India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.  NGOs estimate this problem affects 20 to 65 million people in India. Women and girls are trafficked within the country for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced marriage especially in those areas where the sex ratio is highly skewed in favour of men.

Each year, in India millions of persons are trafficked both domestically and internationally. In Andhra Pradesh, the combined data collected by the state police and the Women and Child Welfare Department clearly indicates rampant trafficking in women and girl children in the State. A total of 47,181 persons have gone missing in the state since 2009 including 16,787 children and 12,882 women.

Guntur District, where the Sisters of the Good Shepherd work, is said to be one of the vulnerable areas from where women and children were recruited for various forms of exploitation.

What did the Sisters do?

In response to this issue of human trafficking in Andhra Pradesh, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd working there made an assessment of the situation.  A strategic action plan was drafted with the help of the women and child rights activists and development workers.  The focus of the planned intervention was aimed at prevention of human trafficking in nine most disadvantaged mandals (regions) of Guntur District. The work was initiated in 2012 with the support of Misean Cara, Ireland and Vista Hermosa Foundation, USA and with the technical guidance and support of Mission Development Office of Good Shepherd International Foundation in Rome.

Who is the major target group? 

Extremely vulnerable people from the nine disadvantaged regions are the major target group in this project. The other target groups include the Police Officials and people who work in the Media.

Who manages/administers the programme? 

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Mangalagiri, Lay Collaborators and a Team of Staff who were recruited and trained are collectively managing the project under the leadership of Sister Aruna George, the Local Leader.

What outcomes are achieved?

Capacity Building of the Organisation

Staff team comprising 42 members have been trained on human trafficking issues.   

Community Groups such as Children, Adolescent Girls, Women, Community Vigilant Groups and Paralegal Workers are trained to identify and be vigilant about the issue of human trafficking.  Some accomplishments during 2012 include:

  1. Hundred and thirty five (135) Children Parliaments are initiated in which 4219 children are members. They are now being trained to work together to address social issues collectively by way of adopting democratic approach.

  2. Hundred and thirty (130) Adolescent Girls Groups are organised with membership of 2682 girls who are provided with training in life help skills to protect themselves from all forms of abuse including human trafficking.

  3. Hundred and thirty six (136) Women Groups are initiated with membership of 4039 women who are trained to collectively work for the safeguarding their rights and the rights of their children.

  4. Hundred and twenty four (124) Community Vigilant Groups with membership of 2088 are initiated and facilitated to monitor human rights violations in their respective villages.

With the training and orientation provided to various community groups, they are now  coming forward to report the incidences of child abuse that are taking place in the community, as well as in the local schools.

Paralegal workers   

For each village one Paralegal Worker is identified and trained to help the local people.  They provide legal protection to the vulnerable and help them with redress mechanisms in case of possible threats and exploitation.

Police and the Media

These groups are trained on victim-friendly approach in dealing with the issue of human trafficking.  A series of training programmes increase Police awareness of the issue and capacity to address crimes committed. Due to its reach and ability to mould public opinion, the media is trained to play its role appropriately in mobilizing public support and involvement to help prevent and combat trafficking.

1.            Hundred and forty two (142) Police Personnel were trained on victim-friendly approach to prosecution in the matters of human trafficking.

2.            Thirty five (35) media people were trained on the roles in safeguarding the rights of the victims and also work towards prevention of human trafficking in the region.

General Community

The community are sensitised on the issue of human trafficking through cultural media. Throughout the year, the Sisters have organized various other awareness-raising events on human trafficking, educating thousands of young children, their parents and local authorities and creating a foundation to continue these efforts in the years to come.

Karunalayam – Rehabilitation Centre for Girl Children

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd provide comprehensive rehabilitation services for 57 girls who were rescued from abusive environment. Some of the services the Sisters provide include supportive counselling, family reintegration, awareness-raising on child-trafficking, and rehabilitation to independence.

How many people are assisted

Target People Covered in 5 Mandals (regions) of Guntur District

Sl.No.

Mandal

Male

Female

Total

1

Guntur Urban

60352

59950

120302

2

Tadepalli

3581

3496

7077

3

Mangalagiri

13259

12971

26230

4

Tenali

22043

21979

44022

5

Chilakaluripeta

14940

15085

30025

6

Narsaraopet

18137

17685

35822

7

Thulluru

27549

26943

54492

8

Peddakakkani

32779

31914

64693

9

Atchampet

10158

10324

20482

 

Total

202798

200347

403145

 

Motivation and Core Values

In the ‘Direction Statement’ of the 30th Congregational Chapter held at Angers, France in June 2015,  the Sisters of the Good Shepherd committed themselves to work to address '......the most pressing needs of today .... poverty, human trafficking, forced migration, refugees, gender inequality, violence toward women and children, and religious intolerance.'

In response to the issue of human trafficking in the District, in true spirit of the Good Shepherd who went in search of the lost ones, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Mangalagiri are deeply committed to fight against human trafficking for sexual and labour purposes, and forms of commercial sexual exploitation which is innately linked to sexual trafficking. The Sisters firmly believe that the abuse and exploitation of human beings through any form of human trafficking is an offence against humankind and against God.

Generally, anti-human trafficking interventions can be classified under ‘3Ps’ namely: Prevention, Protection (including rehabilitation) and Prosecution. The main thrust of the Good Shepherd Sisters at Mangalagiri is towards prevention, with some attention to protection and little attention to prosecution. Most of the people still do not know what trafficking is, or do not care. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Andhra Pradesh are working to change that, at every level of the society. As the Foundress of the Good Shepherd Congregation, St. Mary Euphrasia said, "The Good Shepherd does not want even one of God’s children should be lost in the chaos of our times", holds fitting, in this context too.

How is the programme evaluated?

The effectiveness of the intervention is measured through pre and post test scores being developed for training programme for different groups and other forms of awareness building exercises.

How does it contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 13) are connected to the issue of human trafficking. Women and children living in poverty are more vulnerable in falling victims of human trafficking. Low literacy or non-literacy status of children and women will lead to trafficking. Gender inequality leads to violence where the women become the victims. Trafficking in women and girls is linked to health issues, including the spread of HIV/AIDS. The nature of trafficking causes women to have sex against their will and leaves them vulnerable to conditions where the virus can be easily spread.  Change of climate causes disturbance all around, including increase of violence on women. If we want the partnership for development to be global, it has to include half of the population, that is to say men and women. It is impossible to consider a society to be developed if women are victims of violence. Thus, the issue of human trafficking very much connected toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

What would make the project more effective?

The Good Shepherd Convent, Mangalagiri, already with the help of international partners, Misean Cara, Ireland and Vista Hermosa Foundation, are also seeking further funding to adopt multi-stakeholder approach with special focus on partnership in eliminating human trafficking and to provide sustainable livelihood options to enhance their confidence and self-esteem.