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In photos: 4 ways we prevent human trafficking in India

Arise has been active in India longer than any other region, working with local groups to prevent at-risk communities from trafficking and exploitation.

The histories of India cannot be written without acknowledging an almost perennial presence of slavery. Even after slavery was gradually abolished across British territories, the emergence of the (imperially-driven) indentured labour system facilitated the continued exploitation of Indian labourers, who were often tied to plantations or mines.

Prior to the pandemic, India was considered not only to have the highest number of slaves in one nation, but also to suffer one of the worst slavery per capita rates worldwide. Widespread poverty, vast territories, and under-resourced governments allow exploitation to flourish if unchallenged.

Above: Arise targets the root causes of slavery in numerous ways.

Exploitative employers (whether they run farms or factories, in India or overseas), bride traffickers, organ traffickers and brothel owners are targeting impoverished communities and trafficking individuals they then render truly powerless. Arise programmes are designed to mitigate vulnerability by bolstering awareness, vigilance, and financial security.

Here are 4 ways this is achieved:

1) Raising Awareness and Vigilance

A key part of prevention is informing communities, particularly young, would-be emigrants, of the external threats they face. Our partners take time to highlight risks and red flags - such as job offers that are too good to be true, or unknown men inviting young women to work in cities, or enticing job offers abroad that encourage villagers to take out loans to finance travel and visas. The groups we work with, including sisters of the AMRAT anti-trafficking network, work tirelessly to inform villages of the threats of trafficking.

Safe emigration from the villages is facilitated by Village Vigilance Groups. These locally-led committees ensure safe migration routes for villagers, by assigning guardians, maintaining contact, registering addresses, and checking employer details for every young person wanting to move to a city.

2) Skills Training and Income Development

Another pillar of our prevention work is income generation, based on skills development and purchasing initial capital. Financial security leaves families less vulnerable to debt traps, or accepting risky job offers out of desperation. We fund skills classes for tailors, weavers, shoemakers and small business owners, and sponsor agricultural training sessions and community investment in livestock and farm equipment.

3) Education for Children

The most critical and underlying aim of slavery prevention work is confronting poverty, powerlessness, and inequality. Many anti-slavery groups focus on rescue and rehabilitation, but Arise chooses to confront slavery at its root. We value education as an essential ingredient for reducing inequality. In every project in India, we focus on facilitating and sustaining the education of children. Schools are often used as locations for our aforementioned awareness programmes.

4) Anti-Slavery Networks and Capacity Building

The frontline groups we work with are often highly effective, but under-appreciated. In India, we work with a large number of Catholic sisters, who are experienced community advocates, engaged in highly effective slavery prevention work. We equip them with skills needed to reach more communities (without changing the personal, local understanding that pervades their work). This includes:

  • project management,

  • budgeting,

  • reporting,

  • financial education.

  • recording of their work, to allow them greater recognition and access to external funding.

Part of this effort is the cultivation and expansion of anti-slavery networks across countries and regions, facilitating cooperation between organisations, local leaders, police, and government, so that traffickers cannot exploit people’s desperation unscrupulously. We have sought to build up institutional networks to allow greater collaboration and greater reach, rendering communities less isolated when in need of assistance.

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