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Sr Annie Enchenatil Presents Arise Network Findings to the UNHRC

Arise was honoured to see one of our Indian partners, Sr Annie Enchenatil, present findings from our Indian network to the UN Human Rights Council last week. The conference, which is part of the wider 50th season of the UNHRC, was held to discuss Siobhán Mullally's (the UN Special Rapporteur for Trafficking in Persons) report into exploitation in the agricultural sector. Our invitation came as a result of the submission we made earlier in the year on the topic.

Siobhán Mullally's report can be read here. Within the report, our frontline insights into the vulnerability of certain groups, and the effectiveness of certain strategies to reduce risks, are encouragingly present.

Watch Sr Annie's appearance here:

In a proud moment in Arise's history, one of our frontline partners was able to describe the challenges they face in combatting rural exploitation to various UN representatives (along with a live broadcast audience). We'd like to thank the UNHRC again for the invitation.

Read the transcript of Sr Annie's presentation below:

'Traffickers often promise people job opportunities outside of where they live. In some cases, people are promised big jobs, but are lied to and have to work menial jobs such as washing toilets. In other cases, people are given opportunities but the employer is exploiting them. In the middle ground between the trafficker and the victims, there are a few people who are getting commission by exploiting the victims, who are not getting a real working wage. This is the situation here. In some cases, there may be local leaders who are also involved in the labour supply to the traffickers, since traffickers influence their area, and it becomes an obstacle for smooth work.

'In one of my experiences, 23 people were trafficked from a tea garden to Himachal Pradesh. As they got onto the train to leave, the traffickers took their IDs and any proof of identity, and made another ID for them which they gave to the victims. Once the victims reached Himachal Pradesh, the situation they were promised was revealed to be a lie and they were unhappy. Somehow, they informed one of their own people who informed us and our staff members, and we had to rescue the victims with the help of different police personnel and the district administration. We made use of the entire possible network to reach the victims in Himachal Pradesh and bring them back to Assam. Out of the 23 people who were trafficked, many were children, young women and families. During the course of their travel from Assam to Himachal Pradesh, one person lost their life.

'In another experience, situations of flooding and harvesting seasons allow the possibility for trafficking to occur. This year, we have a lot of camps that have been formed in response to the floods. Traffickers were all around us, and there was no way of knowing who the traffickers were. But they were offering some jobs to people, and due to the awareness we have given to people, people came to us to report the traffickers who were lying about job opportunities. Some people came up to us and said “sisters, this person came and told us about job opportunities out of Assam”, and we told them “no, never.”

'Through the help of Arise Foundation, we have been able to achieve a lot. Firstly, we have been able to create job opportunities for some of the women that we help. We have been able to provide livelihood opportunities such as petty shops and livestock management. The communities have a small area for the kitchen garden, and we have given them seeds to help them manage their garden themselves.

'Secondly, we have successfully carried out many awareness raising programmes and created many campaigns. For example, we have provided learning opportunities to communities so that they are aware of how to file a case if something happens. This has created some fear in traffickers who know that people are aware now, and therefore they have to be careful.

'In addition to this, we have provided education to people, starting from small children to high school children, and school-going children. The network has helped us go to different schools and colleges to raise awareness of trafficking.

'Finally, we have been able to assist the VVCs - these are Village Vigilance Committees, and also help in the formation of women groups, youth clubs and the children parliament. One of the main responsibilities of the VVC is to maintain records of who goes out and who comes into villages. Children’s parliament helps us motivate and inspire the children. These are just some examples of what we have achieved on the frontline.

'Other examples of our interventions include linking women and youth with income generation programmes and government schemes which can provide them with loans or grants. We have also seen a reduction in issues such as child abuse cases, registered domestic violence cases, child labour and child marriage, both of which have been referred to childline. We have seen low cases of these in our target area.

'One challenge is that traffickers come into communities in very creative ways, and even though we have created VVCs, we still do not know which strategy to follow. Trafficking occurs due to many situations, which we now understand more about, such as in tea garden areas, which have very bushy types of plants. For example, in tea gardens and in the south of India, if young girls are molested, we do not know where exactly it is happening because of the bushy plants. People are also more vulnerable to trafficking in areas where the wages are very low in India.

'Another challenge is in communication and transportation. Although communication and transportation has grown in India, we face the challenge of social media. Some traffickers are not coming into the villages physically but are posting on social media. They post about places that people can come to where they end up getting trafficked from. Social media, and its negative impact on enabling trafficking, is out of our control.

'The job increment scope is also a challenge. The scope is outside of certain areas, so this encourages people to migrate for work. If we can encourage self-migration, that is well and good, however once they go out it is not in our control, and communication is not able to be had properly. This may result in some people going missing. In our target villages, we have some missing cases. We have widows coming to plead with us, asking us to help find their boys. I know that this will still continue, and although there are legal and illegal brothels, trafficking is still happening.'

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