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Why does Arise fund research training?

Arise's mission is to build the strength, sustainability and direct impact of frontline groups working to prevent slavery and human trafficking. This sometimes includes supporting frontline groups in research - enhancing their ability to conduct macroeconomic and sociological research and monitoring and evaluation of anti-trafficking projects. This leads to more effective projects, with improved impact and sustainability.

Above: Tea Garden workers in northern India, where Arise has funded frontline research training.

In 2024, political and ecological volatility, along with widespread technological advancement, are driving mass mobility and migration. In other words, people are moving as easily as ever, many of them forced by rapid changes.

Across Arise's focus areas, new forms of exploitation are taking hold as a result. In Albania, for instance, traffickers have used video game forums to recruit children into criminal exploitation. In the Philippines, children are at increased risk as internet access is proliferated, with grooming gangs targeting children online in bedrooms across the country. In India, climate volatility and extreme weather is altering rural economic security and migration patterns, providing traffickers and exploitative agents with new targets for abuse.

For Arise and our partners to continue facilitating effective prevention programmes, new socioeconomic trends and vulnerabilities must be well understood. This means gathering intelligence on, for example, how communities are earning money, how stable they are financially, which sectors are becoming more or less exploitative, how often family members migrate for work, and how they fare after migration. Understanding these dynamics, which are evolving as fast as ever, is crucial. What may have been an effective prevention programme five years ago is not necessarily as worthwhile today, if the circumstances have changed.

Arise believes that, similar to the effectiveness of local leadership of programmes, local groups are often best-placed to conduct vital research to enhance understanding. Local partners, trusted by communities, can have personal conversations with survivors of exploitation, and be given honest answers. They understand the long-term change communities have gone through, and do not need to rely on anecdotal accounts. Such access and perspective allows local leaders to track trends amongst marginalised and at-risk groups.

Local groups don't necessarily have extensive academic or educational experience, but enjoy these aforementioned advantages. Arise has, for example, supported research training amongst a number of Catholic sisters in India, empowering them to collect accurate economic data and carry out effective surveys that improve understanding. These sisters are now conducting research alongside their programmes, on migration trends, employment patterns, slum conditions, and other topics. One recent project is worth highlighting as an example of the value of this intelligence:

Domestic Work and Tribal Youth in Orissa

'34% of workers said they'd been economically exploited, and 26% said they experienced moral or sexual exploitation. 93% said they would not return to the cities for work.'

The example is a valuable study carried out in Orissa, by a frontline sister working in the Sundargarh district. The socio-economic survey of over 400 households found alarming levels of exploitation experienced by tribal women, many of whom had emigrated to cities to earn money as domestic workers. The study also investigated the lack of opportunities for young people staying in the rural areas, and surveyed young people about future programme provision.

Reasons for emigration were not, on the whole, optimistic. The survey found the primary cause of emigration was poverty, often caused and aggravated by a paucity of agricultural land, lack of irrigation, low wages, lack of capital funds to diversify income, lack of training opportunity, low agricultural productivity and overpopulation. About 10% left for social reasons, including family expectations, youth alcoholism, or a lack of village unity. A further 10% listed psychological reasons, including family tensions or broken marriages. Other reasons for departure cited were job agent promises and ignorance of the dangers of the cities.

Women who had travelled to the cities had, occasionally, had positive experiences as domestic workers, but the majority were mistreated or exploited. 54% they had been unhappy in their situation. There were many reasons for this. 80% said they had been forced to work 14-hour days. 70% got no leave or holidays. 20% were not given regular salaries, and almost half were able to send no money home despite their initial intentions.

The emigrants who were satisfied were typically in positions to send money home, and rural families that received money typically used it for house repairs, mortgages, farming tools or schooling expenses - all forms of investment rather than immediate consumption.

But many suffered serious abuse at work, in a profession where exploitation is shockingly common. 34% of workers said they'd been economically exploited, and 26% said they experienced moral or sexual exploitation. 36% said they'd been exploited, to some degree, by labour agents. 93% said they would not return to the cities for work. These experiences are not atypical for rural-to-urban migrants across the country. The key question remains: what are the alternatives?

Young adults at home in tribal communities were found to have continued barriers to economic security, including an observed illiteracy rate of 28% in the households survey. A lack of vocational training was cited as a major (and predictable) reason for economic insecurity. Suggestions for potential training programmes included:

  • Agricultural activities like animal husbandry, cash crop cultivation, beekeeping and mushroom cultivation

  • Shopkeeping

  • Tailoring and knitting

  • Mechanical training - such as watch repairing, electronic repairing (radios, televisions, motorcycles were all cited)

  • Carpentry

  • Sporting colleges (Orissa has a sporting heritage, producing many professional hockey players, but tribal youths are not able to pursue such skilled professions easily)

There are numerous valuable lessons from research like this, which provides a timely, holistic view of the experiences of, and challenges facing, vulnerable communities. Future prevention programmes will be shaped by such intelligence when determining the provision of vocational training (and the form it should take), or capital investment. Surveyed families requested assistance, for instance, in applying for job cards. Similarly, the abuse experienced by migrants will inform protection strategies - whether that means assigning guardians to more emigrants, or increasing their awareness of assistance groups within the cities (77% of returned emigrants said they were unaware of any such groups). The training required to produce extensive, honest research like the above is low-cost, and will be a boon to future programmes in the area.

Arise is proud to be investing in the skills of our frontline partners, safe in the knowledge that their expertise, commitment and warmth, along with the trust they enjoy in their local communities, will allow for continued intelligence gathering and the effective design of bespoke, long-lasting anti-slavery programmes.

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