Loreto Sisters highlight adolescent girls’ empowerment to combat human trafficking

Above: An adolescent girls’ empowerment group of the Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre. Photo: Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre.

The global #16Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence ends today, on World Human Rights Day, and Misean Cara takes this occasion to draw attention to a publication by the Loreto Sisters in India on community-based Best Practices to Prevent Human Trafficking.

Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre, supported in different stages by Misean Cara, has had considerable success in mobilising women and girls (particularly through its model of Adolescent Girls Groups) to develop community vigilance, combat human trafficking and create a social safety net in Parganas, West Bengal.

The Centre intervened particularly in two areas of West Bengal, Canning and Diamond Harbour, which have had a high prevalence as source and transit points for human trafficking, as well as a high incidence of child marriage and child abuse.

Over six years, KMWSC has built significant community awareness and vigilance around these locations through sensitisation campaigns, training, and workshops with various stakeholders, networking and advocacy with Police, Government departments and civil society partners.

Local community members at an anti-trafficking workshop organised by the Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre.

For example, a network of Adolescent Girls Groups, supported by the Sisters and peer educators, monitors at-risk girls in their communities based on certain key indicators like: Irregularity in school, new friendships or love angle, new found prosperity, family arrangements for marriage, abuse at home, job-seeking, planning a getaway, or presence of outsiders in the locality.

KMWSC has also supported the rescue and rehabilitation of trafficking survivors through psychosocial counselling, life skills and vocational development programmes. 

And the project is proud of how girls – as the main potential victims of trafficking – are not ‘beneficiaries’ but placed at the very centre of the intervention as rights holders and agents of change.

Activist adolescent girls have become the protagonists of their own protection and that of their peers, empowered to take part in decision-making that affects them and their communities.

As a result, KMWSC will leave this community to its own ‘internalised mechanism for protection’ and move on, from January 2021, to replicate the initiative in Basirhat on the India-Bangladesh border, but this time including the mobilisation of adolescent boys as well.

Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre has captured key learnings from ‘Strengthening Adolescent Girls Groups to Combat Human Trafficking’ in a publication launched at a webinar on best practices on the 2nd of December, International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. The event was live-streamed on the internet and attracted participants from 19 countries across the world, in Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia.

Empowered women, children with agency, and involved communities internalising mechanisms to combat trafficking in all its phases: they are among the key elements to prevent human trafficking (and its recurrence among survivors), participants at the good practice webinar heard.

(Misean Cara members can go to the Resource Hub publication, which lays out how to form, structure, activate, empower and support Adolescent Girls Groups as an effective, sustainable community-based means to combat human trafficking.)

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