India Needs a Multidisciplinary Approach to Combat Human Trafficking

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National, February 18, 2021: Sattva Consulting, a social impact research and advisory firm, and Reflexive Lenses Consulting, a company that profiles leadership in organisations across sectors released a study on Anti Human Trafficking (AHT) interventions in India. The study focuses on investigating the various forms of human trafficking in the country, the lessons learnt from solution approaches used in India and the nature of the leadership in anti-trafficking organisations across the country.

The study reports most grassroots NGOs in India focus on interventions to provide direct support/services to rescued human trafficking survivors rather than focusing on interventions to strengthen AHT systems for structural and systemic impact. The study is available at: Respond>Solve>Evolve: A Landscape and Solutions Study For Stronger Anti-Human Trafficking Ecosystem In India

“This is a one-of-a-kind report in the Anti-Human Trafficking ecosystem, which highlights a lot of issues and need for systematic and synergized approach to deal with the issue of trafficking in India,” MA. Britto, Director of Vaan Muhil, said during the panel discussion organized on the sidelines of the report launch. Other panellists were Pooja Rajiv of Srijan Foundation, Michelle Mendonca of Freedom Fund, Rahima Khan, Mehrunnissa and Sunita – survivor leaders from Indian Leadership Forum Against Trafficking (ILFAT).

According to the analysis, ideology is a key energy driver in AHT leaders and they demonstrate a high degree of commitment towards the survivors and often go above and beyond their project role to ensure rescue and safety of the survivor. However, organization leaders are unable to actively engage with the staff motivations and converge them to meet the organization’s vision, finds the research.

Rahima Khan, a leader from ILFAT, a national federation of survivors of human trafficking said, “We leaders at ILFAT have been advocating for a comprehensive and survivor-centric anti-human trafficking legislation. We want the AHT ecosystem in the country to be strengthened and there is a well-organised and collective effort to eliminate all forms of trafficking. The research has provided us with a lot of insights for all of us, and we hope all stakeholders take concerted efforts to help strengthen the system so that we can defeat trafficking collectively.”

“Through our work in bonded labour and in tackling human trafficking, we see the commitment to realize solutions on the ground, but we also see fragmentation in the ecosystem. Through this research we have discovered so many different pathways, avenues, and opportunities where we can actually get the ecosystem together and try to address the issue,” says Aarti Mohan, Co-founder and Partner at Sattva Consulting.

Sattva’s secondary research also revealed that at any given time, there are more than 25 million trafficked people in India. The country is a source, destination, and transit base for HT, with the most predominant forms of HT in the country being Forced Labour, Bonded Labor, Sexual Slavery, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC).

“As we move forward, we hope that the key findings from the study will be meaningful for this entire ecosystem in this era of added uncertainties,” said Shambhavi Srivastava, Lead- Research Advisory at Sattva Consulting.

“One of the very significant learnings from this research is that some of the issues that we are dealing with are so large that it is virtually impossible for any single organization to handle it by itself. It is only through a collective, collaborative effort and momentum we can hope to find some answers to some of the issues,” said Ashok Malhotra, Managing Partner at Reflexive Lenses.

The research study was commissioned by Kamonohashi Project, the Japanese philanthropic organisation to gain insights from work done in the past, existing prevalence and impact of COVID 19 on vulnerability to human trafficking, to inform decisions on funding and support to anti-trafficking programs in India. “We hope the study will be helpful to the Indian government and people, and funders working in India in making decisions on focus and collaboration,” said Tomomi Shimizu, the India Program Director in Kamonohashi.

The study was ongoing when the COVID-19 global pandemic outbreak in India. Given the strong possibility of serious implications of a pandemic of this nature and the associated lockdown on both the survivors of HT and the at-risk population, Sattva also undertook a rapid assessment with participating organizations and their survivor networks to understand and highlight the immediate impact of the pandemic on them.