The Global Slavery Index estimates that more than 35 million are currently enslaved throughout the world. The majority are victims of forced labour, in industries ranging from mining to domestic work. Millions more are victims of forced sexual exploitation. India, Nepal, and Pakistan contain 86...

Once enslaved, now free and resilient

The Global Slavery Index estimates that more than 35 million are currently enslaved throughout the world. The majority are victims of forced labour, in industries ranging from mining to domestic work. Millions more are victims of forced sexual exploitation. India, Nepal, and Pakistan contain 86 percent of the world’s total slaves. Girls and women, who make up 80 percent of trafficking victims, are forced into prostitution and slave labor. Children—roughly half of victims—often work as slave labourers in hazardous, sometimes brutal conditions.

The 2011-2014 India Nepal Human Liberty Initiative (INHLI) was dedicated to combating human trafficking, exploitation, and slavery in all its forms, including bonded labour, commercial sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, and abuses associated with unsafe migration. Comprised of 27 anti-slavery organisations operating in Nepal and the Indo-Nepal border states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the INHLI had two priorities: reducing the risk of trafficking among the most vulnerable communities, and combating the most common and fastest-growing forms of trafficking. Collectively, the programmes and partners that constituted the INHLI represent a comprehensive strategy to address the most prevalent forms of trafficking, exploitation, and slavery in one of the world’s worst “hotspots.”

As a result of the 3.5-year programme, more than 600,000 Indians and Nepalese are at reduced risk of trafficking due to the efforts of the INHLI’s locally-based partner organisations. More than 9,500 survivors were rescued and/or rehabilitated, and an additional 1,500 people benefitted from legal support and services. Many communities are more resilient thanks to awareness raising, economic empowerment, and work with local law enforcement and government, which are now more equipped for and engaged in the fight against trafficking.


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Strategic Initiative

SECTOR

Human Liberty

TOTAL INVESTMENT

US$ 6,600,073

LOCATION

India & Nepal

LIVES CHANGED

615,100

SOCIAL IMPACT INDEX

75.6 (out of 100)

AVERAGE COST PER LIFE

US$ 10.73

Expand All

SI Breakdown:

Key Achievements

More than 9,500 survivors benefitted from rescue, rehabilitation services, and/or reintegration into their communities.

Legal cases benefitting over 1,500 victims were under-taken.

The number of effective anti-trafficking NGOs in the program area increased.

Effective collaboration and advocacy efforts resulted in significant improvements to anti-trafficking services.

The Problem

The Global Slavery Index estimates that more than 35 million people are currently enslaved throughout the world. The majority are victims of forced labour, in industries ranging from mining to domestic work. Millions more are victims of forced sexual exploitation. India, Nepal, and Pakistan contain 86 percent of the world’s total slaves. Girls and women, who make up 80 percent of trafficking victims, are forced into prostitution and slave labor. Children—roughly half of victims—often work as slave labourers in hazardous, sometimes brutal conditions.

Solution

Recognising that the need far exceeded the capacity of local organisations, there was an intentional effort to increase the capacity of organisations already combating trafficking and to bring more NGOs into the space. We also sought to build a community of practice among the implementing partners. Numerous convenings were held, bringing together organisations targeting the same issue (such as commercial sex work or child labour), or working in nearby geographies, or for common capacity building needs. We brought together all program partners from India and Nepal, and the partners together formalised a cross-border anti-trafficking network. Resources were shared, models were adopted, joint advocacy efforts were undertaken, and rescue and rehabilitation across geographies were coordinated. Joint partner efforts were able to get government resources for shelter homes in trafficking-prone districts, and to enable regular meetings between Indian and Nepal border forces, which were mandated by the governments but not taking place. The combined impact of these efforts significantly strengthened the locally-owned systems required to reduce risk and ensure better services for survivors and their families.

Critical Analysis

While the Initiative concluded in the first half of 2014, the impact realised as a result of the Initiative has not. Thanks to the combined efforts of 27 partner organisations, over 9,500 people have been freed and over 500,000 people in vulnerable communities are now more resilient, being better equipped and more engaged in the fight against slavery and trafficking.

In addition to the lives directly impacted, the program realised several other goals. Recognising that the need far exceeded the capacity of local organisations, there was an intentional effort to increase the capacity of organisations already combating trafficking and to bring more NGOs into the space. Both goals were realised, as the program impact reflects: in 2011, over 130,000 people benefitted, including rescue and/or rehabilitation of over 2,000 people. By 2013, the final full year of the program, those numbers had more than doubled, with over 271,000 beneficiaries, including more than 4,200 survivors rescued and/or benefitting from rehabilitation. Six organisations funded through INHLI had not previously addressed trafficking. Their combined efforts benefitted over 114,000 people.

We also sought to build a community of practice among the implementing partners. Numerous convenings were held, bringing together organisations targeting the same issue (such as commercial sex work or child labour), or working in nearby geographies, or for common capacity building needs. We brought together all program partners from India and Nepal, and the partners together formalised a cross-border anti-trafficking network. Resources were shared, models were adopted, joint advocacy efforts were undertaken, and rescue and rehabilitation across geographies were coordinated.

We were excited to see how the advocacy efforts of partners working together were able to activate and/or revitalise anti-trafficking government bodies, such as District Committees to Combat Trafficking (Nepal) or Child Welfare Committees (India). Joint partner efforts were able to get government resources for shelter homes in trafficking-prone districts, and to enable regular meetings between Indian and Nepal border forces, which were mandated by the governments but not taking place. The combined impact of these efforts significantly strengthened the locally-owned systems required to reduce risk and ensure better services for survivors and their families.

Advocacy efforts have also resulted in raising partners’ profiles with local and state governments and with other anti-human trafficking organizations. This increased profile has had many positive outcomes, such as invitations for staff from partner organizations to sit on district, state, and even national level committees, and to advise on refining state-level anti-trafficking policies. At the same time, the higher profile resulted in an increased workload for partners, as many have become ‘go-to’ organizations when local government or NGOs from other areas seek assistance with rescues or with repatriation of survivors from the partners’ geographic areas. These increased demands are not always accompanied by increases in funding, resulting in financial and workload pressure for existing staff to manage unplanned and unfunded activities. Additionally, raised profiles and increased legal action—the program provided legal services benefitting more than 1,500 survivors—makes partners a greater target for threats from the criminal trafficking and slavery nexus.

Lessons Learned

Successes

Increased evidence of advocacy impact at district, state, and cross-border levels

Sustainable impact means, in part, the engagement of local and, ideally, state government in anti-slavery efforts. In 2013, we saw increased government engagement with the INHLI partners. One example is the recognition of the INHLI coalition members by the Bihar government. The state invited the coalition members to participate in state-level consultations and were asked to participate in and facilitate district level meetings. The State Government of Bihar selected Centre Direct, an INHLI partner, to provide training for prosecutors in nine districts of Bihar. Additionally, partners on the India and Nepal sides of the border were able to revive cross-border meetings between Nepali and Indian officials tasked with combatting cross-border trafficking. Another example is the successful effort of four partners to convince state officials to provide shelter homes in two districts of Bihar which are high source areas for child trafficking (East and West Champaran). Finally, there are numerous examples of previously defunct government bodies—anti-trafficking units, child welfare committees, district committees to control human trafficking—which are now operational thanks to the advocacy efforts of INHLI partners.

More anti-trafficking and anti-slavery actors

When Geneva Global began our work in 2011, we recognised that the problem of trafficking and slavery was much greater than the capacity of the local organisations to combat it. We made an intentional decision to work with organisations already involved in anti-trafficking efforts as well as respected local community development organisations not previously involved in anti-trafficking efforts. Over the course of three years, these ‘new entrants’ to the sector have benefitted more than 114,000 community members. Equally important, some of these organisations have adopted anti-trafficking as a core component of their work. Finally, approximately one-third of the INHLI partners have received funding from other sources to increase their work in this sector.

In Nepal, the INHLI, via partnership with some INGO partners, has resulted in grooming of more than a dozen grassroots-level organisations that, by the end of the programme, gained significant anti-trafficking expertise and community credibility. About 10 local NGOs by the end of the programme had even taken stock of trafficking affectedness in the communities where they work. These NGOs now have household-level data and have been involved in assisting social reintegration of referred trafficking survivors. Previous INHLI sub-grantees in five districts of Nepal have actually formed a consortium of anti-trafficking grassroots organisations to increase collaboration and impact.

Geneva Global as convener in developing a community of practice and collaboration

NGOs were brought together through local, regional, and cross-border events and trainings, resulting in improved understanding of each other’s roles, expertise, and resources. As a result, organisations are better connected, better resourced, more trusted and valued by and influential with local and state government. Government bodies and agencies are more accountable. Communities are better served and less vulnerable. And survivors receive a greater and better-coordinated scope of services, and are less likely to face delays in being repatriated. 

Challenges

Root and activating causes of slavery remain strong

The INHLI has achieved significant results. However, the various factors driving trafficking and slavery—poverty, lack of local employment opportunities, the draw of urban migration, uneven community power dynamics, deeply rooted cultural beliefs and practices, among others—remain present. As a result, while many have been freed or are now less vulnerable to being victimized, others still fall victim to slavery and trafficking. Addressing the interconnected causes of slavery at scale will require more actors, resources, societal changes, and time. With public awareness and donor interest growing around the issue, we are hopeful that progress in anti-slavery efforts is accelerating.

Protection of victims and activists

Progress has been made in sensitizing public officials and law enforcement to the issues of slavery and trafficking. However, corruption, indifference, and a lack of political will still remain obstacles, particularly for victim protection and the safety of anti-slavery activists. For instance, survivors are frequently treated as criminals to be prosecuted rather than as victims who are legally entitled to protection against retaliation or to services like restitution for bonded labourers. Nepali survivors intercepted or rescued in India often face repatriation challenges that prolong the experience of victimization. Official witness protection programmes are non-existent, and survivors and witnesses can be intimidated to prevent their testimonies against perpetrators. As a result of corruption involving traffickers and local officials, activists face harassment and physical threats, leaving them demoralized and afraid for their safety. In June 2013, an MSEMVS employee was brutally beaten following the rescue of enslaved brick kiln workers; he has recovered and returned to work, and remains committed to battling slavery despite the risks.

Limited evidence of effective practice and networking

Compared to other sectors of international development, such as health and education, the anti-slavery (or human liberty) field is relatively new. As a result, there is little research to indicate which approaches to combat slavery and trafficking are most effective. This lack of data prohibits the efficient allocation of resources for both donors and activists. Likewise, limited networks of activists at the national and international level—and often even at state and local levels—prohibit the development of a robust community of practice which exists in other sectors, and the benefits these collaborative communities afford to practitioners and donors alike.

The challenges of success

INHLI partners have encountered another challenge that stems from progress made in building a reputation among local and state government and other anti-human trafficking actors across India. Partners are called on more often to facilitate in rescue, rehabilitation, and/or reintegration of victims from within and outside of the programme area, which requires significant expense and additional time commitment for their staff. This year in India alone, partners were requested by state or local government or other NGOs to assist in the reintegration of over 700 children who were rescued in other states. The lack of both funds and human resources makes it very difficult for partners to provide effective follow up for these victims. We are in discussion with the Freedom Fund and its India partners to identify solutions for this challenge in the new programme.

India Nepal Human Liberty Initiative: Featured Projects

SII ScoreProject NameGrantLives ChangedCost Per LifeSector
92.00 Pragati Gramodhyogevam Samaj Kalyan Sansthan (PGS)$110,4507,234$15.27
91.20 Tatwasi Samaj Nyas (TSN)$177,26058,422$3.03
88.00 Manav Sansadhan Evam Mahila Vikas Sansthan (MSEMVS) $180,1496,793$26.52
88.00 MSEMVS-TIP$145,0253,884$37.34
84.00 Prayas Juvenal Aid Centre$571,2178,652$66.02
80.00 United Mission to Nepal (and 10 local partner NGOs)$516,05637,479$13.77
80.00 Mahila Development Center (MDC)$316,0904,501$70.23
79.80 Duncan Hospital$193,58934,495$5.61
79.80 National Institute for Rural Development, Education, Social Upliftment and Health (NIRDESH)$306,12552,804$5.80
79.80 Center for Legal Research and Resource Development (CeLRRD)$254,69941,384$6.15
79.80 Guria$299,28614,801$20.22
79.80 World Education$627,38230,197$20.78
76.00 Lakshya$210,83082,128$2.57
76.00 Adithi$239,87022,693$10.57
76.00 Aagan Trust$70,2032,972$23.62
76.00 Share and Care Nepal$308,96312,305$25.11
72.20 Free the Slaves (Nepal)$57,0004,150$13.73
72.00 Fakirana Sister’s Society (FSS)$211,20181,661$2.59
72.00 BMVS (Bhusura Mahila Viaks Samiti) $151,84428,222$5.38
72.00 Institute for Developmental Education and Action (IDEA)$186,80419,076$9.79
72.00 Stromme Foundation$300,00012,997$23.08
72.00 Saathi$143,4204,557$31.47
68.40 Centre Direct$205,71330,457$6.75
64.80 CAP Nepal$55,092614$89.73
64.60 Terres des Hommes$432,1243,189$135.50
61.20 Integrated Development Foundation (IDF)$119,2736,479$18.41
43.20 Justice Ventures International (JVI)$112,7611,591$70.87
Note: The Social Impact Index Score reflects the relative social impact of a given development project. The lowest possible score is 20; the highest possible score is 100.

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