Our Stories, Reintegration Experiences of Survivors of Trafficking and Exploitation


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Our Stories, Reintegration Experiences of Survivors of Trafficking and Exploitation

  1. 1. Our Stories Reintegration Experiences ofSurvivors of Trafficking and Exploitation
  2. 2. Our Stories Reintegration Experiences of Survivors of Trafficking and ExploitationEUROPEAN UNION
  3. 3. As down Recoverys road I roam May I find myself returning homeExorcise the demons on the pastAnd find victory that will last... Ed Ostrom
  4. 4. ©2012, Terre des hommes Child Relief.Publications of Terre des hommes enjoy copyright protection. All rights reserved.Terre des hommes welcomes requests for permission to reproduce or translate its publications inpart or in full. Applications and enquiries should be addressed to info@tdh.ch, which will be glad toprovide the latest information on any changes made to the text, plans for new editions, and reprintsand translations already available. www.tdh.ch©2012, SanlaapName of Publication for Citation:Our Stories, 2012 - Reintegration Experiences of Survivors of Trafficking and Exploitation.Kolkata, West Bengal, Terre des hommes Foundation and SanlaapTerre des hommes Foundation LausanneAvenue de Montchoisi 151006 Lausanne, SwitzerlandTel:+41 58 611 06 66www.tdh.chwww.childtrafficking.comIndia Delegation Office124 Karaya Road, Kolkata 700 017Tel:+91 33 64508764Email: info@tdh-foundation.inSanlaap38B Mahanirban Road, Kolkata – 700 029Tel: +91 33 2464 9596 / 2465 3429Fax: +91 33 24653395Email: sanlaap@rediffmail.comWritten by:Ronita ChattopadhyayDesign and Printing:Masterstroke Advertising Consultants“This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents ofthis publication are the sole responsibility of Terre des hommes Foundation and Sanlaap and can inno way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.”
  5. 5. AcknowledgementThis document is based on experiences shared by tensurvivors of trafficking and exploitation who returned totheir families in rural West Bengal, India. These youngwomen allowed us to learn more about their livescoloured as they are with constraints, achievements andaspirations. In several instances, family members ofthese young women also participated in theconversations. While their true identities cannot berevealed, we undoubtedly owe these women and theirsupportive family members our biggest debt of gratitude.We would like to acknowledge our partners Samadhan,Nirman and Hasus who are actively involved incommunity level interventions within the reintegrationcontinuum. These organisations provided valuableinformation and suggestions and coordinated the fieldvisits for this documentation exercise.Lastly, we would like to thank Ronita Chattopadhyay(consultant) for the intensive field work and capturingthese experiences and insights in an engaging manner.Sanlaap and Terre des hommes Foundation (Tdh)February 2012
  6. 6. ContentsThe Context 11The NarrativesWhere Theres A Will 25Seeking Opportunities 33Counting On Support 41For a Brighter Future 51Holding On 57A New Phase 65A Difficult Destiny 73Pushed To The Edge 79Coping With It All 87One Step At A Time 95Building on Learnings 103
  7. 7. The ContextHuman Trafficking: A Thriving IndustryPegged at $7-10 billion, human trafficking constitutes the 1third largest global criminal activity. In South Asia itself,approximately 1,50,000 women and children are 2trafficked every year, most of them from, via and to India.Thus, the country has the dubious distinction of being asource, transit and destination point for trafficking. Here,as elsewhere, sexual exploitation ranks as one its leadingpurposes.Children and women are Defining Traffickingparticularly vulnerablefor many reasons. They “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt ofexperience, more persons by means of threat or use ofa c u t e l y , t h e force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, ofcompounding effects of the abuse of power, or of a positionpoverty, dysfunctional of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits tofamilies, discriminatory achieve the consent of a person having control over another person,social and cultural for the purpose of exploitation”practices (i.e. gender United Nations Protocol to Prevent,discrimination, Suppress and Punish Trafficking inmarginalising specific Persons 11
  8. 8. castes/tribes/communities), conflicts and naturaldisasters. Their aspirations and mobility are restricted byothers. Constrained by circumstances, they becomeeasy targets for the intelligent trafficker who knows how tolure them.These structural reasons and socio-culturalvulnerabilities represent challenges for successfulreintegration of survivors of trafficking as well.Understanding ReintegrationThe term reintegration has been interpreted in variousways. For instance, some reintegration programmesfocus on facilitating the survivors return to her family, 3while others extend beyond that. In fact, uncertainties 4about the terms meaning and appropriateness havebeen noted.Surtees offers a more holistic and nuanced definition.She defines reintegration as recovery and socio-economic inclusion of the individual after a traffickingexperience. It includes placement in a safe and securesetting, access to reasonable living standards, mentaland physical well being, opportunities for personal andeconomic development and access to emotional and 12
  9. 9. social support. The person returns to his/herfamily/community of origin. However, it can also includereturn to a new location.5This multisectoral emphasis is reflected in definitions ofreintegration articulated by several leading civil societyorganisations as well. For instance, the InternationalOrganisation for Migration talks about sustainable 6reinsertion into society and a normalised life. The AsiaFoundation highlights inclusion and rebuilding ofrelationships at physical, socio-economic, socio-political 7and cultural levels. Tdh aims at ensuring that the child a)lives in a protective environment, b) has adequate accessto his/her fundamental rights, and c) further develops hisor her level of choice (capacity to project him or herself in 8the future and chose)’.In recent times, psychosocial support has emerged as aparticularly critical component of reintegrationprogrammes. It can play an important role in helpingsurvivors cope with their past trauma, rebuild self esteem, 9confidence and decision making abilities. The componentcan help enhance effectiveness of the other interventionsas well.Overall, contextualised planning, case management 13
  10. 10. Dimensions of Reintegration Over the years, reintegration of survivors has been understood as encompassing most, if not all, of the following dimensions: o Physical safety o Psychosocial support o Working with other stakeholders to reduce stigmatisation o Access to resources for health, education and other needs o Economic development for ensuring a reasonable standard of living (vocational training and other such opportunities for livelihood, facilitating loans and grants etc) o Legal support o Engagement in social and political processes in the community (and nation) o Enjoying rights and entitlements like any other human being and citizen 10techniques and collective action by relevantstakeholders are being prioritised at multiple levels.However, we still have a long way to go. The need forbuilding a systematic evidence base capturingeffectiveness of interventions, greater emphasis oncapacity building of civil society actors (particularly thosethat are closest to vulnerable children, women and theirfamilies), strengthening protection systems and servicesand enhancing public-private linkages have beenexpressed. Most importantly, we must capture andhighlight the voices and experiences of the survivorsthemselves. 14
  11. 11. Strategising Reintegration at SanlaapSanlaap, a leading development organisation based inWest Bengal (India), has been at the forefront of antitrafficking initiatives in the country for more than twodecades. Its shelter home provides care, protection andreintegration services to survivors ( girls aged 5-24 years, 11primary focus on minors ) in accordance with the JuvenileJustice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000. Sanlaap worksclosely with a network of district level partners includingcommunity based organisations (CBOs) to preventtrafficking of children and women and facilitatereintegration of survivors. The organisation is involved inadvocacy and policy reform processes as well.In 2006, Sanlaap entered into a partnership with Tdh, aleading international organisation working with a missionto protect the rights of children worldwide. Tdh primarilyfocuses on issues related to child health and protection(including anti trafficking). The two partners beganworking on improving the quality of care and support oftrafficked children within institutional care. Learningsfrom the case management approach at the shelter,experiences of girls who were restored and findings of a 12related study highlighted the need for enhancing 15
  12. 12. emphasis on reintegration. The Protection and Quality ofCare Anti trafficking Action (PAQCA) project provided theplatform for doing so.The PAQCA Project: An IntroductionThe PAQCA project (duration February 2009 - September2012) focuses on supporting trafficked survivors ininstitutional care in regaining physical and emotionalhealth and developing a repertoire of personal andeconomic skills in a protective environment. Significantly,it places reintegration at the heart of all its initiatives. Theproject is being co-funded by the European Union and theOak Foundation.Specifically, PAQCA aims at strengthening the caregiving practices and procedures followed at the shelter(and within the organisation). There is an emphasis oncapacity building of CBOs located in source districts inWest Bengal for applying reintegration practicesincluding regular follow up of survivors in theirfamilies/communities. Further, the project includesbuilding partnerships with local government bodiesthrough the CBOs, vocational training institutes and otheragencies that can assist the girls in their communityintegration. 16
  13. 13. A cash assistance component was also introduced withinthe project as an additional means of supporting survivorsas they re-entered their family and community contexts.Financial assistance for income generating activities hadbeen provided to a set of survivors as part of a separateproject supported by Tdh. This provided anotheropportunity for engaging with the girls and theirimmediate families. The PAQCA project activities helpedthe CBOs in reviewing, and subsequently strengthening,the reintegration practices with respect to these girls aswell.Overall, contextualised planning, case managementtechniques and collective action by relevant stakeholdersare being prioritised at multiple levels. However, we stillhave a long way to go. The need for building a systematicevidence base capturing effectiveness of interventions,greater emphasis on capacity building of civil societyactors (particularly those that are closest to vulnerablechildren, women and their families), strengtheningprotection systems and services and enhancing public-private linkages have been expressed. Most importantly,we must capture and highlight the voices andexperiences of the survivors themselves. 17
  14. 14. Realising ReintegrationFor Sanlaap, a survivor is considered reintegrated whenshe is able to cope with her past trauma and can live insociety as an independent human being and citizen of thecountry. The process of reintegration is initiated as soonas the child is brought under Sanlaaps care andcontinues through multiple stages involving variousactors (including CBOs and other local stakeholders) whoprovide necessary support. The organisationalunderstanding and pathway for reintegration are outlinedin the Reintegration Policy of Sanlaap, 2010. The policy isseen as a working document which will be revisited,based on the lessons learnt, at the end of the PAQCAproject. 18
  15. 15. Reintegration Rehabilitation Continuum Rescue Girl receives services including health support, counselling, educational inputs, vocational and life skill training, legal guidance etc; case management approach used, family and community assessment undertaken (CBOs involved) as part of a long term solution for the girl RestorationGirl is rescued from anexploitative situation, produced Essentially, restoring girlbefore Child Welfare Committee t o p a r e n t s(CWC) /court (in cases of adult (natural/adopted/foster)women) which sends the child to or an alternative livingthe shelter for care and protection situation; initiated with family and community visits; multiple visits needed to ascertain if environment is suitable; usually dependent on OR Repatriation court or CWC order; organisation may also In cases where the girl do so when girl is ready belongs to another country; to move out (best subsequent follow up interests of the girl) through partner organisations in the home country Reintegration Case management continues till required providing additional support; greater role of CBOs in follow up; identifying and linking child with key community members and other stakeholders (local administration, police) as reference points for support or as community based safety net; ultimately enabling survivor to live with dignity and self respect in the community/new location 19
  16. 16. About this DocumentReintegrating survivors of trafficking and exploitation hasbeen challenging. However, each experience issignificant and provides vital clues for improvinginterventions and enhancing their impact. In this context,Sanlaap and Tdh felt the need for revisiting thereintegration processes undertaken so far. It wasparticularly important to understand how the survivorswere negotiating their current circumstances and theextent to which they had been reintegrated.Accordingly, ten survivors who had stayed at the shelterfor various periods of time during 2006-09 were selected. 13They came to the shelter following orders from the CWC /Court. Post restoration, they continued to receivesupportive inputs from Sanlaap and the CBOs to facilitatereintegration in the family and community contexts.These survivors also received support under the financialassistance component of a different project as mentionedearlier. 21
  17. 17. This document tells their stories. It is about theirsituations, capacities, needs and concerns, dreams andaspirations. Thus, the following narratives emergedprimarily from conversations with the survivors and theirfamily members. Staffs from Sanlaap and the CBOs alsoprovided valuable inputs. The lessons drawn in terms ofthe key dimensions of reintegration and related actionstaken subsequently are outlined in the last chapter.Specific recommendations are also listed.Ethical Considerations and Protection ConcernsThe survivors were not asked to share details of thetrafficking experience, unless they chose to do so. Thisstemmed from a concern that they should not be made torelive their past trauma and from the do no harm andbest interests of the child principles outlined in Sanlaapand Tdhs Child Protection Policies. Further, many of thesurvivors had not revealed these experiences to theirfamily members. Relevant details were then sourcedfrom case files and Sanlaap and CBO staffs.Also, the mere presence of an outsider in these rural 22
  18. 18. communities evokes considerable curiosity. Talking to thesurvivors in private would have made it even morenoticeable. Wherever possible, the interviews wereconducted in the girls maternal home or in the presenceof a family member with whom she was comfortable.However, significant clues could be derived even fromsituations where in-laws and/or neighbours were present.Of course, this affected the level of information that couldbe obtained.The names of the survivors have been changed tomaintain confidentiality. 23
  19. 19. 1. Ecpat and the Body Shop. Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People2. Ibid3. Asquith, S., Turner, E. (2008). Recovery and Reintegration of Children from theEffects of Sexual Exploitation and Related Trafficking. Geneva : Oak Foundation4. Ibid5. Surtees, R. (2010). Coming home. Challenges in the re/integration of traffickedpersons6. Jobe, A. (2010). The Causes and Consequences of Re-trafficking: Evidence fromthe IOM Human Trafficking Base. Report prepared for the International Organisationfor Migration7. Arensen, L., Quinn, I. (2005) Reintegration Assistance for Trafficked Women andChildren in Cambodia A Review. Prepared on behalf of the Asia Foundation8. Tdh. (2009). Supporting Child (Re) Integration, Terre des hommes Policy Paper,20099. USAID. (2007). Literature Review: The Rehabilitation of Victims of Trafficking inGroup Residential Facilities in Foreign Countries.10. Here, case management refers to processes of integrated planning and providingappropriate and individualised inputs to each survivor (i.e. the case).11. Below the age of 18 years12. Real Lives… Real Options A study exploring the livelihood options for traffickedsurvivors in rural and urban areas; conducted by Sanlaap and supported by Tdh13. Child Welfare Committees have been set up by state governments under theJuvenile Justice Act. These committees are responsible for dealing with mattersrelated to children in need of protection and care at the district level. 24
  20. 20. Where Theres A Will... 25
  21. 21. P inky is a young, bright and talkative woman. A tinge of sadness creeps into her voice when she speaks about the difficult times in the past andhow that has overshadowed her present. But almostimmediately, her innate enthusiasm for life reassertsitself. And the smiles slowly return.Those Two YearsIn 2004, Pinky was desperately looking for work. She hadbeen married while still in her teens. Her husband haddeserted her and now she was forced to return home. Herparents and two younger sisters were already strugglingto make ends meet. They were surviving on her fathersmeagre earnings Snapshot (1)as a daily wage o Age when trafficked: 16 yearslabourer. o Duration of stay in exploitative situation*: A little over two years o Duration of stay in SanlaapShe met a man shelter: Three and a half monthswho promised to (*This includes the transit period i.e. timegive her work. He taken in travelling and extends up to the point when she was rescued).took her to the 27
  22. 22. Sealdah railway station in Kolkata (West Bengal). Shewas drugged and taken to Pune (Maharashtra). “Drugsna dile niye jete pare na. Othe hosh thake kinthu kicchukora jaaye na,” she says. (They cannot take anyonewithout drugging them. You are awake but you cant doanything.) Pinky ended up in a brothel.It was a difficult time. But there was another girl who camefrom a similar background. She too had been druggedand brought to Pune. The two soon became friends.They were rescued together two years later. The girlsspent some time at a shelter run by a non governmentorganisation in Pune before being shifted to agovernment shelter in West Bengal. Subsequently, theywere placed at the shelter run by Sanlaap.Some RespitePinky stayed at the shelter for three and a half months.She recalls attending vocational training classes,particularly those focusing on block printing and tailoring.The non formal education classes were anotherattraction. “Naam shoyi korte shikechhi,” she says with a 28
  23. 23. smile. (I learnt to sign.) There were cultural activitiesincluding music and dancing as well.She talks about the aunties i.e. staffs running the shelterand other related personnel. “Ekta khat khate auntychhilo. Baki shob bhalo chhilo,” she says with a laugh.(One aunty was strict. The others were nice.) Sheremembers the other girls as well. “Shob meye shomannoye. Keu badi jaabe. Keu gal dicche,” she says. (All girlsare not the same. Some wanted to go home. Some wouldjust verbally abuse others.)Hoping for a Better LifeMeanwhile, her parents were contacted by the local CBOas part of the family identification and assessment phase.They were delighted to hear about her whereabouts.Subsequently, the legal processes were completed andshe was able to return home.Within a year, Pinky married again. The boy had come totheir home, seen her and given his consent. Besidesbearing the costs of the wedding, her parents arranged 29
  24. 24. for a substantial dowry. Pinkys father says that the boywas informed about her past and that he chose not to tellhis family. However, his mother came to know about thisfrom others and Pinkys troubles started.She was constantly taunted and harassed. Her sister-in-law threatened to commit suicide. Her brother-in-law saidthat he would kill her for bringing shame to their familyname. “Bole ni bolei bhul korechhe,” she rues. (It was amistake not to tell the others before.) Finally, unable tobear the trauma, Pinky returned to her parental home.Soon, she gave birth to a son. But her husbands familyrefused to accept the child. They now wanted her todivorce him. Later, Pinky and her parents learnt that theboy had also been married before. The first wife had lefthim and married again.An EnterprisePinky and her father started a small tea shop togetherwithin a temporary structure. They were lucky to getspace on the main road, right next to a fish market. Thismeant that they would have a steady stream of 30
  25. 25. customers. Then in 2009, Pinky was sanctioned Rs15,000 under the beneficiary support (financialassistance) component. She decided to use the money tospruce up the shop. The front walls were now made ofcement and a shutter was installed. Later, the familyborrowed money and replaced the tin gate at the backwith a concrete wall.The tea shop has certainly helped stabilise the familyincome and convert their mud house into a concretestructure. The CBO staff who undertakes follow up withPinky is satisfied with the progress made. He had evensuggested expanding the scale of operations. However,Pinky is unwilling to do so. “Aaro kicchu korle, khatunibeshi. Shoshan thheke jal niye aasthhe hoye. Ene chaakorte hoye,” she explains. (Doing anything further wouldrequire more labour. Even now, we have to get water froma supply point in a burial ground. Only then, can we maketea.)Undoubtedly, Pinky enjoys talking about the shop. Theentire process has been a capacity building exercise forher father as well! “Aage chaa banathe partho na,” she 31
  26. 26. explains with a smile pointing towards her father. (He didnot know how to make tea earlier.)Helping OthersPinkys parents continue to be a constant source ofsupport for her. They have always encouraged the localCBO staff to talk to her. More importantly, Pinkys fatherhas emerged as a local point person for the CBO. He hashelped many families in his village contact the CBO andpursue instances of missing and/or trafficked children.This has led to six cases of restoration as well.Pinky supports her father in this endeavour. She believesthat together they can help children return to their familiesand that one should not give up. “Dosh bochhor poreopawa jete paare,” she says. (Children can be found evenafter ten years.)Postscript: The local CBO staff later shared that a recentdevelopment was affecting community perceptions and attitudestowards Pinky. It was commonly believed that she was involved in arelationship with a married man. He had asked her about this and shehad denied the allegations. 32
  27. 27. Seeking Opportunities... 33
  28. 28. U nlike many of her peers who moved to a new village after marriage, Rani just shifted next d o o r. T h e w o m e n i n t h e i m m e d i a t eneighbourhood thus treat her as their daughter anddaughter-in-law! This sense of familiarity and good willseems to have aided Rani in rebuilding her life. Of course,her positive temperament has also helped.Life DisruptedFour years ago, Rani was befriended by a woman whiletravelling to her maternal aunts house in a differentvillage. The sixteen year old girl was drugged, taken toMumbai (Maharashtra) and sold to a brothel. She spentseven days there before being rescued by the police.Subsequently, shewas brought to the Snapshot (2)Sanlaap shelter. o Age when trafficked: 16 years o Duration of stay in exploitativeR a n i w a s situation: About one and a half weektraumatised by her o Duration of stay in Sanlaap shelter: One monthexperiences and 35
  29. 29. would often break into tears.An Engaging DiversionThe initial days at the shelter were difficult. Then, Ranidiscovered something she enjoyed. “Paposh banathebhalo lagtho,” she recalls with a smile. (I liked makingdoormats.) The vocational training programme at theshelter included classes on making jute doormats. Shealso liked making paper flowers which was a part of thecrafts component in the Youth Participation Programme.This specific programme was tailored for girls expected tobe restored soon. Rani also shares that many aunties(staffs at the shelter) would talk to her.Returning HomeMeanwhile, a CBO had conducted the familyidentification and assessment visit. It was learnt that the 14family had filed a General Diary at the local police station.In fact, both family members and neighbours were eagerto have her back. Ranis father had even requested anacquaintance (an elderly and educated person) to help 36
  30. 30. him with his enquiries. He had met this man at the hotelwhere he worked.Within a month of her stay at the shelter, Ranisrestoration order came in. The necessary procedureswere completed and her father came to take her. She wasre-admitted in Class VII in the local school.The Next PhaseBut Rani could not continue her education as she wasmarried off within months of her return. Her parentsarranged the match with a neighbours son who workedas a daily labourer.Ranis in-laws knew that she had gone missing. But theywere not informed about her trafficking experience. “Borjane,” says Rani. (My husband knows.) She appears to behappy with her husband. When asked further, she saysproudly, “Ek din o haath othaye ni.” (He has not hit meeven once.)She has a sister-in-law who is younger to her and both are 37
  31. 31. 15skilled in dhaddha or zari work. It is a common occupationamong women in the village. Understandably, she usedthe money sanctioned (Rs 5,000) under the beneficiarysupport component to initiate zari work. She bought thebasic frame/table for doing zari work, threads and othernecessary raw materials with the money given to her inthree instalments during Jan - March 2010. Each time,she submitted a list of the items purchased to the CBO.She had to stop zari work temporarily during themonsoons. She used to place the frame on the ground infront of her home and work. Now, she could not take therisk of dirtying the materials she used.Seeking OpportunitiesRani started looking at other options for earning anincome. She decided to prepare incense sticks. Manywomen in the village were also doing so. Basically, thewomen were provided with the raw materials. They had tomake the incense sticks and deposit them. They werepaid at the rate of Rs 7 per batch (1,000 sticks). “Ektu bhulholeu niye naye. Oi kaaje bhul hole amaader taka dithehoye,” she says. (Even if there are some minor faults, 38
  32. 32. they still take the incense sticks. In that work i.e. zari work,we had to give money if there was any mistake.)But she does want to get back to zari work. She listenswith interest when told that it has been included in thevocational training component at the shelter. “Aamadershomaye chhilo na,” she says. (It wasnt offered when wewere there.)Would she go to the panchayat or block office to seekinformation on livelihood opportunities? She says yesimmediately and then adds, “Protham bare gele bhoyelaagbe. Dwitiyo baar keno bhoy lagbe?” (I will feel afraidwhen I go the first time. Why will I feel afraid the secondtime?)14. Major incidents occurring within the jurisdiction of a police station are noted in theGeneral Diary. However, an investigation is initiated only when a First InformationReport is filed.15. A special kind of embroidery 39
  33. 33. 40
  34. 34. Counting on Support... 41
  35. 35. S alma and Asif talk about coping with poverty and disability. A childhood attack of poliomyelitis had affected Asifs right foot and, consequently, hismobility. This restricted his earning opportunities as well.The uncertainties of their present are also compoundedwith the implications of a traumatic period in Salmas life.Even now, she finds comfort only within a limited spaceand the family that she has built with her husband.Love and a NightmareSalma would often catch a train and come to visit Asif nearhis village. It was just one stop away. Asif was alreadymarried, but says that he could not stay away from her.Salmas family did not approve of the relationship. Shewas often scolded, but remained unrepentant. Her elderbrother decided totake matters into his Snapshot (3)own hand and beat o Age when trafficked: 16 years o Duration of stay in exploitativeher. That was the situation: A little over two yearslast straw. Salma o Duration of stay in Sanlaap shelter: Three monthsdecided to run away. 43
  36. 36. She sold a pair of her earrings, took the money andboarded a train. It was the beginning of a nightmare thatwas to last for two years from 2004 to 2006. Salma wastrafficked and sold to a brothel in Mumbai. “Bhoyedekhato. Boltho mere debe. Oder buke tho kono dayamaya neyi,” she says as her voice goes quiet. (Theywould try to scare me. They said they would kill me. Therewas no kindness or sense of humanity in their hearts.)She was later rescued and brought to West Bengal.Eventually, she was placed at the shelter run by Sanlaap.Restless and HomesickSalma spent three months at the shelter. She remembersthat aunties (staffs at the shelter) would talk to her aloneand in groups with the other girls. “Bhaloi katha boltho.Aamar tho badi pherar jala. Shuntam na. Baagan-e giyeboshe thaktaam,” she says with her face breaking into asmile. (They used to talk about good and useful aspects.But I was dying to go home. I didnt really listen to them. Iused to go and sit in the garden.) 44
  37. 37. Meanwhile, a CBO staff visited her family and found thatthey were willing to take her back. After her restorationorder was issued, a female staff from the CBO took herhome.Settling InSalma now started living with her parents, brother and hiswife. She had Rs 7,500 with her. She used some of themoney to buy a cycle van for her brother and cover costsfor some household repairs. Meanwhile, Asif came toknow that she had returned. The two met. He says that heasked her where she had been, but didnt push for details.“E bollo aami thomar kacche aasthe paar bo na,” herecalls. (She said that she could not come back to me.)Asif decided to marry her.Salmas family members were not enthusiastic about it,but finally agreed. He later learnt that they had suspectedhis involvement in Salmas disappearance. The two had aregistered marriage. Asif moved in with his in-laws. Hewas not yet ready to take her to his home. Soon, thecouple had a daughter. But unfortunately, she fell ill and 45
  38. 38. died. She was just nine months old. “Phorsha. Keu dekheboltho na amaar meye,” she says as her voice trails into awhisper. (She was fair. People could not believe that shewas my daughter.)Meanwhile, Asif finally decided to move back to his home.However, he did not inform his family about Salmas past.Gradually, the two wives learnt to live with each other.Also, the first wife would leave in the morning for work andreturn late in the evening. Her income certainly helped runthe family, particularly since Asif did not have a steady job.The CBO staff interacted with the first wife and found thatshe had accepted the situation. Soon, Salma gave birth toa boy. Incidentally, Asif did not have any children with hisfirst wife.Destinys Hand?Salma and her husband decided to use the moneysanctioned (Rs 5,000) under the beneficiary supportcomponent to start a grocery shop. With the firstinstalment, they started making the initial structure for theshop. Salma got her sister-in-law to record the details of 46
  39. 39. the expenditure incurred. The second instalment wasreleased. However, in his next visit, the CBO staff sawthat the construction work had got stalled.Salma was pregnant again. She now shares that it was acomplicated pregnancy. She had taken some medicineto abort it. But it proved ineffective and her health took aturn for the worse. The block level hospital referred her toa hospital in Kolkata where she was advised abouthospital delivery. But she chose to give birth at home.Three-four months later, the child began to have epilepticfits and had to be rushed to a hospital in Kolkata. Thedoctors were unable to save him. Around the same time,Asifs right foot had started swelling up. He showed it to adoctor in the same hospital. Salma says that an injectionwas used to draw out water that had collected in his foot.The couple ended up using the instalment money to meetthese expenses. “Bipadh eshe gaelo. Ki korbo bolo?”asks Salma. (These problems came. What would I do?)Salma is still interested in completing the constructionand setting up the shop. She does not know if there arewomen Self Help Groups in the village. When pushed 47
  40. 40. further, she says that she would prefer to do something onher own rather than join any group. She has not met any 16local panchayat member nor has she felt the need to doso. Later, the CBO staff shares that he had tried tomotivate her to visit the panchayat office.Significantly, Salma attributes their poverty and the otherproblems/misfortunes to destiny. She also blames herselffor her trafficking experience, that she allowed herself tobe trapped in a situation like that. “Aar abaar oi bhul takorbo na,” she says. (I will not make a mistake like thatagain.) “Aamio bhul korechhi. Aami bibahitho hoye orshonge ghurechi,” adds Asif. (I have also made mistakes.I was in a relationship with her even though I wasmarried.)Support that CountsSalma is always happy to see any aunty from the shelterwho comes to visit her. She feels quite comfortable intalking to the CBO staff as well. Asif also encourages herto speak to him. However, she has to be careful sinceother family members are not aware of her trafficking 48
  41. 41. experience.In fact, Asifs support, above all else, has helped her copewith the uncertainties and hardships of her current life andthe insinuations linked with her past. “Bor thik hole, keukicchu bolthe paare na. Aami-o zor payi,” affirms Salma.(If you have a good husband, nobody can say anything. Ialso get the strength i.e. to answer back.)16. The three tier, rural local self government system in India is collectively known asPanchayati Raj Institutions (PRI). The gram panchayat, constitutes the lowest tier andcovers one or more villages. 49
  42. 42. 50
  43. 43. For a Brighter Future... 51
  44. 44. F ive men are busy stitching Bermuda pants. Najma sits at some distance from them with her eight month old daughter. She and her husbandare pinning their future on these men and the sewingmachines. She talks about her present and future. Andthen her voice drops to a whisper when she recollects thepast.A Tumultuous TurnNajmas family was Snapshot (4)involved in zari work. o Age when trafficked: 15 yearsA middle aged man, o Duration of stay in exploitativealso their neighbour, situation: Two months o Duration of stay in Sanlaap shelter:was one of the One yearworkers. Najmareveals that he forced her to go away with him. He wantedto marry her. Her father filed a complaint at the local policestation. The man was eventually arrested and Najma wasproduced before the CWC.She spent some time at a government shelter before 53
  45. 45. being placed at Sanlaaps shelter. Najma spent a yearthere as the legal proceedings continued. She mentionsthat the block printing classes offered a welcomediversion. Subsequently, the CWC ordered herrestoration. Her father came to the shelter to take her.Najma was happy to be home with her three youngersisters and two brothers. But then, the man who hadabducted her returned to the neighbourhood. He hadbeen arrested earlier. “Jail-e chhilo,” she says (He was ina jail.) Najma now felt uncomfortable every time shestepped out of the house. Her parents began looking for asuitable groom for her. Thus, within three years of herreturn, Najma was married.A New BeginningShe now shifted to her husbands village and began livingwith her in-laws. Her husband was informed about herpast experiences. He chose not to tell his family andinstructed her also not to do so. She got along well withher three brothers-in-law and two sisters-in-law.Gradually, she began to settle in her new home. 54
  46. 46. Natures FuryBut there were trying times ahead. On May 25, 2009, thecyclone Aila hit the Sundarbans and other regions of WestBengal. Huge tidal waves broke embankments andflooded villages and rice fields. Incidentally, Najma andsome of the other family members had gone to attend awedding further inland. Najmas husband and one of hisbrothers were at home. The two watched helplessly asthe water carried away their livestock. Fortunately, thehouse had been built on a slightly raised platform. Thisoffered some protection. Even then, they lost most of theirpossessions. Najmas mother-in-laws family sent themfood for many days after that.For A Brighter FutureIn early 2010, Najma received Rs 7,000 under thebeneficiary support component for initiating zari work.She spent the money in buying the frame, threads andother materials required. She began to get orders forwork. Soon, Najma became pregnant. Both she and herhusband were delighted. She gave birth to a girl. Since 55
  47. 47. then, she has been working sporadically.Meanwhile, Najmas husband and his brothers decided tofocus on stitching garments like Bermuda shorts, jacketsand other clothes as their main source of income. Thefamily had two sewing machines. They hired another fivemachines and also started employing local men to do thestitching. They would take orders and then divide thework among the men.Najmas family do not object to visits by the local CBOstaff. They believe that he represents an organisation thatprovides livelihood opportunities to poor women. Ofcourse, her husband knows the complete truth. Heaccompanies her for any meetings convened by Sanlaapor the CBO. “Du theen-te purathan meye der shongedekha hoyechhilo okhane,” she shares referring to a visitto the shelter for a meeting. (I met two-three of the girls Ihad known earlier at the shelter.) Meanwhile, Najmasdaughter begins to fidget in her lap. Najma smilesapologetically and turns her attention to her. 56
  48. 48. Holding On... 57
  49. 49. T wenty three year old Sakeena watches over her nine month old son with concern. The child has been unwell for a few days. She wants to take himto a doctor, but does not have the money for it. A worriedfather-in-law nods his head in agreement. One can sensehis concern. Shewhispers that her Snapshot (5)in-laws are notaware of the o Age when trafficked: 17 years o Duration of stay in exploitativetrafficking episode situation: Three months o Duration of stay in Sanlaap shelter:in her life. In a One month and six dayslouder voice, sheasserts that theyare supportive. Shebecomes quiet when asked about her husband.An Arranged MarriageSakeenas family got her married within six-sevenmonths of her return (restoration). Aslam drove a van andlived with his family in another village. Most importantly,he was ready to marry her even after being informed 59
  50. 50. about her trafficking experience.Sakeena now moved in with her husband and his family.Her mother-in-law and father-in-law were good to her.She got along with his siblings as well. However, Aslambegan to take off without informing her. Sometimes, hewould say that he was going to work but would leave thevan behind. He would also refuse to give anyclarifications. “Ekhuno tho van ta ekhane pode,” shepoints out in anger. (Even now, the van is lying here.)She even started staying at her parental home forextended periods of time. After the birth of her son, shecame back to her in-laws. Incidentally, she did undergothe mandated antenatal care checkups during pregnancyat a club visited by the government Auxiliary Nurse cum 17Midwife (ANM) at regular intervals. “Oi golapi sari pora,”she says (The lady who wears a pink sari.) However, shechose to give birth at home. “Dorkar porlei tho nursinghome jawa jaye,” she says. (If there is any need, one canalways go to the nursing homes.) 60
  51. 51. Casting her VoteThe recent elections for the state assembly providedsome excitement in her life. Conversations at homewould often turn to politics, more so because her father-in-law is an ardent supporter of the Indian NationalCongress party. Sakeena got her voter card and voted forthe first time in her life. It was a unique experience.Sarkar-er kaach theke chaiybo, tho vote o tho korthehobe,” she says. (If we want anything from thegovernment, then we must vote as well.)Back to the GrindBut now, it is back to her usual worries and concerns.“Bor-er katha ki bolbo,” she says with a sigh. (What can Itell you about my husband?) She looks helplessly at thelocal CBO staff. He pitches in to clarify that she suspectshim of being involved with another woman.As of now, she depends on her father-in-law andbrothers-in-law for financial help. Sakeena had starteddoing zari work using the money sanctioned under the 61
  52. 52. beneficiary support component. She had chosen to keepthe frame at her parental home. Since her sons birth, shehad not been able to devote sufficient time to it. She saysthat she can possibly resume zari work when her son is alittle older.She was also asked if she wanted to join women self helpgroups involved in savings and livelihood activities. Thelocal CBO could have facilitated this. However, Sakeenais not particularly interested. When probed, she answerswith a noncommittal, “Ki bolbo?” (What can I say?) Sheshares that she is also disillusioned with attending 18meetings. “Kicchu hoye na,” she says. (Nothing comesout of it.)Holding OnShe wants to focus her attention and energies on her son.She knows that she will be able to put him in thegovernment run Integrated Child Development Servicescentre soon. There, he will get food and also receivesome preschool educational inputs. A few years later, shewill have to think about getting him admitted in a school. 62
  53. 53. Suddenly, the boy begins to wail bringing Sakeena backto the more immediate and urgent reality of taking him to adoctor.17. The ANM is a government grassroots level health functionary. All ANMs in WestBengal wear a pink coloured sari.18. She is probably referring to a meeting wherein specific administrative functionariesspoke about helping survivors obtain a special identity card to facilitate access tovarious schemes and services. Her disenchantment is linked to the fact that this isproving to be a time consuming process. 63
  54. 54. 64
  55. 55. A New Phase... 65
  56. 56. N ajias mother-in-law is clearly an important person in the family. She sits on a chair imperiously while Najia is seated on the ground.She shares her judgement on Najia – that she is a goodgirl, but tends to be whimsical and moody. And that herdaughter is already showing signs of being as talkative asthe mother! Najia, who is in her early twenties, smiles.She is happy here. In fact, she guards this sense ofdomesticity zealously.A Harrowing ExperienceNajias parentsseparated when Snapshot (6)she was a child. o Age when trafficked: 16 yearsHowever, she and o Duration of stay in exploitative situation: One yearher brother visited o Duration of stay in Sanlaap shelter:their father Four monthsfrequently. Once, 19during Durga Puja,her mother refused to give her any money for spendingwith her friends. Najia decided to ask her father who then 67
  57. 57. worked at a stall near the local railway station. Father anddaughter could not complete their conversation as he hadto run a small errand. He asked her to wait for him.A woman approached Najia. She asked her what waswrong and listened to her sympathetically. She then gaveNajia something to eat. The food was drugged. Najia wasmade to board a train. Then, they took a bus that broughtthem to another station. Another train journey followed.Najia ended up in a brothel in Pune.She spent almost a year before she was rescued. Shewas brought to the shelter and eventually restored to herfamily. Sanlaap handled all the related processes itself.Justice DeniedOne day, Najia spotted the woman who had drugged andsold her. She reported this to her brother who promptlywent in search of her. The woman was caught andhanded to the police. The police informed a local CBOthat worked on anti trafficking initiatives. 68
  58. 58. The CBO staff shares that the police were initially hesitantto lodge a complaint. First, they had to wait till the Officerin Charge (OC) turned up who then wanted more proof.Najias brother showed the restoration order given by theCWC. Meanwhile, Sanlaap was also informed and seniorpersonnel from the organisation contacted the OC. TheSuperintendent of Police for the district was requested tointervene. Finally, it was decided that Najia and thewoman would be presented before the court nextmorning. The two were placed in the same cell in thestation at night! When the CBO staff complained, the OCsaid that a woman constable would keep a close watch onthe two. Najias father also stayed back at the policestation.Subsequently, the court ordered the police to arrest thewoman and release Najia. The police were also asked tofile a chargesheet against the woman. However, theyfailed to do so within the stipulated period of 90 days andthe woman was released. Najias brother suspects thatshe bribed the police to let her go. 69
  59. 59. A New PhaseThen, in 2009, Najia was sanctioned Rs 5,000 under thebeneficiary support component. Her brother purchasedthe frame, threads, needles and other necessarymaterials required for initiating zari work. She begantaking orders from a neighbour who would pay her for thefinal products. “Kicchu bhul hole, sari the daagh lagle,taka kete nitho,” she recounts. (If there was any mistake,if there were any stains/marks on the sari, they woulddeduct money.)During this period, Najia began visiting a relative inanother village. There, she met Javed and fell in love withhim. She told him about the painful experiences of herpast. He was still willing to marry her. Najias family wereoverjoyed. Javed belonged to a respectable family thatwas also better off than them.Najia moved in with Javeds family after marriage.Javeds elder brother had worked as a driver for 11 years.He was now planning to open a couple of small shops forhimself and his brothers. Javed, himself, did not have a 70
  60. 60. regular income. “Ja paaye thaayi kore,” says Najia (Hedoes whatever work he gets.) Significantly, Javed andNajia decided not to tell his family members about herpast. With time, she began settling down. Then, herdaughter was born.The CBO staff involved in following up confirms that Najiais treated well by her in- laws. However, both Najia andJaved have warned him not to share any informationabout the trafficking episode or her stay at the Sanlaapshelter with the family. In fact, Najia prefers to meet him ather mothers house where she can speak comfortably.Expanding Scale?Najias in-laws want her to take big orders and hire moreworkers. Najia does not seem to share their enthusiasmabout expanding the scale of the operation. But sheconcedes, “Korle tho bhalo. Taka aashbe.” (It is good if wecan do it. There will be more money.)19. A key religious and cultural festival of the Bengali Hindu community marked byfestivities spread across several days 71
  61. 61. 72
  62. 62. A Difficult Destiny... 73
  63. 63. A few months ago, Parveena was hospitalised for appendicitis. She was apprehensive, more so because she was pregnant with her first child.Parveena decided to delay the operation since the doctorsaid that it could possibly harm her child. Husband Alishares that he found it difficult to take care of her alone.Moreover, he could not open his grocery shop duringthose days. Parveena and Ali moved in with her parents.Its been two months now. While Ali does most of thetalking, Parveena prefers to be in the background. Shenow smiles. A sad, tired smile.A Difficult DestinyParveena was Snapshot (7)trafficked and sold o Age when trafficked: 16 years o Duration of stay in exploitativeto a brothel in situation: Two yearsPune. She was o Duration of stay in Sanlaap shelter: Four monthssubsequentlyrescued. She wasbrought to Kolkata and later, placed in the Sanlaapshelter. She was 18 years old then. 75
  64. 64. “Bhalo lagto. Shob auntyra bhalo chhilo. Bok le ora porebojhatho,” recounts Parveena. (I liked it there. Theaunties were nice. Even if they scolded us, they wouldexplain later.) She attended vocational education(tailoring) and non formal education classes. But sheadmits that she did not really pay much attention in class.“Takhon khali badi ashar tada,” she says. (Then I justwanted to come home quickly.)A local CBO undertook the family identification andassessment processes. She was eventually restored.Parveena was happy to be back with her family – father,stepmother and numerous brothers and sisters. But shealso found it difficult to adjust and live with them.Life with AliThen, she met Ali. Parveena told him everything aboutherself. Soon, the two married and moved to a differentvillage. The CBO staff would visit the couple periodically.Even he noted that Ali would do all the talking. He wasnever allowed to speak with Parveena alone. 76
  65. 65. Meanwhile, in 2009, Parveena was sanctioned Rs 10,000for undertaking zari work under the beneficiary supportcomponent. The CBO staff later learnt that Ali hadreturned the raw materials bought from the firstinstalment (Rs 6,500). He had taken the money back fromthe shopkeeper and bought a mobile.When questioned, Parveena admits, “Mal pheroth diyedilam, diye taka ta niye nilam. Ja korechhi thai tho bolbo.”(We retuned the material and took back the money. Whywont we say what we have done?) Ali, who had steppedout of the room earlier, returns to declare, “Aamrabhablam taka ashuk tharpore dekha jaabe.” (We thoughtlet the money come, then we will see.)Further payments were stopped. Parveena then calledSanlaap and pleaded for resumption of the financial aid.The couple now wanted to open a small grocery shopclose to their home. The remaining instalment of Rs 3,500was released.Ali says the shop was started on a small scale. Certainfood items, toiletries and other articles of regular use were 77
  66. 66. sold. He was able to run the shop only for some time.First, Parveena was hospitalised and then they shifted toher parents home. He does continue to pay the rent forthat room.However, he is evasive when quizzed about his currentsource of employment. He says that he used to work in aleather factory, but is unwilling to give more details. Later,he says that the market is down and so there isnt muchwork anyway.Looking AheadThe couple want to ensure an institutional delivery fortheir first child. Parveena is registered at a hospital inKolkata, the same place where she was admitted earlier.But they are not sure if they will be able to make that trip,especially if Parveenas labour pains start at night. Alisays that he wants to focus on restarting the shop.Postscript: The CBO staff says that he is suspicious of Ali. Moreover,he was recently asked to keep a closer watch on him. A senior staff inSanlaap had received a photograph of a suspected trafficker and Alibears a striking resemblance to that man. 78
  67. 67. Pushed to the Edge... 79
  68. 68. A nowara is shaking with incoherent rage. She had got into an argument with her brother that morning. He hit her. She took her son and somemoney kept in a trunk and left the house. She even toyedwith the idea of killing her son and committing suicide. Butthen, better sense prevailed.Living with DeprivationBorn into a poor family, Anowaras life was never easy.She lived with her parents, three brothers and four sisterson one of the islands in the Sunderban region in WestBengal. One had to cross a river, take a bus and thencross another rivulet just to reach the block headquarters!Fishing, farming and daily wage labour constituted themost common occupations in the village. Significantly, agrowing number of boys and men were also migrating forwork.Anowara was forced to drop out of school when she wasin Class VI. She helped with the household chores andtook care of her younger siblings. 81
  69. 69. The NightmareAnowara was Snapshot (8)married at the age o Age when trafficked: 16 yearsof 16 years. Her o Duration of stay in exploitativeparents selected situation: 8 months o Duration of stay in Sanlaap shelter:the bridegroom – Seven monthsa young man whoworked as a daily wage labourer. But soon, her marriageturned into a nightmare. Her husband sold her. She finallyended up in a brothel in Pune.Returning HomeA pregnant Anowara was rescued subsequently andbrought to the shelter. She was informed that she couldchoose to place her child for adoption. But Anowarawanted to keep the child and take care of it.Meanwhile, a local CBO had undertaken the familyidentification and assessment visits. The familymembers, particularly Anowaras mother, wanted her tocome home. Incidentally, responses/reactions from 82
  70. 70. neighbours were not gauged. The houses in the villagewere located at some distance from each other and so, itwas felt that the levels of interaction between familieswould be low. In time, the legal processes werecompleted and Anowara returned home with her son.She found that her father and brothers were nowtravelling to Kerala for work. They would stay away formonths at a stretch. Her mother would take care of thefarming activities on their little patch of land. She had alsostarted poultry. Soon, one of her brothers got married. Asister had been married off earlier.Making MoneyIn end 2009, Anowara was selected for the beneficiarysupport component. She wanted to start a shop.However, further discussions revealed that this might notbe feasible. Finally, it was decided that she would buy ricewith husk, uncover and polish the grains and sell them.She would find enough takers within the village.She was sanctioned Rs 7,000. Her mother also helped 83
  71. 71. her. After a few months, Anowara began to make a profit.“Nau hazaar alada kore rekheche. Othe haath dina,” shesays. (I have kept Rs 9,000 aside. I dont touch that.)Staffs from Sanlaap visited Anowara to see how the workwas shaping up.Significantly, Anowara mentioned to the CBO staffs thatshe was not happy at home. She said this during a visit acouple of months ago. But she did not elaborate furtherwhen pressed.Ghosts of the PastAnowaras youngest sister now shares that some of theirneighbours would refer to her past disparagingly. Aneighbour even accused the family of stealing herchickens. Her brother, the one who had married recently,started getting into fights. Once, Anowaras mother evenwent to a police station to file a complaint against aneighbour who had beaten her son. But nothinghappened after that. She admits that her son may alsohave been at fault. But she attributes it to the effects of a 20medicine given to him by a local doctor for a recent 84
  72. 72. illness. The youngest sister reiterates this opinion.Meanwhile, the pressure of dealing with all this began toget to Anowara.Then that morning, she got into a fight with her brother. Itwas the last straw and she left. She says, “Bhai maarbe.Or bou kotha shonabe. Eirokhm jayega-e ki kore thakbobolo?” (My brother will hit me. His wife will call me names.How can I stay in a place like this?) Anowaras mother isclearly torn between her two children. She says both arehot headed and do not know how to adjust. But sheagrees he should not have hit her.Pushed to the EdgeAnowara says that she thought of feeding poisoned foodto her son and then killing herself. “Tarpore bhablampoolish eshe ma baba ke dhorbe,” she says. (Then Ithought that police would come and arrest my parents.)She did not want to cause any more trouble to herparents, especially her mother.“Bhabhlam aage jekhane chhilam shekanei chole jayi,” 85
  73. 73. she says, her voice laced with tiredness. (I thought ofgoing back from where I had come – she is referring tothe brothel where she was forced to work earlier.) Butthen she decided to go to Kolkata, find some work thereand take care of her son. She says that she was planningto contact the CBO and NGO staffs. She had said so athome as well.Anowara is assured that her feelings of anger andhelplessness are justified. However, she should not takeany hasty decisions. Anowaras mother shares that shecan stay with her maternal grandfather and uncles, atleast for the next few days. The CBO staff promises to findout if she can live in a shelter managed by theorganisation. She will explore other options as well andinform her. “Mamar phone-e phone korbe,” saysAnowara. (Call me on my maternal uncles phone.)Postscript: Anowara returned to her home later. Both mother anddaughter said that this is what they wanted. Staffs from the CBO andSanlaap are following up regularly. Anowaras brother has not arguedwith her or hit her again.20. An unqualified doctor (also referred to as quack) 86
  74. 74. Coping With It All... 87
  75. 75. R uksana is not sure about her age. She first says that she is twenty years old. When probed further, she agrees that she could be older by afew years. But she has certainly seen more than her fairshare of trials and challenges.The Missing YearsFour years ago,Ruksana had gone Snapshot (9)to Kolkata looking o Age when trafficked: 17 yearsfor work. Her (indicative) o Duration of stay in exploitativef a t h e r, a d a i l y situation: Four months o Duration of stay in Sanlaap shelter:l a b o u r e r, w a s About two years (this includes time spentfinding it difficult to at Sanlaaps Working Girls Hostel)feed his familywhich includedthree daughters and four sons. Ruksana was drugged,taken to Pune and sold to a brothel. She wassubsequently rescued and brought to the Sanlaapshelter. According to the records, she was 18 years oldthen.“Ranger kaaj hotho,” she remembers. (There were 89
  76. 76. classes on block printing.) She would also help in cuttingvegetables and doing other supportive tasks in thekitchen. Many girls chose to do so and they were also paidfor their efforts.Meanwhile, the CBO undertook the family identificationand assessment visits. Her parents were willing to takeher back. But the legal processes had not concluded. So,they could only come and meet their daughterperiodically. Sanlaap decided to shift her to its WorkingGirls Hostel. She joined a group of girls involved in acatering venture. She would help in cooking as well asserving food to guests at various venues. She says thatshe was at the shelter and the Working Girls Hostel forabout two years. Then, one day, she decided to leave thehostel and made her way back to her village.Her parents were happy to see her. Of course, she andher family had to contend with curious neighbours whokept asking about the missing years. “Aami bhalochhilam. Parishkar jayega. Bhalo khabar. Eitai boli,” shesays. (I say that I was well. In a clean place with goodfood. That is what I say.) 90
  77. 77. Acting in HasteRuksana got married within a month of returning home. Itwas a strange marriage. Her mother shares that a Hindugirl, Ruksanas friend, found a match. The boy, Javed,came to Ruksanas house and met her. He then told herfriend that he liked the girl. Meanwhile, the friendinstructed Ruksana to follow Javed to his house. He wassurprised to see her. It was late evening and he felt that itwouldnt be appropriate for her to stay with him. He tookher back to her parents.But by then, a crowd of villagers had gathered. Theyinsisted that he should marry Ruksana immediately. Themarriage was solemnised that night itself. The quazi(priest) who was invited to officiate at the ceremonyinformed them that the boy had been married thriceearlier. Yet, Ruksana and her family went ahead with themarriage. However, a substantial meher was agreedupon Rs 10,000 in cash and a certain portion of the landowned by the grooms family. Basically, if the marriagewas dissolved for any reason, the groom would have togive these to the girl.21 91
  78. 78. Difficult TimesRuksana moved in with Javed. His parents livedseparately. Ruksanas sister shares that the husbandsfather is known to have tried to sexually harass hisdaughters-in-law. While Ruksana did not have to dealwith the father-in-law, her marital life was far from happy.Javed soon began to treat her badly. “Khethe podthedaayena,” she says. (He does not buy me enough clothesor provide food properly.) He would also keep taking off toKolkata and Howrah for work. Incidentally, Ruksana hadnot told him about her trafficking experience before themarriage. He came to know about it later.In 2010, Ruksana gave birth to a baby girl. She was gladto be a mother but her worries also mounted. She usedthe money received under the beneficiary supportcomponent to initiate zari work in her parental home. Shemade a decent start. But then, the flow of work ordersreduced. “Off season bole otho kaaj hochhe na,” sheexplains. (It is the off season. That is why there isntenough work.) Ruksana was now toying with the idea ofstarting a small shop and sell accessories for women like 92
  79. 79. bindis, bangles etc.The CBO staff had advised Ruksana to take out aninsurance policy, preferably from the national LifeInsurance Corporation. During the same time, arepresentative from a local insurance company visitedmany homes in the village promoting a specific policy.Basically, one had to pay Rs 100 every month for fiveyears. Subsequently, the policy holder would get Rs8,000. Many women, including Ruksana and her sister,signed on. They were given passbooks. Receipts wereissued when payments were made. However, they werenot given any documents related to the policyShe now started using the profits from the zari work,however meagre, in running the household. The CBOstaff agreed to give the remaining amount of Rs 1,000(total sanctioned – Rs 8,000) in instalments for paying thepolicy premiums.Coping With It AllRecently, Ruksanas one and half year old daughter fell ill.She took her to the local, unregistered medical 93
  80. 80. practitioner who gave some medicines and an injection.But the child didnt recover and Ruksana took her toanother doctor. “Daktar bollo er date fail hoye gaeche,”she says in disgust. (The doctor said that the medicinesgiven had crossed the expiry date.) Ruksana is alsoworried about the fact that her daughter is still unable tostand without support. To add to her woes, Javed hasasked her family to give him gold earrings and a ring.Moreover, Ruksana is pregnant again. Her mother plansto take her for an operation (i.e. tubectomy). Wont herhusband object? Ruksana shakes her head dismissingthe question. “O ki bolbe?” she asks as her face hardens.(What will he say?)She knows that she can only count on the support of herparents. “Sahajo kore,” she says. (They help.) She takesher mother for any meetings convened by the CBO orNGO. There is another reason, though. “O gele tho aarojaanthe parbe,” she says. (If he i.e. Javed - goes, he - willcome to know more about my past.)21. According to Islam, meher or the bride price is to be given by the bridegroom at thetime of marriage. However, it is often interpreted as alimony. 94
  81. 81. One Step At A Time... 95
  82. 82. S eventeen year old Meena loves English and hates Mathematics. She is studying in Class XI and her subjects now include English, Sanskrit,History and Political Science. She is toying with thepossibility of dropping Political Science and takingGeography. “Teacher-ra bolechhe History aar PoliticalScience ek shonge kora mushkil,” she says. (Teachershave said that it is difficult to do History and PoliticalScience together.) Meena rejoined school recently.Understandably, she is both excited and apprehensiveabout returning to the classroom.Betrayed by FriendshipMeena used to Snapshot (10)regularly visit hergrandfather who o Age when trafficked: 16 years o Duration of stay in exploitativelived in another situation: A week o Duration of stay in Sanlaap shelter:village. A middle Two weeksaged woman hadrented a room in his house. Meena enjoyed talking to herand the two soon became friends. One day, she asked 22Meena to join her at a ghat a little further away from her 97
  83. 83. grandfathers house. Meena agreed to go. She wasdrugged, taken to Mumbai and sold to a brothel.Fortunately, she was rescued by police within a few days.The owner had managed to hide many other girls whowere minors. But in the rush, Meena was overlooked. Shespent the night at a police station and was producedbefore a court the next day. She was then sent to agovernment shelter in Mumbai.Searching for their DaughterMeenas parents were distraught when they discoveredthat their daughter was missing. They filed a general diaryat the local police station. They would keep turning up atthe police station hoping for some news. “Shuru the jetheektu bhoye lagto. Kintu okhane ek jon khub bhalo chhilo,”says Meenas mother. (Initially, we were a little scaredabout going there. But there was one policeman who wasvery nice.) She even went to Sonagachi – a famous redlight area - looking for her daughter.Meenas parents ended up skipping work for severaldays. This affected their income. Meenas father worked 98
  84. 84. as a daily labourer laying marble floors while her motherwas employed in a factory. She was also a member oflocal womens self help group.Then, one day, the police informed them that theirdaughter had been found in Mumbai. They rushed toMumbai, carrying photographs of their daughter, her birthcertificate and other documents. They went to theconcerned police station in Mumbai where they wereinformed about the government shelter. “Aami ek dinopish-e boshe chhilam aar dekhlam Ma dhuklo,” recountsMeena. (I was sitting in the office one day and I sawmother entering.)It was a tearful reunion. But they were not allowed to takeMeena with them. Legal processes had to be followed.Meena, along with 10 other girls, was sent to the Sanlaapshelter. She stayed there for two weeks and was thenrestored to her family.Rebuilding Her LifeMeena had not attended school for a couple of months.She rejoined, but found it difficult to concentrate on her 99
  85. 85. studies. Somehow, she managed to scrape through herClass X examination. She then dropped out of school.She started losing touch with her friends as well. Somegot married and left the village. Those who were studyinghad moved on to Class XI. She found it difficult to fit withthem. She also realised that she did not enjoy going tocinema halls for watching movies any more.Neighbours displayed mixed reactions. Meenas mothershares, “Amar badi the mein acche. Aamar shonge-u thohothe pare. Jaara eita bojhe taara kicchu bole na. Keukeu bole, tho boluk. Ki korbo?” (I have a daughter. Thiscan happen to me also. People who realise that dont sayanything. Some people say. So, let them say. What can Ido?)Staffs from Sanlaap stayed in touch with Meena,providing whatever support was possible. Meena toldthem that she wanted to enrol in a computer course. ThePAQCA project included a cash assistance component ofRs 1,500. This money could be used to pay the fees. Theowner (and teacher) of a local computer centre was100
  86. 86. contacted. He agreed to take Meena for a four monthcourse focusing on Microsoft Office and internet usage.Moreover, this centre was close to Meenas residence.Meena joined the classes and found that she liked it. Theowner would encourage her. The staffs also visited thecentre at regular intervals to pay the fee and track herprogress.Back to SchoolMeena realised that she wanted to go back to schoolagain. Admissions for a new academic term had started.Meena and her family were encouraged to exploreoptions. Subsequently, she was able to find a school thatwas willing to take her despite the low marks obtained inthe Class X results. It was also located nearby.A staff from Sanlaap also visited the school and spoke tothe headmaster. He was supportive. However, he pointedout that Meena would not be able to benefit from anyscheme/service that supports education of children fromdisadvantaged communities since almost all his studentscame from such backgrounds, many of whom even 101
  87. 87. poorer than Meena.But, Meena is worried about money. “Tuition-er darkarhobe. School-ete oibhabe shekhayena,” she says. (I willneed tuitions. They dont teach like that in the school.) Herelder brother who is doing graduation can possibly help.But Meena does not seem very convinced by that idea.The Road AheadMeena is sure that she wants to take it one step at a time.She wants to complete Class XII and then think about herfuture. Her parents had thought about marrying her off.But the prospect of arranging for a substantial dowry ofabout Rs 1.5 lakh, if not more, stopped them. “Ekhonaabar podche, tho poduk,” says her mother. (Now thatshe is studying again, let her study.) She also knows thevalue of being independent and that education can helpher daughter secure a better future. “Purano katha gunodhakha hobe,” she adds. (It will help bury the past.)22. Local port102
  88. 88. Building on LearningsThe preceding narratives present a mosaic ofachievements and setbacks, hopes and constraints.Significantly, these experiences provided valuableinsights to Sanlaap, partner CBOs and Tdh instrengthening the entire pathway of reintegrationservices. The growing involvement of each of theseactors and the lessons learnt provided the foundation forspecific processes for enhancing reintegration practicesduring 2010-2011 under the PAQCA project. Theresultant benefits are beginning to touch the lives of thesurvivors referred to in this document as well.In this chapter, we first revisit the narratives to understandhow the girls experienced various dimensions ofreintegration. Specific activities/initiatives undertaken inresponse to some of related learnings are then outlined.Challenges and constraints that continue to influencereintegration practice are also presented. The last sectionlists recommended areas of action for Sanlaap, partnerCBOs and Tdh. 103
  89. 89. Dimensions of Reintegration Physical safety: No significant direct threats interms of physical safety emerged from the preliminaryfamily identification and assessment visits conducted bythe CBOs and Sanlaap for the survivors. However, suchthreats cropped up later in two cases. The man who hadabducted Najma returned to the neighbourhood. Thisprecipitated her marriage and movement to anothervillage. Anowara was hit by her brother. Besides theinherent power dynamics, it is also important to note thatthe violence was possibly triggered by adverse reactionsfrom neighbours. Anowara felt compelled to leave homefor a brief period of time. In both cases, the CBO staffsinvolved became aware of these developments duringsubsequent visits. Family acceptance: All the ten girls chose toreturn to their families who were willing to take them back.Rani and Meenas parents had even filed a General Diaryat the local police station. This was a significant step asmost parents dont want to highlight their daughtersdisappearance or are wary of dealing with the police.104
  90. 90. Nonetheless, all the families had to contend withsuspicions and comments regarding their daughters.However, the most striking feature across all narrativeswas the centrality of marriage in the lives of the survivorsand their parents. Parents seemed eager to marry offtheir daughters at the earliest, in some cases withoutsufficiently checking the background of the selectedgrooms. This is alarming since it exposes the girls to anew set of risks and threats, including the possibility ofbeing re-trafficked. There were instances where the girlshad fallen in love and got married themselves i.e. Salma,Najia and Parveena. While the first two seemedcomfortable, Parveena was now clearly controlled by ahusband with no visible means of income. Ruksana, onthe other hand, had manipulated a man into marrying her.The relation between the two soured when he came toknow about her trafficking experience.Further, it was found that husbands were usuallyinformed about the trafficking experience, but the in-lawswere not. The girls then had to deal with the continuousstrain of hiding their trafficking experience. The eventual 105
  91. 91. disclosure wrecked Pinkys marriage. Fortunately, shehad extremely supportive parents who stood by her.At the same time, it must be said that Rani, Salma, Najmaand Najia appeared to have found peace within thedomestic sphere. Their identity as a wife and mother washelping them cope with the shadows of their past. Community acceptance: The influence ofneighbours and other community members was moreexplicit in some cases than the others. Anowarasnarrative showed how negative reactions and stigmacould make a survivor vulnerable, even when she iswithin the fold of a protective family. Meenas mothershared that one had to deal with all kinds of responses.Salma made a particularly telling remark – that people donot comment if you have a good and supportive husband.This further reaffirms the social prioritisation of marriageand suspicions/misgivings related to girls and womenwho have not followed the prescribed path. The results ofsuch notions have been highlighted before.There are exceptions. Rani had supportive neighbours.106
  92. 92. She grew up and was now married into a family in thesame neighbourhood. Her friendly temperament andprior relations with the women in the locality had probablyhelped curb adverse responses. Also, a longer duration ofdisappearance appeared to evoke stronger responsesthan a shorter one.Pinkys narrative showed that neighbours and othercommunity members now turned to her father forguidance when their children disappeared. He would thenhelp them contact the CBO for facilitating necessaryaction. This strengthened his position as an importantlocal reference point for information and support.However, the local CBO staff later shared that recentallegations of Pinkys involvement with a married manhad started affecting community perceptions. Awareness and access to key services: Therewere varying levels of awareness regarding keyreproductive and child health issues and services. Here, itis important to point out that most would have to travelsignificant distances to reach appropriately equippedfacilities within the district or in Kolkata. Not surprisingly, 107
  93. 93. most of the survivors and their families depended onunqualified, local medical practitioners (quacks) for theirimmediate needs. The risks involved were typified byRuksanas experience wherein her childs conditionworsened and had to be taken to another doctor.Meanwhile, Salma attempted to abort an unwantedpregnancy herself by consuming medicine that createdfurther complications!Two girls had rejoined school. However, Rani soondropped out when she was married off. Encouraged bySanlaap, Meena was admitted in Class XI. Her mothersaid that she wanted her to become self reliant. But shealso admitted that their inability to arrange for a dowryactually gave Meena the opportunity to study!Najia had helped apprehend the woman who traffickedher. However, the police could not file a chargesheetwithin the stipulated time. The CBO involved and Sanlaaphave been following up on this and other aspects of thecase at various levels. They have also been providinglegal advice and support as required.108
  94. 94. Financial assistance for initiating economicactivity/meeting important need: Zari work emerged asa common livelihood option under the beneficiary supportcomponent. However, the engagement of the survivorswas subsequently affected by factors like reduced ordersduring off season and the demands of motherhood. Mostof them did express willingness to regularise/return to thetrade. Further, Salma ended up using a part of the moneyon medical emergencies while Parveenas husbandclearly directed all her moves. These instances reveal theinherent risks and contextual factors associated with afinancial component that requires stringent monitoring.Pinky, Anowara and Meena used the money mosteffectively. Pinky was able to enhance the tea shop thatshe ran with her father. Anowara started a small businessof polishing and selling rice grains that turned profitable.Their financial position improved. Meena was given cashassistance of Rs 1,500 which was also put to good usefor covering the fees for a computer course.It is important to note here that this was the first time thatSanlaap had provided financial support for 109
  95. 95. livelihood/meeting an important need to survivors. Survivors as citizens: This aspect wasunderstood in terms of possession of key identitydocuments like ration card and voter card. This wouldmark the first step in terms of proving oneself as a citizenand accessing rights and entitlements. Eight of thesurvivors had ration cards while only one possessed avoter card. Another survivor had completed theapplication process for obtaining a voter card with thesupport of the local CBO.Also, none of the girls had interacted with the localpanchayat members. Some shared that they couldconsider meeting them if it helped secure economicgains. The CBO staffs said that they had initiated adialogue with PRI members with varying degrees ofsuccess. Their levels of understanding and willingness tobe involved in anti trafficking initiatives differed. It wasalso pointed out that many of these girls had limitedmobility and interaction with outsiders earlier. Now withthe additional burden of their past experiences, they wereeven more wary of stepping out and meeting people.110
  96. 96. Nonetheless, this aspect does need to be exploredfurther. Sense of agency and psychosocial recovery:Though mentioned last, this is the most importantdimension of reintegration. Pinky, Rani and Meenashowed the strongest sense of agency and psychosocialrecovery. While past experiences had subdued them,their innate traits and positive outlook were helping themin negotiating their circumstances. They were lookingahead cautiously, one step at a time. Also, both Rani andMeena had spent, comparatively, the least amount oftime in exploitative situations.Other girls also displayed varying levels of agency.Ruksana, for instance, was ready to undergo a tubectomyeven if her husband forbade it on religious grounds.Anowara exhibited a strong sense of agency when shechose not to commit suicide. She also said that she wouldhave contacted Sanlaap or the CBO. Thus, she knew thatshe could turn to these organisations for protection fromfurther dangers and risks. 111
  97. 97. The support of families was critical. Pinky and Meena hadextremely supportive parents while Rani, Salma, Najmaand Najia appeared happy with their husbands. Asmentioned earlier, their identity as wife and mother wasfacilitating their psychosocial recovery. Ruksana andSakeena, on the other hand, were struggling with strainedmarriages and this was a key concern for them.Understandably, most of the girls were not inclined to stepout of their domestic spheres where they felt comfortable.Thus, they did not feel the need to meet PRI members. Atleast two of them said that they did not want to join womenself help groups and would rather undertake an economicactivity by themselves. Meena did not enjoy going out andwatching films in cinema halls anymore. She also talkedabout losing touch with her friends – another depressingreality for many survivors.Significantly, the CBOs staffs have emerged as a strongsupport system for the girls. The girls felt comfortable withthem and asked for their advice on various issues. Evenfamily members turned to them for their opinion. Thetremendous potential of such relationships must be112
  98. 98. tapped. This becomes even more important in caseswhere the girls spend very little time at the shelter andcannot be adequately prepared for reintegration.Sanlaap was also recognised as a supportiveorganisation interested in their well being. The girlsremembered the aunties (staffs at the shelter and otherpersonnel) fondly. Many girls spoke about enjoying thevocational training classes which thus served as a meansof occupational therapy as well. One girl shared that shehad learnt to sign at the shelter. They acknowledged thatthe staffs sought to provide supportive inputs, eventhough some of them were not particularly inclined tolisten to them at stage! Incidentally, the beneficiarysupport component became another opportunity formaintaining contact as well. But it has also raisedexpectations of continued financial support. BothSanlaap and the CBOs will have to handle theseexpectations and a sense of dependency as they workwith the girls. 113
  99. 99. Learning from ExperienceAs mentioned earlier, the PAQCA project providedSanlaap the opportunity to strengthen conceptual clarityand practices related to reintegration. Local CBOs, withtheir proximity to trafficked survivors and other keystakeholders and understanding of local contexts, areseen as critical partners in this process. Prior experiencesand related insights paved the way for these keyactivities/initiatives undertaken during 2009-2011. Enhancing organisational understanding ofreintegration: During 2010, Sanlaap developed itsReintegration Policy which outlined organisationalunderstanding and practice on this critical issue. Asignificant and related development was the clearpositioning of case management within the broaderreintegration framework. This strengthened linkagesbetween services provided at the shelter and the supportrequired beyond it within the family and communitycontexts. The post of Reintegration Officer was alsocreated to facilitate comprehensive follow up and act as abridge between Sanlaap and the CBOs.114
  100. 100. Incidentally, the basic case management system at theshelter involving holistic and multisectoral assessmentand related planning had been streamlined earlier. In April2010, the life skills component was enhanced. A morecompact component was introduced that would enablegirls staying for a short period in the shelter to pick up vitalinformation and skills. The sessions on reproductive andchild health and hygiene were structured further.In 2011, a job counsellor was appointed at the shelter totake weekly sessions with the residents. The emphasis ison helping them identify viable livelihood options andinitiate related preparations while still at the shelter. Thebeneficiary support component experience had helpedunderscore the need for such an initiative.Interdepartmental coordination between shelter staffsand campaign team handling interactions with the CBOswas also strengthened through regularised meetings anddata sharing. 115
  101. 101. Strengthening CBO capacities: In late 2009,Punorjiboner Dishari (Guide to a New Life) – A TrainingManual for Supporting Reintegration of TraffickedChildren was developed by Tdh in consultation withSanlaap and its partner CBOs. Key issues covered in themanual include understanding trafficking, reintegrationand related nuances; reflecting on personal capacities;developing critical skills like communication and buildingrelationships with survivors and other stakeholders,identifying local resources and documentation. Themanual was used for CBO trainings in the PAQCA projectduring mid 2010.Subsequent discussions and reviews showed that CBOshave started situating specific activities like familyassessment visits within the long term perspective ofreintegration. They are also placing greater emphasis onfamily and community risk assessment and on timingvisits with contextual needs and requirements. Gradually,the interventions are getting structured within a casemanagement framework. Community level activitiesfocusing on preventive aspects including deep rootedissues like gender and social diktats on marriage are also116
  102. 102. being stepped up.The CBOs have also articulated theneed for training on mental health issues in order to helpthem deal with this crucial aspect of reintegration. Initiating platforms for bringing survivorstogether: Survivors meetings are now being organisedperiodically. The basic objective is to provide a platformfor them to share experiences and challenges and drawsupport from their peers. These discussions are alsoproviding directions in terms of the interventions neededat this stage. It has been encouraging to see manysurvivors speak positively about their families andcommunities and their strong relationship with the localCBOs.Undoubtedly, these steps have the potential for making acritical difference in the lives of the survivors. However,certain challenges and constraints do persist. 117