Photo Courtesy: Samay Kausshik
In a conversation with Empower People Non Government Organisation (NGO) founder and activist, Shafique, on a ‘March against bride trafficking’ which is held in the month of March this year, the founder updates the measures taken about the event and how it is useful.
Shafiq, Your NGO, Empower People, has been announcing about a proposed march against bride trafficking on social media. We would like to know what is it and how the march is important for the cause from a larger perspective and how, what do you aim to contribute to the cause by organising this march?
March against Bride Trafficking is a citizen engagement drive with special attention to create a mass movement against Bride Trafficking and the causes behind it. During the march, we shall not only sensitise people but also make them aware about how a common citizen can identify a victim and help law enforcement agencies in curbing such a menace. It also involves connecting with different stakeholders who work toward helping victims, preventing/stopping trafficking and organising workshops for the concerned officials. This march will help in recognising different perspectives and find solutions within communities, which would help in fighting the stigma associated with trafficking victims or repatriated girls. (There is more detailed information onhttp://mabt.empowerpeople.org.
What is your intended route for the march?
The March will cover a route usually used for trafficking of girls from Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan as well as Myanmar. This route is also being used for the trafficking of girls from Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand Orissa and Bihar. That means we are targeting the route which is being used in more than 60% of reported and unreported cases of trafficking of different kind. We will be covering a distance of 8000 kms, from Assam to Shimla. Though our major target is indeed spreading awareness and community building, we also want to connect with the Government shelters and anti-trafficking groups of police and District Legal Service Authority (DLSA).
Tell us what preparations are going on at the organisational level for the march?
We are primarily focusing on connecting with the workers at the grass-root level and institutions which can aid us in creating a network and generating funds for the March. Till now we have received a bare minimum of Rs. 2000 from an unknown donor contributing through our website. We hope to raise Rs. 7 lakh for the March.
How difficult is it for a transparent non-profit organisation to generate funds for such activities?
This kind of donation is earned solely on the basis of the organisation's credibility and face value since it is not an easy task to generate funds from individuals. People, especially those living in the metropolitan areas, tend to ignore such causes. Furthermore, people prefer to help the victim directly or channel their donations to the religious activities. They don't want to invest in activities where people talk about systemic change and solutions which would prevent such incidents. People are kind hearted and they feel for others, no doubt, but they often donate for rewards from God or something like that. But there are also people who donate as concerned citizens and they donate towards advocacy and a support mechanism. We successfully completed one such march in 2012, with the help of the community.
You have always believed in solutions through community engagement and you look at the march in the same way. What other methods of community engagement have you adopted in past?
Not only engagement, but ideally the whole process needs to be led by the community itself. Our module works to empower people as a community. We believe communities to be the major stakeholder in everything from rescue to rehabilitation and fund raising to audit. Our income generation programs for trafficking survivors are being run by the community since we, the NGO, have no role in income generation programs.
Prior to Beekeeping farms and Sewing Centres, which are some of the income generation programs for survivors, we had started a drive named ‘Ek Mutthi Chaawal’, in which villagers would donate a fistful of rice for the cause. It initially started in 2001 in Gaya, Bihar, and Chatra, Jharkhand, where I was experimenting with sustainable chain education. Later, we started it in Haryana and other places where we could generate enough fund to establish ourself. Furthermore, there have been seminars/workshops with husbands of survivors of trafficking.
Can you share any incidents which reflect dire need of awareness on masses?
In 2012 March, in West Bengal, when we were talking to a crowd and explaining the phenomenon, 2-3 women suddenly fell unconscious. They had realised that their daughters were missing since 2-3 months. After that, the cases were registered.
Once, in Assam, 3 girls were being taken away in a Bolero car and the crowd rescued the girls and prevented trafficking.
Learning about your 10 -12 years devotion for this cause, how much the situation has changed from the time you started working on the cause?
I really don’t see the situation in number of rescues we did, because while we rescue one, they have already trafficked 25 more girls. However, I see a positive change. Prior to our intervention, it was a very commonly accepted phenomenon where people had no hesitation to accept the purchase of a girl. But now this is becoming a “shameful thing”. People want to hide it from their neighbours or other villagers, and we are seeing society disowning it which is itself a big change. Police is accepting these cases as cases of Trafficking. So now, the cause is almost acknowledged and this is going to help thousands of girls in the near future.
Shafiq, we wish you all the best for the March. Please leave a message with us regarding how can citizen who does or does not fall in the route of the march contribute towards such developments?
Our organisation believes in thorough public participation and also suggests ways to increase impact of taking responsibility for implementing them. Every small contribution can lead to a big change. One can simply participate by changing their profile picture on Facebook or by spreading awareness. We don't have enormous funds or sponsors for the march. One can support by donating a small amount. They can also inform their acquaintances living in the areas that fall in the route of the march to extend support because we believe that solidarity is crucial for any mass movement.
(Writer in an Assistant News Editor of NewsMantra)