Since 2010, human trafficking has shown a steady rise globally. Despite best efforts to fight this trend, certain areas around the world remain known as hotspots for trafficking activities. India has been at the forefront of this ongoing battle for human rights. While official measures have been taken to prevent human trafficking, the issue remains prevalent nationally. Some figures put the number of victims as high as nearly 8 million people—almost all women— living in a form of modern-day slavery on the subcontinent.
In the foothills of the Himalayas, in the city of Siliguri, West Bengal, the team at the Nomi Network knows that poverty makes women vulnerable to human trafficking or leads victims back into its clutches. This crucially important organization works to break the cycle of poverty and trafficking through social and economic empowerment via job creation programs for at-risk women. Nomi defines women at-risk based on poverty level, literacy rate, exposure to violence, risk of child marriage, proximity to a brothel or red-light district, or living in a community with a high prevalence of trafficking. To be more accessible and to better serve these women, the Network runs its operations near red-light districts and brothels, making itself available to those most in need. To ensure that their projects are replicable and scalable, Nomi Network partners with the Northeast Human Trafficking Care Society (NEHC). This collaboration enables Nomi to leverage NEHC’s voice in the community and their brick and mortar facilities that can be used as a training facility. Nomi Network supports NEHC with funding and helps develop training programs and materials. Nomi Network’s program implemented in collaboration with NEHC has three main phases:
- During the Program’s first phase, participants are immersed for a three-month period in training sessions focused on literacy, time-management, health and hygiene, communications, and confidence-building.
- Throughout the following four months, during the second phase of the program, Nomi provides technical skills training focused on financial literacy
- The third and final phase of the project focuses on supporting the participants with searching for employment opportunities and their job applications. The team from Nomi Network continues to follow-up with former program-participants for up to a year after the program concluded.
Nomi Network’s strategy is designed to empower women from a foundational level. The strategy makes use of two particularly outstanding initiatives that contribute to achieving success. First, beyond providing skills training and support with finding gainful employment, the organization is committed to helping program-participants who would like to start their own micro-enterprise. The new entrepreneurs have access to Nomi resources such as low-cost supplies, support groups, and continued business training. By empowering program-participants in such a life-changing way, Nomi is able to have an impact not just on its participants, but on the community as a whole. The organization’s “know-your-rights” approach is the other key component of the strategy that warrants special mention. All Nomi Network program-participants go through legal training sessions to understand their rights, to learn how to recognize when they’re being subjected to abuse, and to prepare them to seek protection when victimized.
Beyond its collaboration with NEHC, Nomi partners with the Central Bank and Educational Technology, a government-funded training organization that prepares women for sustainable employment. Skills taught range from tailoring, beautician skills, and jewelry making. In acquiring these skills, the women become valuable prospects in the local job market, with 80% receiving employment for at least a year following the training. “I was willing to learn something, something for me. Our generation wants to be self-dependent. At home, I did not know what I was going to go, but now I have the confidence to pursue my dream”, says Sneha, who, after a year’s employment, wants to become a flight attendant in the future. The success of Nomi Network is inspiring. Through their program in Siliguri and by creating a safe space for women, the organization enabled 150 women to better their lives and strengthen the community around them. Currently, the organization fights trafficking in India and Cambodia.