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New strength and security for women in India's "hub of trafficking"

Woman walks through a slum of Ranchi, India | CSO VSO/Nattasude Anusonadisai

In its first year, VSO's Aaghaaz [New Beginning] project, in partnership with telecoms company Bharti Infratel, has supported 1,000 slum-dwelling women, who have survived or been at risk of trafficking, through training courses in employment skills.

So far, 70% have gone on to find new jobs,  increasing their financial and personal freedom.

Dangerous poverty

In the slums of the cities of Jharkhand State in India, stark inequality and poverty coupled with patriarchal attitudes lead women and girls into some very dangerous situations.

Our local partner ATSEC (Action against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children) calls Jharkhand STATE "the hub of trafficking in India". Three quarters of the population are tribal communities whose precarious incomes rely on seasonal agricultural work. 

Trafficking rings target impoverished women who are transported to work as maids or in brothels in major cities such as Delhi. Poverty may lead children into indentured labour - modern day slavery.

Finding new confidence and strength

Female security guard trained by VSO India VSO/Nattasuda Anusonadisai

Single mother Bishwashi, 20, says her training to be a security guard has made her stronger and more resilient, in more ways than one.

Bishwashi, 20, has been trained as a security guard as part of the Aaghaaz project. This former child labourer says the training has made a huge difference: 

“I came from a very poor family. We ate one meal a day and it mostly consists of only rice.

“[Before] I made 60 rupee per day ($0.85). I’m making 10,000 rupee per month as a security guard now.

"I want my daughter to be educated and be as far away from the experience I had to go through as possible.”

"Without the Aaghaaz project, I wouldn’t know how to support my daughter and my two families.”

Dignity and security

Participants in the project are trained over two months in a course that covers martial arts skills, counselling, vocational training and life skills such as computer literacy and communication.

Bishwashi, who is also searching for her trafficked sister, says her training improved not only her income, but her own self-defence:

“My neighbour hit me and tried to rape me but I escaped. Now I can fight. This job also gives me dignity.

"I want my daughter to be educated and be as far away from the experience I had to go through as possible.”

From child labourer to breadwinner

Young woman in Ranchi India supported by VSO VSO/Nattasuda Anusonadisai

Former child labourer Suhani, 20, never completed her basic education

Suhani, 20, from India’s Jharkhand state never finished her education.

At the age of 13, she was forced to work in a brick factory but managed to return to her village two years later. She explains:

"I did not want to work but they made me. I wanted to go to school. I don’t know if you would understand but it was such a sad time for me.”

A stable source of income

Family in Ranchi, Jharkhan, India supported by VSO VSO/Nattasuda Anusonadisai

Suhani, pictured with her mother who is unwell, and her brother whose college tuition fees she is paying

“I think I’m in a very good place now. I learn how to be a good housekeeper from the hotel and I’m making money to look after my family." 

"Suhani is from a tribal community where it is a commonly held belief that a daughter may be the breadwinner for the family and support the costs of educating male family members. Suhani is now the breadwinner for her small household:

"My parents are ill. My brother is also going to college. He will become a policeman.”

"This is a great opportunity and I’m trying my best at the hotel.”

About the project

Bishwashi and Suhani​ have been trained through VSO India's Aaghaaz project with corporate partner Bharti Infratel. The project aims to support 3,000 women like this in total over three years.

This International Women’s Day, please read and share further stories of change from empowered women around the world.

Some names have been changed to maintain anonymity.

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