Economic empowerment, financial inclusion, financial literacy and its discipline…a rescued survivor of trafficking may not have familiar with such classy and cultured words that indeed far beyond grounds for her in her clumsy situation. But, HELP believes in and envisions socio-economic empowerment of survivors makes their survival by motivating them to join Self Help Groups (SHG) which emerged as a most effective existing mechanism for economic empowerment for over many decades across India. It improves their culture of savings and financial discipline enable them live a life of dignity and decency.

“A livelihood means a lot for us… it drives our way how we survive and lead our life of dignity with decency”

– Jayanthi, survivor from Guntur.

SHGs of survivors of trafficking and victims of CSE for their financial inclusion: In certain states like West Bengal, the district administration has recognized SHGs of survivors of trafficking and helped them access loans from banks under various schemes. This has spurred micro businesses by survivors and has reduced poverty levels and provided them with sustainable livelihood. This can be very easily replicated across the country with minimum additional resources and leads to collective empowerment of survivors, which helps in stigma reduction and provides them the courage to fight trafficking while they stay in their home communities itself.

For the past 50 years, Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE)/women in prostitution in Andhra Pradesh have been underprivileged of minimum standards of living as they are debarred financial assistance and welfare schemes/programmes by the state that are available to the general public. They are unable to save and protect either their meagre earning out of their obstinate occupation or take loans from formal financial institutions due to lack of proper identity proofs/credentials like Aadhaar card/ration card and even bank accounts which are prerequisites to take loans. This is because, they don’t have constant living abodes and often displaced/migrate from place to place due to police threat, intimidation of traffickers, brothel owners/madams and also fear of private money lenders who have given loans to them for high interest rates. Most of them are illiterates and are unable to find any other means of employment/livelihoods and are forced to entangle/depend on prostitution and related activities. But only because they are being identified as a high-risk group in the HIV/AIDS prevention programmes, the government`s focus is on women in prostitution only because to prevent the spread of HIV to the general population. Further, because of the stigma and discrimination, they do not come forward to access the benefits from the existing welfare schemes and state support services.

HELP Intervention:

HELP is working with nearly 300 rescued survivors of trafficking and victims of CSE covering three districts in Andhra Pradesh. In recognition of the dire need of building the capacities of survivors of trafficking and victims of CSE in financial discipline and financial literacy, HELP has imparted capacity building trainings inviting the resource persons who have been facilitated such sessions in association with MEPMA/DRDA/SERP. Further, it was realised that they shall better be the part of Self-Help Groups for inculcating and practicing institutional mechanism of savings and enterprehuirship aimed at socio-economic empowerment of women from marginalised backgrounds.

VIMUKTHI survivor leaders and supported by HELP have visited Hasnabad and Basirhat in West Bengal for an exposure to study and adapt the good practices of SHGs and the individual and group business models. They have interacted with the survivor leaders and SHGs in West Bengal for a cross learning exercise. VIMUKTHI leaders have learnt how they are taking forward their SHGs, started entrepreneurship/livelihoods both (individual and group) and successfully running the same.

Having capacitated by HELP’s trainings and also learning from interstate exposure visits to SHGs and business models, now there are 14 Self Help Groups of survivors of trafficking and victims of CSE among HELP’s programme operational are of 3 districts having nearly 150 memberships. More than 10 survivors have started individual businesses such as Tea stalls, vegetable selling, fancy shops, toys and garments selling and flower shops and so on who are leading their life without depending on anyone as a sign of their socio-economic empowerment.