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Filtering by Tag: womens empowerment

India's Proposed Anti-Trafficking Law

Lindsey Malcolm

Reuters published an article last week with the headline Female Slavery Survivors Unite to Back India Anti-Trafficking Law, and it proves how important our position within the anti-trafficking movement truly is.

The law would not only decriminalize the victims of trafficking by preventing imprisonment for those rescued from brothels or other forced labor situations, but it would also give survivors better access to the resources they need to rebuild their lives. Unfortunately, there are millions of trafficking survivors within India’s borders, too many for the government to handle on its own.

A survivor of slavery who wished to remain anonymous poses for a picture in New Delhi, India March 7, 2018. Picture taken March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

A survivor of slavery who wished to remain anonymous poses for a picture in New Delhi, India March 7, 2018. Picture taken March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

We need shelter, support, education for our children ... not just money,” and
“We are poor so access to justice and rehabilitation is hard.
— Meena, a mother of four and survivor of exploitation

For more than 10 years, International Sanctuary has understood the key to complete restoration is more than money - the whole person must be embraced and restored.

By combining meaningful employment and job training with opportunities for education, healthcare, and community, women and girls in our Sanctuaries have a safe, loving environment where they can rebuild their lives. Hundreds of lives and multiple generations have been transformed through our model, which is why we are reaching for an aggressive goal of 10 Sanctuaries operating around the world by 2020.

International Sanctuary is meeting the survivors of human trafficking where they are, between rescue and the threat of being re-trafficked because there are no other options.

We can present these women with a solution that protects them and their children against future exploitation - but we need you to make these opportunities possible.

International Sanctuary began in Mumbai, India and is now empowering women in Orange County, California; Tijuana, Mexico; and Kampala, Uganda. We know these things to be true:

  • Our model is sustainable, effective, and replicable;
  • Anti-trafficking partners regularly ask us to bring our model to their girls;
  • We cannot grow without financial partners like you.

When you invest in life transformation, you are helping bring an end to human trafficking once and for all.

Surprised by Hope

Lindsey Malcolm

By Seema D.

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I have been supporting International Sanctuary since January 2009. International Sanctuary empowers survivors of human trafficking through a unique model integrated employment, education, healthcare, and community.

Growing up, my parents could never provide me with answers to my troubling observations as we visited India. Not until I was 18 did I realize the atrocity of human trafficking, that girls were being sold for sex. Since having my two daughters, I have become even more passionate about fighting for women’s rights.

For years, I have heard about the courageous young women escaping human trafficking and imagined a time when I would meet them. Finally, this past summer, I was able to meet them face to face in Mumbai, India.

The Sanctuary, however, was not at all what I expected. Walking in, I anticipated a heaviness which you would expect in an environment fostering healing from trauma. Instead, I experienced joy, hope, and a spirit of bold confidence.

I had the opportunity to teach a Life Skills & Professionalism session in The Academy, their 3-year educational program. The session included a Q&A on cultural barriers and how to overcome them. I was able to share with them a bit about my beliefs and perspectives, and encourage them in their growth and development. Many of the girls expressed challenges that they were currently experiencing and discussed ways to work through them.

I also had the opportunity to sit down in the workshop and have one of the young women teach me how to make a piece of jewelry. We bonded as she demonstrated the skills needed to handcraft such beautiful creations. I gained incredible respect for the determination required to hone her craft.

It was an honor to be able to meet 25 of my new sisters and become their Didi; I look forward to returning.

3 Things You Can Do To Help Today

Lindsey Malcolm

Over the last two days, we’ve shared with you why we’re opening our doors in Kampala, Uganda, explained how the funds we are raising will being spent, and introduced you to our first cohort of survivors.

We are certain our model of economic empowerment will help break the cycle of poverty, escape trafficking forever, and help them build bright futures for themselves and their families.

With 83% unemployment among Ugandan girls and young women, International Sanctuary may be the only employment opportunity available to them; without it, they may be forced, tricked, or sold into slavery. Our research has proven employment is the key to long-term success and total transformation.

With life pulling us in many directions, time has become a most precious resource. Thankfully, technology gives our supporters a path to quick, easy, and secure giving. Also, because of our incredibly generous donor who has agreed to match up to $50,000, taking a few minutes to donate will have twice the impact!

There are 3 powerful things you can do right now to help Bring Freedom to Uganda

  • Give -- So far, donors like you have opened the door of freedom to 33 girls. We still have 7 more invitations to give! Will you help one more begin her journey of healing?

  • Sponsor -- You can walk with our girls every step of the way when you give the gift of true freedom on a regular basis. Our automated system can securely process your payment every month, week, or quarter. Because PURPOSE covers all of the operating expenses, every dollar entrusted to us by our donors goes directly to serve survivors as they rebuild their lives.

  • Share -- After you give, introduce our cause to 3 people and ask them to get involved. Whether you email this blog to your family, post it on Facebook, or text the Bring Freedom to Uganda link to a friend, you can also make a difference by spreading the word!

It's International Women's Day!

Lindsey Malcolm

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In 2011, I had the privilege to be amongst women from Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, the United States, and North Africa for a conference I was coordinating. A few days into the conference, I went to breakfast and every woman I encountered was wishing me, "Happy Women’s Day!" I was confused at first because, honestly, I had never heard this before. It turns, out, it was in fact International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8 every single year. In that moment, I googled the “day” and read the history attached to it. As a college student studying Gender & Women Studies as a minor, I felt pretty ashamed I hadn’t heard of this! As the day continued I joined in the well-wishes to each woman I encountered.  

It was beautiful: a woman from across the globe bringing awareness to me so then I, too, could share with others love, value, and worth through the simplicity of a phrase, “Happy Women’s Day!” You guessed it, today is International Women’s Day! Today we celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women! No matter how big or small, today we celebrate. We must celebrate today, to be a giant megaphone to each other, to our friends, family, men and women alike, shouting from the rooftops bringing dignity to those whose has been stripped away. Human trafficking affects millions of women in every country of the world. Let us not miss today as an opportunity to be bold for them!

What can you do to help victims of human trafficking today?

1.    Tell Someone – Call, text, email, post on social media, just get the word out to your friends and family that today is a day to recognize women for their value and worth.
2.    Thank Her – Consider saying "thank you" to a woman who has made a difference in your life by purchasing a piece of jewelry that’s been hand-crafted by a survivor of human trafficking. By shopping with PURPOSE Jewelry, you’re supporting efforts to keep these survivors employed and at much lower risk of being forced back into trafficking.
3.    Give Freedom – Did you know we’re opening a Sanctuary in Uganda? Girls and young women who have escaped trafficking in Kampala will have a safe, healing place to rebuild their lives – you can help us open the doors!

Written by Chelsea Maietta, Community Involvement Coordinator for International Sanctuary

Victories & Challenges

Lindsey Malcolm

Since we featured the voices of our Mumbai staff to give you a peek into the inner workings of our India office, we wanted you to hear from the young women we serve. We sat down with the students and artisans participating in iSanctuary programs to talk about their biggest challenges and achievements right now. The following is a glimpse into the hearts and minds of our brilliant participants! 

Aditi

Challenge: It is a hard challenge for me to accomplish my project in three hours since the Academy has started.  And I had some work and was thinking, “when it will get finished?”

Victory: But finally I got finished those projects so that is my victory. So I will call it a victory and a challenge.

Sanyugita

Challenge: Production is hard because new models have come and that gives me difficulty because I have to learn new designs. Otherwise, everything in work is fine.

Victory: I’m always on time for school. I’m happy that I never miss class because we have to come early in the morning. And at first I was thinking, “Oh my god, I have to get up early” but it never gives me difficulty. I’m proud to never miss class.

Gamani

Challenge: My challenge is to finish a lot in one week. I am just trying to finish everything.

Victory: I like to work hard and there is a lot to do so I am happy.

 Divya

Challenge: It’s hard for me today because of the new models (new jewelry designs). So this is a lot of pressure for work.

Victory: I’m lucky to have work to do, because lots of people don’t have jobs, so I’m very thankful for that. Every time I feel down about work, I say “don’t be sad,” because you have lots of things to do in your future.

 

Like the stories of the staff, our participants show common themes in their descriptions of challenges, as well as shared themes in their narratives of celebrations. Our community thrives on the collectivity of hardships; we help each other get through tough times through empathy, mentorship, laughter, listening, creating safe moments to talk, and building spaces for growth and learning.

And while we prosper in the collective resilience against shared battles, we also grow from our differences—the unique nuances that disrupt the temptation of complacency, push us to see another perspective, and humble us in the wake of victories and challenges we might not have acknowledged. The mélange of voices and experiences push us to challenge assumptions and strengthen us in the lessons we learn from each other. Our individual experiences compel each of us to face variant challenges, but the beauty of the iSanctuary community is that no matter our differences, we rise up together.

Updates from the Field

Lindsey Malcolm

Here’s a little window into the goings-on of our India office! These are the compiled articulations of our staff’s current obstacles and little triumphs this week—in their own words—to give you a closer illustration of day-to-day life in iSanctuary Mumbai.

*** 

From our program director, Alyson:

Challenge: Keeping participants consistently focused and engaged is a challenge. Our educational environment is unlike any that most of them have experienced before, and it's difficult to orient to using parts of their minds that have not been encouraged in the past. 

This week I'm experimenting with a few strategic changes to our class plans in order to engage students better and accelerate their development of critical skills and mindsets.  

Victory: “Joining the Academy has clearly enhanced confidence, along with a sense of self- direction and responsibility, in a number of our participants. Two in particular impressed me this week by proactively asking our teacher for make-up work to catch up when they were ill and missed a class!”

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From our new jewelry designer, Collyn:

Challenge: “I am still learning how to create an environment that fosters motivation. Right now I am focusing on connecting with each participant on a deeper level, but that process takes time.

Victory: “Making the first model of a jewelry design can often be a slow and frustrating process.  I am incredibly proud of how hard everyone has been working to create our Spring and Summer 2017 designs.  It's going to be such a beautiful collection.”

From our Academy teacher, Pritish:

Challenge: “I fell sick at the start of the week. I have almost recovered. I am learning how to deal with the frequent change in weather.

Victory: “The assessment tracker is complete. I am looking forward to using the data to guide the instruction.”

From our social worker, Shalem:

Challenge: “With varied levels of comprehension it becomes challenging at times to communicate and ensure each and every student is understanding the points. But the use of visual aides, discussions and quizzes has helped in communicating the themes.” 

Victory: “The theme for last week and the week ahead was on decision making, which includes understanding how the brain senses and responds resulting in decisions at all times. The students were struggling to comprehend that the brain makes decisions at all times, but as we continued to remain focused, the doubts and queries were clarified using visual representations and group discussions. The students have started to appreciate the fact that the brain makes decisions at all things even though we're are not aware about it.”  

From our communications associate, Kate:

Challenge: Working in this sector is incredibly rewarding but, at times, emotionally trying. Learning about how to take care of myself while engaging deeply with the tough issues that we tackle at iSanctuary has proven to be a trying feat.

Victory: My personal celebration for the week entails a project I’ve been working on for several weeks—creating visual aides for the classroom. I am so excited that weeks of brainstorming and designing the visual aides have finally come to fruition! A series of educational and motivation-themed posters are finally printed and hanging in the classroom for our students to use. 

From our founder, Stephanie:

Victory: “A mini victory was watching the Academy math lesson take place upstairs in the workshop. It was so fun to see math taught in a way that relates to the students’ real lives. I wish I had been taught math like this when I was in school!” 

Challenge: “Getting one of the many Christmas shipments out without our production manager! It was tough but I am so proud of the way everyone worked so hard, partnered up to complete big goals, took on extra responsibility and challenged themselves. I think several participants surprised themselves at what they accomplished!”

***

 Because of the girth of obstacles we confront—ranging from the serious societal inequities threatening the safety of our participants to the quotidian infrastructural challenges of running a social organization in Mumbai—it is vital for us to reflect on the pressing areas where we can improve our work, while acknowledging and giving thanks for our successes. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are immensely grateful for all of the staff’s and participants’ accomplishments this week!

Building The Academy

Lindsey Malcolm

Each morning, young women gather around a big table in our airy aqua-colored classroom. Large windows frame the table on two sides, bequeathing gracious views of the railroad and adjacent flooded salt flats that glint placidly under the languid Monsoon mist. The teacher begins the day with a check-in, reflection, and mindfulness exercise, in which students follow the flow of their breathing, get in touch with the present moment, and gather a peacefulness and focus to prepare for a day of conscientiousness and creativity. And from that moment, opportunities abound.

At iSanctuary, we know that school is a powerful defense against human trafficking, revictimization, intergenerational abuse, and poverty. We’ve developed The Academy so that the survivors we serve can arm themselves with education, gaining skills for upward mobility and economic autonomy, while strengthening their sense of self, purpose, worth, direction, and fulfillment.

 Few resources like The Academy currently exist for survivors of human trafficking in the rainy, marigold-speckled streets of Mumbai. After rescue, many survivors go to safe houses where they are out of immediate danger. But with resources stretched to serve an enormous population of survivors, education and vocational training programs are limited and crowded. At iSanctuary, we are establishing this missing resource. This was not a simple achievement. We know that a one-size fits all approach cannot affect the sustainable change that iSanctuary aims to create. So we committed ourselves to doing it right. Through meticulous quantitative assessments, interviews, and focus groups, we gauged participants’ current interests, knowledge, abilities, and mental state to construct an individualized program. We also asked participants about their priorities and hopes for their futures and for programs offered at iSanctuary. The information we collected helps us to identify appropriate learning resources, track individual participant progress, and contribute to program monitoring and evaluation. After examining the information gathered from our participants, in conjunction with best practices in the field and consultations with educational experts, we ascertained our specific programmatic and organizational needs. Our staff then developed curricula, policies, and benchmarks for The Academy.

To prepare for the launch of The Academy, we gradually introduced more class time in a variety of areas (self- defense, geography, English, goal-setting, health, and yoga, to name a few) to ease our participants into the transition and get excited about learning. This gave us an opportunity to observe their learning styles and make necessary adjustments to our plans. We will continue to develop and improve the efficacy of our learning environment through observation, assessments, and feedback.

After a rigorous hiring process, we welcomed a new teacher, social worker, and administrator to our team. From their first days on the job they have been hard at work developing and revising lesson plans while building a connection with our participants. Their training and expertise, as well as their sensitivity to participants’ needs, shared language, and common cultural upbringing position our new staff members to effectively and thoughtfully engage the students, identify and address their needs, and help iSanctuary achieve our long-term goals. Eventually we will bring on an additional teacher and social worker to ensure that we meet the widely varied needs of our participants.

With our new Academy, iSanctuary aims to provide resources for survivors to pursue their academic dreams and to obtain access to diverse jobs, higher salaries, and greater defense against future poverty and violence. Breaking down barriers to education—the hurdles both large and small that preclude girls from attending school—allows our participants to gain entry into an array of previously unattainable opportunities, safeguard their freedom, and realize their dreams.

By Kate Poor, Communication Liaison & Alyson Emory Holsclaw, Program Developer

Finding Power Through Education

Lindsey Malcolm

 
 

The iSanctuary Academy broke ground one month ago. Before the first day of class, we earnestly anticipated opening the doors—exhilarated at the prospect of introducing our meticulously hewn, cutting edge program, but also a smidge nervous about jumping into unexplored territory. Today, we already see the budding successes in the growing interests and capacities of the young women enrolled in the learning community. Our students arrive promptly at 8:30 every morning—some bouncy and ready to go, some still sleepy and stirring gradually through the infectious energy of their classmates. In the past four weeks, we’ve seen shier girls begin speaking out more in class, and watched apprehensive students willingly ask questions, offer responses, and engage in intellectual exercises. Garnering a committed base of eager learners, who arrive each day with completed homework and a motivated attitude perhaps appears a small milestone. But right now, we are celebrating these small victories. These are the signifiers that girls whose educations have been cruelly interrupted can have a second chance. These fledgling successes demonstrate that our students are learning every day life skills—habits that people without histories of trauma might take for granted, such as arriving on time, consistently completing assignments, and taking initiative—that will propel them forward in their education and social experiences. The daily attendance and engagement of our young women in the classroom show us that they are willing to confront challenges and committed to improving their lives through education. 

At iSanctuary, we believe that education equips students with the tools to understand perspectives and experiences beyond their own and to advance their communities. Many studies indicate that access to education diminishes poverty, reduces gender-based violence, and lowers risk of enslavement. Based on an ardent faith in the power of education to act as catalyst for change, we have spent the last year researching, planning, designing, evaluating, and (just recently) launching The Academy—an educational space built for and by the specific needs of our iSanctuary community.

Most of the survivors at iSanctuary have not completed elementary school. Traffickers who forced our participants into bondage and families who did not see the value in educating girls put an early and unjust end to many survivors’ educations. In hopes of fortifying the scope, diversity, and sustainability of the possibilities in our participants’ futures, The Academy intends to give our participants another chance at the education they were denied. Through a varied curriculum of basic math, science, social studies, computers, English, Hindi, writing, health, life skills, and financial planning classes, participants in The Academy can now fill in the gaps in their education, while developing their academic interests, personal strengths, and professional skills. Our objective is to prepare participants for independent lives by developing critical thinking, decision-making, emotional wellness, community building, creativity, and leadership.

In 2013, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proclaimed, “Education is the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace.” As we foster an empowering and supportive environments for the girls to explore their curiosities and dreams, together, we push towards a more peaceful and enfranchised future.

By Kate Poor, Communication Liaison & Alyson Emory Holsclaw, Program Developer