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Addressing human trafficking

Young girl peering through metal container doors with chains on them

Human trafficking is a huge worldwide problem: more than 40 million people are believed to be forced labour in the sex, entertainment and hospitality industries, or have been forced into marriage. Women and girls are a particular target for traffickers who take advantage of poverty and low levels of education and aspirations.

Dr Margaret Ebubedike’s project is looking at the way to give young female survivors of trafficking a voice: empowering them to tell their stories, build their sense of self-worth and deliver a supply of critical evidence for the fight against traffickers, forced labour and modern-day slavery.

Women and girls make up 71% of human trafficking victims, according to International Labour Organization figures.

“Our research is focused on providing a practical way for adolescent female trafficking survivors (AFTS) to express themselves,” says Dr Ebubedike, Post Doctoral Research Associate, Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies, “offering a means of articulating their daily challenges as well as their concerns about the future. By creating image and video materials there is the opportunity to put their experience into perspective, build a more positive picture of themselves and how they have the chance to take back control and make better lives.

“We’ll be working alongside researchers, NGO-run emergency shelters, grassroots arts organisations, policymakers, and the AFTS themselves within some of the main hubs for human trafficking in Nepal, Nigeria, and Uganda.”

The Open Societal Challenges research (Girls’ Rehabilitation, Empowerment, Agency, and Transformation (GREAT)) is focused on the potential of the ‘Videovoice’ method: the use of video diaries to capture personal stories within a particular community, building a stock of materials to use with stakeholders and policymakers. Videovoice also puts an emphasis on the participation of community members themselves when it comes to defining the design of the work, how it’s implemented, the analysis, reporting and follow-up actions.

Working in collaboration with AFTS, local researchers, NGOs and arts groups, the project are documenting examples of how aspirations change and why, providing important insights into the best forms of support and what factors are most likely to lead to rehabilitation, re-integration and lasting change. Each of the three countries provides a different context and will lead to a range of different kinds of examples that can be used by nations to improve counter-trafficking strategies and practices to support survivors.

Plans include the creation of a series of knowledge-sharing events across a number of countries, video podcasts on how NGOs can best support AFTS, and a new bank of resources around the evidence and lessons learned. The team includes partners in Tribhuvan University (Nepal), University of Ibadan (Nigeria), Forum for African Women Educationalists (Uganda), Peace Rehabilitation Centre (Nepal), Women Trafficking & Child Labour Eradication Foundation (Nigeria), Youth Initiative for Youth Action Foundation (Uganda), Awashyek Media (Nepal), Advantage Mark Media (Nigeria) and Pure Love Arts (Uganda).