No pickles please: India's trafficking survivors dream of drums and saws

By Reuters   November 14, 2018 | 10:18 am GMT+7
No pickles please: India's trafficking survivors dream of drums and saws
A survivor of slavery who wished to remain anonymous poses for a picture in New Delhi, March 7, 2018. Photo by Reuters/Cathal McNaughton

Getting the chilli-turmeric ratio in mango pickle right, learning to thread an eyebrow or honing drumming skills?

For Robin Chaurasiya, founder of anti-trafficking charity Kranti, meaning revolution, making the unconventional choice - to help a sex worker's daughter become a drummer - was obvious.

"Why would you need training in stitching or becoming a beautician, especially when you are an excellent drummer?" Chaurasiya asked in an interview ahead of the opening of the Trust Conference in London on Wednesday.

India is home to the largest number of slaves globally, with 8 million out of a global total of 40 million, according to the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation.

Most of more than 23,000 trafficking victims rescued in 2016 were women and girls, according to government data.

Rescued survivors have traditionally been put up in government and charity-run hostels and given vocational training in skills like embroidery and basket weaving and more recently computer training.

But anti-trafficking charities in India are increasingly focusing on teaching skills that survivors are passionate about or can help them return to the community and find work, rather than simply engaging them in some activity.

"It is more about healing and happiness," Chaurasiya said.

With Kranti's help, the sex worker's daughter, Sheetal, went on to win a scholarship to study in the United States.

"The (charities) I went to before Kranti never asked me what I wanted to do. They just wanted us to clear school and get married," Sheetal, now 24, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"I had only seen boys play the drums. I had no idea I could learn it too."

She performs occasionally, but prefers to teach the instrument and also gives leadership lessons in Mumbai schools.

The benefits of teaching unusual skills to women who were rescued from brothels was highlighted in September, when about 20 female welders and carpenters helped to rebuild flooded homes in India's Kerala state.

"The skills of stitching and embroidery that were given earlier do not have a market," said Hasina Kharbhih, founder of anti-trafficking charity Impulse NGO Network, which set up a social business selling clothes, bags and home furnishings.

The company, Impulse Social Enterprises, is training about 400 trafficking survivors to make its products, which are sold online.

 
 
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