Trafficked Survivors Start New Businesses in Their Communities

Speeches Shim

Monday, February 3, 2020

In January 2018, Gulsara, a mother of three, was looking for work along with four others from her village in Uzbekistan. Using the popular messaging application, ‘WhatsApp,’ the group connected with a recruiter who also came from their village. The recruiter promised them work in a greenhouse in a neighboring country that would pay US$500 per month in wages and provide free accommodation and meals. The recruiter also promised to pay their travel expenses and shared the number of a taxi driver who would take them to their final destination.  

‘I like what I do, I have the opportunity to combine my favorite work and take care of my family. They are always with me and I get ideas and inspiration from them and my clients are pleased! Thank you!’

The designated taxi took them to a different location than the one promised by the recruiter. They were met by someone they did not know who took their passports and said they would work for him. Their new employer explained that their recruiter was sending workers from his home village as compensation for the recruiter’s own debt to the employer. Gulsara and the group were understandably shocked and frightened. They were in a new country. They did not know anyone. They did not know where they were or how to speak the local language. 

The group worked for four months without receiving wages or compensation. They were not provided with adequate housing or enough food. They were kept isolated and away from the neighborhood so they could not find anyone to ask for help. 

One day, Gulsara managed to borrow a phone from a local truck driver who had stopped to buy tomatoes. She was able to call her family members who reported her situation to the Uzbekistan Department of Internal Affairs. The Department located Gulsara through the taxi driver who had originally transported them. Eventually all five trafficking survivors were rescued and returned to Uzbekistan.

Once safely back home, the group filed complaints with the police against the perpetrators. Law enforcement authorities referred the group to a local NGO that partners with the USAID supported Dignity and Rights project implemented by the International Organization for Migration. After conducting a comprehensive needs assessment, IOM in collaboration with the local NGO provided Gulsara with a sewing machine and training to run a home-based business to produce custom-made clothes. The other four male villagers received training in construction and with equipment provided by IOM, formed a renovation team.  

Today, with thanks to the financial support of the USAID Dignity and Rights project, the entire group of trafficking survivors has successfully reintegrated into their community and are all able to financially support themselves and their families.

The USAID Dignity and Rights program, implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), is designed to advance human rights and dignity in Central Asia, both as an issue of public policy, as well as civic culture. The project focuses on citizens’ and migrants’ awareness of their labor rights and the civil sector’s capacity to help protect the human rights of migrants and potential migrants as well as the rights of migrants’ families. The Dignity and Rights project addresses challenges related to violations of migrants’ rights and counter trafficking in persons in Central Asia and presents a targeted and unified intervention for a strong, regional, human rights response to these challenges.