Hasina Kharbhih: Raising the stakes against child trafficking

January 21, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Courtesy Hasina Kharbhih

Courtesy Hasina Kharbhih

New Delhi, January 17, 2012: Hasina Kharbhih, 40, has spent the better part of her life working for human rights. She started a nonprofit, Impulse, and developed a comprehensive strategy to prevent child trafficking called the Meghalaya Model, which is being applied in eight Indian states. The activist, who is based in Shillong in the northeastern state of Meghalaya, was in Delhi earlier this month to receive a North East Excellence Award from the Indian Chamber of Commerce. The award honored her service in the field of human rights and trafficking, HIV and AIDS intervention, and for providing livelihood support for individuals in the rural areas of the northeast.

Q. Could you tell me a bit about your nonprofit and what it does?

A. Impulse works toward ensuring equal human rights are provided for all particularly women and children. The mission is twofold: to provide direct provisions for those in need of care, protection, and empowerment, and to create networks with the community, other nonprofits and government bodies to ensure that a rights-based approach is used by all. Impulse is committed to the goal of enabling individuals to live a life of dignity and respect. For the past 11 years, we have been working to combat human trafficking and cross-border trafficking in the northeast of India.

Q. Why is child trafficking such a pervasive problem in the northeast?

A. Northeast India shares international borders with China, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, Bhutan. It is a source, transit and a destination point. Destination in the context of the children working in the coal mines as slave labor with low wages. The demand for young girls from the region for job opportunities within India and Southeast Asia by unauthorized recruiting agencies makes the girls more vulnerable to human trafficking. These girls are generally coerced into commercial sex trade.

Q. How did you get into this field?

A. I started as an active volunteer of Leadership Training Services at St. Joseph’s School, Shillong. As a volunteer, I was involved in a lot of social work and that got me experienced, which was a first step to what I am doing today.

Q. Your Meghalaya Model is approved by the Indian government and supported by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime and UN Women. Could you tell me what the Meghalaya Model is and how you went about developing it?

A. The Meghalaya Model is a comprehensive, holistic approach to address child trafficking and it works within the five P’s (Prevention, Protection, Policing, Press and Prosecution) and the three R’s (Rescue, Rehabilitation and Repatriation). It is a model that brings together various stakeholders such as the law enforcement, social welfare, labor department, education, civil society, media and judiciary. They pull in their resources in addressing the issue in the absence of funding. The Meghalaya Model has been replicated in the eight states of the northeast. I also received an Ashoka Fellowship for this idea that helped me to scale it up.

Q. How have you managed to bring various government agencies to work together to combat this problem?

A. The model itself focuses on the involvement and coordination of various government agencies to collectively respond with available resources. A crime issue cannot be addressed just by a civil society organization. It requires government intervention simultaneously.

Q. What inspired you to be committed to this field?

A. My inspiration comes from what I do every day, the changes I have been able to bring and the ground experiences. The steps I have taken that have brought about changes makes me believe that change can happen. It inspires me to do more.

A. What is the biggest challenge you face?

A. The biggest challenge as a human rights defender is working on crime issues. It’s an ongoing process. I’ve faced threats, attacks myself while addressing the issue of human trafficking, especially when bringing the traffickers behind bars.

Q. What, according to you, is your biggest accomplishment? What are you most proud of?

A. My biggest accomplishment, so far, is to see the replication of the Meghalaya Model in the eight northeastern states within the span of 10 years. I am proud to see it happening in my lifetime of work. The other is the implementation of the handbook for law enforcement in all the police training schools of the eight (northeastern) states. Other police academies in the country are also approaching us.

Q. What are your goals going forward?

A. My goal going forward is long-term prevention activities to address human trafficking by providing livelihood initiatives through Impulse Social Enterprises. It’s a social mission-driven company comprising various brands, products, and services that uplift communities and advance the mission for equitable human rights.

Q. If there are readers interested in volunteering or working to combat human trafficking, how would you suggest they go about doing so?

A. If readers are interested to volunteer with Impulse they can visit our Web site, go to the section ‘get involved’ and browse the handbook for volunteers and send an online application.

-fwd: madhu chandra

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