ISD: Promoting Violence-free Lives for Women
Institute for Social Development (ISD) in Orissa, a group established by women social workers to fight against all forms of violence against women in the state, including trafficking. The organization’s biggest strength is in organizing and mobilizing women at grassroots levels. ISD shared with us their experience in working with women at grassroots level, the services they provide and their work to stop trafficking of women and encourage safe migration.
Can you please explain ISD work in addressing trafficking in Odisha?
The Institute for Social Development (ISD) was formed and registered in the year 1997 by a group of women with educational background in Social Work. All the founder members of the organization were professionals working on women’s empowerment and development when the organization was established. ISD was formed to pursue a mission for the rights and dignity by women. Gender justice and prevention of gender based discrimination were foremost on the agenda of the organization.
The mission of ISD is to promote a violence-free life and dignity for women. We work towards the empowerment of women and challenge social barriers for gender justice. While pursuing this mission ISD has identified trafficking as a major challenge to a violence free life and a cause of concern. In order to ensure the violence-free life of women there is a need to address trafficking through which ISD believes the human rights of women can be advanced.
For the advancement of women’s human rights, the ISD pursues various strategies such as community mobilization, advocacy and campaigns at different levels. The ISD primarily works as a state level in Odisha for the promotion and protection of women’s human right. At the state level ISD is presently involved in research, networking and advocacy on trafficking issues.
Apart from its state level advocacy the ISD also focuses its work in five districts which are mostly inhabited by tribal population. The ISD has identified domestic violence, trafficking and property rights of women as themes for intervention. It also addresses education, training, capacity building and legal support as cross cutting subjects.
At the field level, ISD has also focused on issues like domestic workers and registration of marriage as these are the areas that contribute to migration. ISD organizes meetings with domestic workers in various locations to make them aware of their rights as well as the risks of trafficking. In a nut shell, trafficking is one of the identified themes for intervention which is now addressed through networking and advocacy. The ISD has a mandate to spearhead its mission for a strategic intervention on the theme of trafficking through community mobilization, campaigns, and advocacy at various levels.
How do you mobilize women at community level and what are the challenges you face?
ISD's major activity is a project called “Promoting Violence-free lives for women from poor and marginalized sections of Odisha”. This project is aimed at creating a responsive and enabling environment where incidences of domestic violence and trafficking are reduced and that institutions and individuals respond to the rights of survivors at community level. Today ISD’s overall focus is working with communities in 5 districts - Kalahandi, Rayagada, Kandhamal , Dhenkanal and Khurdha.
The project will be strengthening the capacity of community level groups like PRI members, vigilance groups & district level forum members. Through the network partners, the project reaches out on a significant geographical scale. The project design is based on deep-rooted processes and actions at the service level and also at the level of the community. The focus is on community mobilization at the village level where awareness on gender, trafficking and domestic violence issues is raised. The groups are emerging with strong voices and are also taking up cases related to violence against women and supporting women in distress in their communities. For strengthening of the groups, ISD conducts interaction with them regularly and organizes different training programmes on VAW issues to increase their legal knowledge and provide other support services for those experiencing violence.
The root cause of trafficking is low level of awareness and lack of capacity to challenge exploitative situations. The situation is made worse with improper enforcement of law due to a lack of political will. The primary stakeholders in our work are family and communities. We work mostly with the support of potential migrant and returnee migrant girls and women and adolescent girls in the communities. The allies for the work are the district administration, district level network of NGOs, Panchayati Raj Representatives and community based organizations.
Many migrant workers from Odisha have been rescued from brick kilns in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu by the police. This includes women who were duped by pimps and dalals (agents) and taken to Uttar Pradesh, Jhansi and parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala on the assurance of marriage or a good job. There are labour contractors who negotiate the migration process. As we are working in the community, we demand the registration of all outbound labourers at the place of origin, and provide them with identity cards. Registration could take place at railway stations, bus stands, gram panchayat offices, even in villages with ward members. This way we can ensure that migrants receive a minimum wage, enjoy full labour rights, and receive compensation in the event of sickness or death. For our work, we are often threatened by labour contractors.
Please give us a picture of a life of a women in shelters and how it has helped/ or not help her in her life beyond?
Institute for Social Development (ISD) has organized a network of 54 NGOs who run shelter homes all over Odisha. ISD has coordinated this state level forum, called SWADHIKAR, since 2003. There are three types of Institutional services available for destitute women. These services are Short Stay home, Swadhar homes and Ujjala homes.
Short Stay Home
These homes are meant primarily for those women and girls who are either exposed to danger or are victims of family disputes. The Home usually has an average of 30 residents at a time with facilities for a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 40 residents for period of 30 days.
The scheme is meant to provide temporary accommodation, maintenance and rehabilitative services to women and girls.
This scheme was launched by the Department of Women and Child Development in 2001-02. The scheme provides shelter, food, clothing, counseling, trainings, clinical and legal aid aims to rehabilitate women in difficult circumstances.
Women affected by domestic violence can stay up to one year. For other categories of women, the period of stay could be up to 3 years. The older women above 55 years of age may be accommodated for a maximum period of 5 years after which they will have to shift to an old age home or other institutions. Swadhar homes facilities can also accommodate children accompanying women in the above categories. Girls up to the age of 18 years and boys up to the age of 12 years would be allowed to stay in the Swadhar homes with their mothers (Boys of more than 12 years of age will be shifted to the Children Homes being run under JJ Act.).
Some of the services available in Swadhar Homes for the residents are Legal services, Vocation Trainings and medical treatment at local civil hospitals including telephone counseling for the women.
Trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation is an organized crime that violates basic human rights. India has emerged as a source, destination and transit for both in-country and cross border trafficking.The problem of trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation is especially challenging due to its root causes: poverty, low status of women, lack of a protective environment.
Keeping the above issues in mind, the Ministry of Women and Child, Govt. of India has formulated a Central Scheme “Comprehensive Scheme for Prevention of Trafficking for Rescue, Rehabilitation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Exploitation—Ujjawala”. The new scheme has been conceived in 2005 primarily for the purpose of preventing trafficking and rescue and rehabilitation of victims.
As a state level entity, SWADHIKAR has become a powerful force in terms of advocating with related departments and other institutions to optimise the provisions for the residents at Shelter homes. The forum placed all NGOs managing the homes on a unified implementation strategy. Inter-district collaboration for establishing backward and forward linkages for victims especially in the case of trafficked girls was possible through this forum. This forum also helped with linkages with member organisations for providing services on disability, mental health issues and HIV/AIDS and helped establish relationships with other state level networks such as National Alliance of Women and Jyagnaseni.
In the past two decades, reported cases of trafficking have been very high in Odisha. The majority of those trafficked are young women. Reportedly, most of them are trafficked for wage-labour, false promises of marriage and as domestic help in different parts of country. It is also alleged that many of them end up in prostitution. They are exploited and tortured in different forms. After they escape and/or are rescued, they end up in shelter homes. We have observed that many trafficked victims staying in shelter homes are not accepted by their family members.
ISD has created a counseling center for victims of trafficking, some of whom are rescued and some who escape their trafficker(s). Through this centre, ISD provides immediate relief to victims including the provision of food, shelter, trauma care and counseling to victims. We then place them in anti-trafficking shelter homes run by our member organizations. At the shelter homes, victims are provided with skills training, capacity-building opportunities, job placement and guidance in income-generating activities, to empower them and help them live independently. If the woman wants to file a case and if it becomes legally viable to do so, ISD also supports them during the legal process. We provide free legal counseling and have pro-bono lawyers who work with us.
Skill Development training includes tailoring, jute-bag making, mushroom cultivation, food processing which will widen their livelihood opportunities after leaving the shelter homes. Some of the organizations have made substantial efforts to place the residents in other programmes based on their desired training
We also provide capacity building of the shelter home workers that includes increasing their knowledge about legal rights, understanding of gender-based violence, counseling techniques, record-keeping and management of shelter homes.
What are your network and linkages with other likemindedorganizations? Has there been any collaboration that has had benefitted the women you are serving?
ISD uses a participatory approach in its work. Consultations are regularly held for collaboration and collective endeavors. ISD participates and invites allies to collaborate in its work. It builds network with civil society groups. ISD also represents in various Govt. Institutions as member.
ISD has received intellectual and tangible support from a range of individuals and institutions. The noteworthy among them are Director of Social Welfare and WCD, District Collectors and Additional District Magistrates, State Commission for Women, State and District Legal Services Authority( for free Legal Aid) and officials from health department. As far as individuals are concerned, noted social and legal activists and members of the State commission for women have provided value-laden guardianship to the efforts of the organization.
Collaboration has also helped in expediting resolution and reconciliation of cases, which have inter –district implications esp. related to trafficking, desertion and dowry.
Institutional linkages were established with a variety of likeminded agencies for providing need-based training to the survivors so that they are able to achieve reasonable level of economic self-reliance. Examples of such networking were with ORMAS (Orissa Rural Development and Marketing Society) for training on entrepreneurial skills, SHRUSHUSHA for training on home nursing and OMFED (Orissa Milk Federation) for management of dairy. This has contributed in making the affected women more skillful and therefore self-dependant to make a sustainable livelihood. In one case, ISD has been a successful in placing woman at the retail fuel stations franchised by Hindustan Petroleum in the outskirts of the state capital.
Have you been involved in state/ national or international level advocacy?
As a part of networking ISD collaborates with various international and national organization to strengthen its portfolio concerning trafficking. The ISD organized an International Symposium in Bhubaneswar in collaboration with GAATW for deliberation on transnational measures on trafficking. The ISD also participates in exchange and exposure of survivors of trafficking for their leadership development in Asian Region. Similarly ISD also collaborates with national networks like Center for Social Research and Women Power Connect and National Alliance of Women for exchange of knowledge and experience.