The Bangladesh Fight Slavery and Trafficking-in-Persons (FSTIP) project was awarded by USAID as a renewal of the Bangladesh Counter Trafficking-in-Persons (BCTIP) project discussed in my last blog post. FSTIP has the same purpose and methods as BCTIP but expanded with learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of Rohingya migrants to Cox’s Bazar from Myanmar.
The Rohingya refugee crisis has progressed to the point where there are now nearly 1,000,000 Rohingya living in tent camps in Cox’s Bazar, a large city near Myanmar known mainly for having the world’s largest natural continuous sea beach at ninety-three miles long. Currently, because of a strong resurgence of COVID in Bangladesh, services to Rohingya camps are limited to food and medical aid. Once this ban is lifted, Winrock plans to move in with educational programs, monetary support for trafficking victims and people at risk, and TIP awareness raising activities. Rohingya people are at great risk of trafficking in the camps because they lack gainful employment, a solid home, or a permanent community to rely on for emotional and physical support. FSTIP will work to curb the growing trafficking risks in Rohingya camps.
FSTIP has also learned from BCTIP’s adaptions to COVID and is considering making job skill trainings more flexible permanently. This would allow survivors to both hold a part-time job and receive job skill trainings to boost retention in this program. The program has recommended psychosocial counseling to return in-person as soon as possible so survivors can be accurately assessed and receive more thorough treatment. Survivors sometimes have difficulty accessing smart phones or computers with which to attend online counseling, resulting in half-sessions or missed appointments.
I was excited to begin work on FSTIP after reading so much about the special TIP tribunals established by BCTIP. Unfortunately for me, the project had just begun, so I was only able to work administratively on project start-up. I edited documents written by the Bangladeshi team for correctness and style and created documents summing up successes and identifying areas for improvement. The most helpful thing I did for the team was create an excel sheet to be used for the next six years to track documents that need to be written and sent to USAID. In this phase of the project all the team members were very busy with hiring the in-country team and figuring out an office rental space, bank accounts, and security plans to guard against COVID, natural disasters, and terrorism. There is very little substantive work to be done in the weeks I have left at the NGO, but now that I am familiar with the situation in Bangladesh I plan to keep up with the project’s successes via their website in the coming months and years.