The third and final project I will work on this summer is called Ashshash: For Men and Women Who Have Escaped Trafficking. This project is currently in full swing and in the midst of providing support to returned trafficking victims to help them reintegrate into society. Trafficking is poorly understood in local communities and it is difficult for traumatized victims to return from their trafficking experience into a community that does not understand or blames them for getting into such a bad situation. Often riddled with debt from paying for their faux work visas and flights, survivors need support and career training so they can overcome the past and greet the future happily.
Ashshash provides these trainings and counseling services through partnerships with local Bangladeshi stakeholders. I had the opportunity to attend (from my apartment in Virginia’s lower peninsula) a virtual Gender Equality and Inclusion training for Dhaka service providers. The training was hectic with lengthy translations between the English presenter to the Bangla speaking attendees. I had expected the service providers that aid trafficking victims to be more sensitive to trauma and gender issues, but some showed a very poor understanding of modern gender sensitivity. The more vocal psychosocial counselors and job skill trainers in particular had disdain for training women in jobs they thought better suited for men. Worse still is the reluctance of the women themselves to seek better paying “masculine” careers. For sure, there is more work to be done to reduce such basic sexism among job trainers and counselors to make survivor services equitable.
The Ashshash project is less legally focused than the other two projects I assisted with and I was often called to work on the Fight Slavery and Trafficking-in-Persons (FSTIP) project in the latter half of the summer, so I did not get to do much meaningful work with Ashshash. Project start-up for FSTIP was an “all hands on deck” situation and I of course help out wherever I am needed. I did similar work for Ashshash as I did with FSTIP like collecting highlights and learnings from field reports and editing documents. I also learned to process employee payments with the Winrock payroll system to resolve some outstanding wage issues. It was enjoyable for me to attend a substantive event in-between my work with the closeout of Bangladesh Counter Trafficking-in-Persons and FSTIP start-up.