Dr Meena Poudel, former Director of Oxfam in Nepal and an alumna of Newcastle University, was so inspired by the work of Professors Nina Laurie and Diane Richardson, and Dr Janet Townsend, that she decided to assist by offering her expertise.
The story begins back in 1996 when 148 Nepalese girls and women were rescued from trafficking in a police raid on an Indian brothel. It would have been easy to assume their fortunes were about to change. However, this was just the start of a traumatic new chapter in their lives, which saw them stigmatised, labelled as prostitutes and HIV carriers.
On return to their homeland they struggled to regain self-esteem, social acceptance and even basic human rights.
But this particular group of women from Nepal – aged just 15 to 18 years-old – fought back, setting up the first ever non-governmental organisation to be founded by survivors of trafficking, which they boldly named Shakti Samuha – or Power Group.
Newcastle University’s major research project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and carried out in partnership with the women of Shakti Samuha and the International Organisation for Migration Mission in Nepal, was one of the first in the world to systematically analyse women’s experiences after they have been trafficked.
The Newcastle team works with the survivors themselves, helping women build new lives and changing public perceptions about survivors of trafficking.
The project has been instrumental in the creation of the Human Trafficking and Transportation Control Act, part of the Interim Constitution of Nepal (2007), which is designed to protect the rights of women returned from trafficking and to prevent them from being exploited.
“Our project has been a co-production from the beginning”, says Dr Poudel. “These women have such incredible spirit and determination to create new lives after suffering horrendous experiences that most of us cannot even comprehend. We are proud to be playing a part in helping them to explore the opportunities they so richly deserve.”
Find out more about the Post Trafficking in Nepal research.