Winrock International's Ashshash project, supported by Switzerland, on Thursday collaboratively organised a stakeholder engagement session with the National Association of Small Cottage Industries of Bangladesh (NASCIB) and the Bangla-German Sampreeti (BGS), with the intent to empower human trafficking survivors at Cox's Bazar.
The session aimed to forge strategic win-win partnerships with the stakeholders by contributing to their core business interests, and by addressing the developmental objectives of the project and the relevant local industries, said a press release.
The event was inaugurated by Dipta Rakshit, team leader, Winrock International – Ashshash project; Faruk Omar, training and employment manager, and Ashraful Islam, private sector engagement manager.
Following a brief introduction of the project and its activities across various vulnerable communities in Cox's Bazar, the project's key social protection partner and training service provider for the district, Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association (BNWLA) and Bangla-German Sampreeti (BGS), respectively, highlighted their specific roles.
BNWLA earmarked considerable success in the reintegration process of a survivor via psychosocial counselling and the provision of additional services such as medical and legal support, in addition to the repatriation of survivors trafficked internationally or transnationally. BGS based its accomplishments via successful and sustainable wage-based employment and self-employment placements; as a direct result of the skill-based and entrepreneurial training facilitated by the organisation, the press release added.
Through the session, various support areas within the private sector for skilled wage-based employment and enterprise development were explored, along with the potential for a shared value partnership to create opportunities for sustainable livelihood for the survivors of human trafficking.
The trauma inflicted by their respective instances of exploitation and entrapment were highlighted, along with the factors that imparted their Trafficking in Persons (TIP) cases, and the subsequent processes of social reintegration and economic empowerment directly facilitated by the BNWLA and BGS.
Additionally, emerging business opportunities at Cox's Bazar were identified with the intent to alleviate institutional and procedural challenges of collaboration; through which private sector partners can be viewed as thought leaders and innovators, who can successfully and sustainably drive growth at district levels, the press release further said.
Cox's Bazar Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Abu Murshed Chowdhury (Khoka) noted his organisation's focus primarily centered on closely working to ensure entrepreneurship development of vulnerable populaces – a key point of potential collaboration with the project's TSP at Cox's Bazar. Thus, he aims to promptly integrate TIP survivors with the programming.
He also highlighted that his organisation, in collaboration with International Labour Organisation (ILO), government service providers, and Access to Education (A2I), will create a platform to facilitate employment via various databases of vulnerable communities.
Shafiqul Islam, president, Rotary Club of Cox's Bazar, earmarked his experience in working with vulnerable communities across the district; subsequently pledging to support the Ashshash project in combatting TIP (of all forms) across Cox's Bazar.
Cox's Bazar Women Chamber President Jahanara Islam highlighted instances of smuggling (of substances) as precursors to human trafficking amongst vulnerable communities, and how it is vital to ensure employment and the subsequent provision of support for women from these communities.
NASCIB President Mirza Nurul Ghani Shovon and Senior Vice President Mohammad Mujibur Rahman pledged the origanisation's solidarity with the Ashshash project in the collective effort to combat and eventually eradicate TIP across the country.
Mirza Nurul Ghani Shovon noted that it is crucial to learn soft and technical/hard skills to ensure sustainable employment. He proposed to further boost Ashshash's awareness programming across various mediums, and to integrate skills development via the "Asset Project" which will be introduced in Bangladesh, courtesy of the World Bank.
The session ended on a high note as the NASCIB president pledged to ensure membership for 50 beneficiaries of the project from Cox's Bazar; subsequently ensuring their entitlement to all forms of government support through NASCIB.