From Nightmares to Dreams Coming True: Building a Sustainable Future for Survivors of Human Traffick
Updated: Mar 28
Human trafficking survivors are faced with challenges while accessing the labour market and securing sustainable employment opportunities. This paper brings the experience of “EmpowerFULL” (FuqiPLOTË – in Albanian), a three phase socio-economic empowerment model which assists in the economic reintegration process of survivors of human trafficking through capacity building sessions and mediation in the labor market for to access sustainable employment opportunities. The first and second phase of the program was piloted with (n=10) girls and women survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking in Albania. Additionally, this paper presents an effective way of working closely with survivors to identify and break any visible and invisible barriers in their personal development and employment process. The analysis is based on the Ubuntu pillars of self confidence and resilience by looking at the personal development process of the participants through the Ubuntu values perspective.
Reintegration is a process which aims to place survivors in a safe environment that meets the conditions for physical and mental well-being (Andrijasevic & Mai, 2016; Surtees, 2015). Also, it is the first step which determines the willingness of trafficking survivors to re-establish their ties with the community, or build a new life in a different community (Surtees, 2015; Muraya & Fry, 2016).
The process of reintegration combines a series of interventions, which aim to increase access to vocational training, employment, and sustainable income (Surtees, 2017).
Additionally, interventions might include personal development opportunities aiming to strengthen self-esteem and maintaining interpersonal relationships (Agolli & Bruci, 2019; Muraya & Fry, 2016).
A study on the reintegration process of victims of human trafficking from Albania conducted by Ramaj (2021) found that after the rehabilitation period in emergency shelter, victims were faced with similar challenges to the ones they had when they rescued from trafficking. Lack of employability skills and an unstable labor market play a crucial role in the process of reintegration and its effectiveness, since lacking a sustainable income increases the risk of trafficking (Meshkovska, Bos, & Siegel, 2021).
Investing in the creation of sustainable job opportunities has a critical role in preventing any forms of modern slavery. Accessibility and sustainability in the labor market does have a positive impact on the reintegration of survivors of modern slavery as well, by contributing to a smoother transition from the post-trafficking period to employment and securing sustainable income. For example, a Thomson Reuters Foundation study (2016) found that the risk of re-trafficking increases by 80% when the reintegration process does not include access to sustainable job opportunities.
The study raises concerns related to the accessibility of the labor market for survivors of human trafficking, especially in cases where survivors lack education and employment skills.
EpowerFULL(FuqiPLOTË- in Albanian) is a socio-economic empowerment model which assists in the economic reintegration of survivors of human trafficking through capacity-building sessions and the provision of sustainable employment opportunities in Albania.
We work together with survivors to identify and break any visible and invisible barriers in their personal development and employment process. The intervention is based on three objectives. First, to assist in the financial independence of trafficking survivors from state and non-state organizations. Second, strengthen the personal development and leadership skills of survivors. Third, to seek the advancement of survivors’ economic empowerment and equality as a priority for the social protection policies in Albania.
The model was piloted in 2021 with (n=10) girls and women survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking in Albania. During the first phase, 10 participants took part in a two-month intensive training program on personal and career development.
The program included sessions on soft skills, assertiveness, self-esteem, skills exploration, setting boundaries, visualization, and creating new habits by challenging the “victim narrative”. At the end of the sessions, 90 % of the participants successfully completed the first phase and were eligible to embark on the second phase.
During the second phase, participants were financially supported to attend vocational training courses and access tools that would support their employment skills. A personalized growth plan was developed based on the skills and aspirations identified for each participant during the first phase of the program. 30% of the participants were supported with technology assets including laptops and tablets. 20% signed up for vocational courses and were equipped with tools needed to practice their skills, 30% set up small enterprises mainly in the fashion industry, and the rest were supported with capacity building sessions on strengthening their portfolios and CVs.
The process of reintegration differs based on individual factors of each survivor (Surtees, 2017). Therefore, a one size fits all approach is not suitable for the reintegration of survivors. EmpowerFULL provides a tailor based approach, which puts the needs and aspirations of each participant at the center of the intervention.
A pilot model with a larger sample of participants would provide a more comprehensive overview of the challenges in the economic empowerment process of survivors of human trafficking. Since there is a gap in the literature regarding economic reintegration practices for survivors of human trafficking, further research could explore the impact of such initiatives, clustering them based on regions.
Further, there is insufficient data to support evidence-based interventions for economic reintegration initiatives. Future research could contribute to understanding the reintegration process by directly exploring the experiences of survivors through their perceptions.
Andrijasevic, R. , & Mai, N. (2016). Trafficking (in) Representations: Understanding the Recurrent Appeal of Victimhood and Slavery in Neoliberal Times. Anti-Trafficking Review, (7), 1-10.
Meshkovska, B., Bos, A. and Siegel, M. (2021). Long-term (re)integration of persons
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Muraya, D. N., & Fry, D. (2016). Aftercare Services for Child Victims of Sex Trafficking: A Systematic Review of Policy and Practice. Trauma, violence & abuse, 17(2), 204–220.
Nasufi, I.A., & Bruci, A. (2019). Government Responses to the Survivors of Trafficking in Human Beings: A Study of Albania. International Journal of Law and Political Sciences, 13, 489-499.
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Surtees, R. (2015). Beyond Trafficking. The re/integration of trafficking victims in the Balkans, 2007 to 2014. KBF and NEXUS Institute.
Surtees, R. (2017). Supporting the Reintegration of Trafficked Persons: A Guidebook for the Greater Mekong Sub-Region. Nexus Institute, UN-ACT and World Vision, Bangkok, p. 51.
Thomson Reuters Foundation. (2016). Jobs to Restore the Lives of Slavery Survivors and Prevent Re-trafficking. Trust Conference. Accessed February 02, 2022. http://www.trustconference.com/actions/i/?id=0598c1c2-c724-410d-a5e0-ac60fa9d7b8c.