Apply to Join
Jun 27, 2017

Changing Demand in Tough Times

Ten Mile Run
Ten Mile Run

In recruiting 36 women for the upcoming Entrepreneurship Training and Mentoring Programme, the HERA team has witnessed some dramatic shifts in the profiles of trafficked women.  The most obvious shift is that far fewer Nigerian women (only two registered to date) and many more Albanian women (over a quarter of the class) have registered.  The women still come from over 15 countries but this year the majority comes from Central and Eastern Europe versus countries in Africa. The women range in age from 19 – 42; however, most are in their 20s and the average age is 28.9 years. Another significant difference is that almost all are awaiting asylum and cannot yet work in the UK.  What is most striking is that almost all have attended and/or hold university and other advanced degrees.  Three have attended law courses and one a masters’ in finance. Despite their youth, most have significant work experience already. As our second year, university intern remarked, “these women are far more qualified than I am!” 

Given these profiles of young women with significant education, expertise, and experience, what is generating this new demand and how should HERA respond?  Some of the shift in demand reflects the UK Government’s focus on working with the Nigerian Government to shut down the trafficking streams, in which domestic slavery predominated, between the two countries.  Women trafficked for domestic abuse are usually enslaved as young girls and taken out of school.  The Government’s law enforcement effort has changed this official caseload but may also have driven the Nigerian caseload underground.  With increased refusals of asylum claims and deportations, young Nigerian women are less likely to enter the Government's National Referral Mechanism through which many women are referred to HERA.  With Brexit and rising anti-immigrant sentiment, current trafficking streams receiving official attention may again be from Central and Eastern Europe (as we saw in HERA’s early years).   Another potential impact of Brexit may be an increase in irregular migration and trafficking (Human Trafficking Foundation, Spring 2017).  Prior to Brexit, many women from that region could potentially enter legally through one of the EC countries.  The impact of increased irregular migration is that traffickers gain more control over the migrants.

To respond to the new demand, the HERA team is increasing the academic rigor and intensity of this summer's entrepreneurship training at Imperial Business School.  This year’s training, which will be held from 3-21 July, will provide sessions on Finance at a higher level than in the past.  We will hold three intensive sessions on finance taught by a Cranfield professor, a former Imperial MBA Director, an MBA, and an entrepreneur.  Another change is that in recruiting women for the programme, we have asked all to consider different career options no matter where they eventually land.  Since some may return to their home countries, we also hope to find ways to support safe and productive returns.   Finally, a major change in this year’s curriculum is that we are asking all women to work on developing a group venture so that they gain experience in team work.  Given lengthy asylum waits, many women may not be able to embark on their own careers immediately and should not feel discouraged in the process.

This summer’s programme also includes several interesting field trips, including our traditional afternoon at Burough Market to analyse the vendors’ businesses, supply chains and marketing strategies.  The women will attend a half day at Salesforce in Heron Tower in the City to learn about work and careers.  Toward the end of the course, the women will visit a fashion factory in London that is a social enterprise.    During their lunch hours, they will be encouraged to visit the annual Saatchi Gallery summer pavilion and explore Hyde Park and the nearby museums. 

As in the past, we have recruited a very able, professional group of mentors both women and men.  The 32+ mentors will attend three training sessions in late June and early July.  They will then be matched according to common professional interests with their mentees who they meet on July 12th at Imperial Business School.  In our interviews with this year’s class of women, we asked each one about having a mentor. In most cases, the mentoring experience, which continues over a year’s time, remains one of the main draws to HERA’s programme. 

The recruitment for this year’s programme has been easier in the past because after ten years in London, HERA’s work is widely known amongst our partner charities.  Over 12 charities and an NHS Trust have referred women to this year’s programme.  Many counselors actively helped in identifying and supporting the women’s applications.  We especially want to thank Medaille and PanArts, for their active support and engagement as well as all the counsellors, who best understand when women may benefit from this course.  All have made excellent referrals this year.

To help fund this summer’s programme, many of our sponsors generously supported the London 10 Mile Charity Run that nine members of the HERA Community ran in early June in Richmond Park.  Our running team included mentors, organisers, trustee, former student, two new volunteers, and a spouse.  We were cheered on by two HERA organisers.  Every team member finished the race and we raised over GBP 2000 for this event.  Many, many thanks to all our supporters!

In addition to working to prevent re-trafficking and reintegrate survivors in the UK, HERA’s international Grants programme has released its 8th International Grants Competition for Central and Eastern Europe.  With these grants, we provide support to women-owned ventures to increase vulnerable, young women’s training and employment to prevent trafficking in that region.  In June, HERA France also completed its first pilot entrepreneurship training programme for eight survivors in Paris.  The HERA Coordinator also matched six of the students with mentors.  Written feedback from those who completed the mentoring was that the “mentoring was very useful”, they received “good practical information” and they “appreciated the monthly meetings that the Coordinator organised.” As one mentee wrote, “they helped us keep a structure for the development of our projects.”

Given difficult and uncertain times, HERA is fortunate to organise our 10th Year in London with Imperial Business School and 17th Entrepreneurship training worldwide.  We depend entirely on private support. Thank you for helping to sustain and grow HERA’s work to prevent trafficking and retrafficking of women through entrepreneurship and good business alternatives.  Recently one of our referral clinical psychologists wrote, “Terrible times. Thank heavens for HERA to remind us all what hope feels like before we forget!”

Mar 29, 2017

HERA Participates in the Little-by-Little Campaign

HERA France Diploma Ceremony
HERA France Diploma Ceremony

HERA France Project

“Thank you! Thank you very much!” - E. 

“I never thought I could do something like that at this point in my life… But I am!” - F.

This year HERA France has piloted our first program in Paris with six women! Since the program started they have all developed strong bonds of friendship, support and advice as they were maturing their entrepreneurial spirit and developing their expertise. 

We had the opportunity to work with the entrepreneurship branch of Sciences Po Paris to provide the best training possible for our mentees. Since then two women have found a job (one unfortunately did not have her contract renewed), one has continued training courses to pass the national administrative exams, one is quite far advanced in developing a formal business plan and is ready to kick off her venture, and two are advancing slowly as they already have jobs and thus, have less time to dedicate themselves to their ventures. However, they are determined to launch their ventures in the coming year. 

In addition, HERA France has formed partnerships with two major organizations in Paris: KIRON Open Higher Education, which helps refugees get an education in France, and Les Amis du Bus des Femmes, which helps ex-prostitutes to find careers they want to succeed. 

In September, HERA France is launching its new program! We will welcome twenty women into two groups, the first one French speaking, the other one in English - to address the needs that we have witnessed in Paris. As always, we will aim to help women realize their dreams through a combination of personal mentorship and entrepreneurship training. 

The Little-by-Little Campaign will help us get started for this exciting new chapter! It is especially design for contributions under $50. And, Global Giving is matching every contribution, no matter how small or big, up to 50%! Any contribution is welcome and will be entirely dedicated to launch our new program. Your support matters to us.

Jan 13, 2017

Preventing Cycles of Trafficking and Retrafficking

HERA Entrepreneurship Scarf
HERA Entrepreneurship Scarf

This past quarter, HERA teams worked hard. The UK team held exciting, well attended monthly career seminars at Imperial Business School, including one on “Doing Business with the British”, a picnic in Hyde Park, our Annual Holiday Party, and a second mentor training.  The international teams distributed 36 new grants to women’s ventures in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine to prevent trafficking and re-trafficking of young women at risk. To date, a total of 174 grants have generated at least 329 new jobs for young women in Eastern Europe at an average cost of € 345.92 per job created. With Le Bus des Femmes, the French coordinator organized a preliminary entrepreneurship training for seven women survivors and one man and two mentoring groups. With Sciences Po Entrepreneurs, she also organized the first Babel entrepreneurship course for five of the participants, who are starting new ventures.

HERA prioritizes prevention and on improving women’s lives in the present and going forward. We believe that women have the right to choose whether they wish to share their backstories.  When approached about doing research to inform the UK Government’s campaigns to prevent trafficking for domestic slavery of Nigerian women, the HERA UK team asked if any participants, remaining completely anonymous, wanted to share their experiences.  Ten women who had completed HERA’s entrepreneurship training, mentoring, and career seminars in different years volunteered. Each one said she wanted to prevent others from being trafficked. Their observations and experiences are also informative for our own work ahead. 

Ranging from 22 to 46 years of age, they were trafficked to the UK from as young as 11 up to 35 years of age. They came from five different Nigerian states and Benin and are at different stages in their immigration proceedings -- from appealing or awaiting an asylum decision to obtaining indefinite leave to remain and applying for UK citizenship.  They have varying responses about returning to Nigeria ranging from being willing to return to terrified of the prospect.

Girls are particularly vulnerable to trafficking if orphaned or they have lost a father, and when the household suffers an economic downturn.  As one interviewee observes, “My Uncle took over because the law favors men when it comes to taking care of children. They took me from my mother.” Parents usually believed they are helping their daughter’s educational prospects while relatives are more likely to sell the child knowingly for domestic servitude. 

The traffickers in these stories include a Nigerian government official, minister, UK immigration employee, and wealthy Nigerian lawyer. Connections and money are needed to obtain a passport (usually false) and UK tourist visa.  As one young woman observes, “My Uncle knew people inside the Embassy so the process went incredibly easily and quickly compared to others’ experiences. My Uncle clearly had inside support to make the system work for him.” 

Going abroad may seem better than living in an abusive household or on the streets in Nigeria. Most are initially excited about coming to “study in London” so do as told at customs.   The reality on arrival is quite different.  One young woman recounts, “I lived in the same room as the kids’ bunk beds and had to be up by 5 am to get them ready, clean, cook, work, go to College, etc. If I slept in, was late, my work was not good enough, I was beaten, oftenMy aunt provided me with a bus pass. I had no money.  I could trust no one. If I was late coming home, or she saw me speaking to others in College, I was beaten.”

Escaping slavery in London is surprisingly difficult. Many other women (not just Nigerians) may be caught in these situations.  As one woman remembers, “I used to cry on the streets in London and no one could hear me.  I would talk to people and they did not hear me.”  Given a prevailing belief that children are to be seen and not heard as well as intimidation and threats of violence from the person in power, girls and young women fear to seek help.  One is told not to open the door to the postman or leave the premises. All report being isolated.

Officials may also fail to act. Without legal status, the woman is particularly vulnerable. One woman reports, “I came to London when I was still a child.  Two months after my arrival, a social worker visited me and there were signs that something was not right. My situation could have been spotted earlier.”   Another observes, “I told the GP that I felt suicidal. She gave me antidepressants, the number to the Samaritan’s and advised me to go to the Citizens Advice Bureau. I went to the CAB but they said they could not help me because of my status.”

These women eventually escape by having the courage to leave with or without help of family and friends.  Some report escaping as a matter of survival.  Even after having escaped, waiting for asylum makes women vulnerable to further exploitation and abuse.  Housing is expensive and services, limited. Some fear that their traffickers will find them again.  One asks, “Why is my trafficker free to come and go but I am in limbo?

Waiting also has adverse psychological consequences.  Two survivors feel suicidal. All report being depressed about not being able to work officially or advance their formal education and training.  They tell us that HERA’s entrepreneurship training, mentoring and career seminars have been critical for feeling worthwhile and for not giving up.  One woman explains that with the mentoring and support she receives, “I have hope here that I can become something. My dreams are not dead. I want to become a midwife.”  

If her asylum claim is not accepted, one woman observes, “Going back to Nigeria will be dangerous because as my family once said, it would be easier for them to kill me there.  Not just that I have no one and absolutely no resources.” She is starting a venture on line. For safe returns to Nigeria, though she will need new social networks, access to training, and support to reintegrate.  A s HERA teams have found in Central and Eastern Europe, with grant support and technical assistance, courageous young women are employing their skills and ambitions to start successful ventures and careers.  Without either the hope of asylum or support for a safe landing, the cycle of trafficking for domestic slavery and sexual exploitation is likely to continue.  

Thank you for your support to our work and most of all for your support to these young women.  Here’s to doing more together in 2017 to preventing trafficking and re-trafficking!  

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.