Sep 25, 2017

Trends in Trafficking and Women's Entrepreneurship

Armenia Designer
Armenia Designer

The woman survivor of trafficking may have a different profile these days.  Women’s entrepreneurship in countries where HERA provides grants to prevent trafficking is also changing.  Organizationally HERA itself is changing to bring in a new generation of organizers and leaders. This quarter, our report will focus on some of these new trends in terms of the women HERA assists, how we work, and who we are as an organization. 

The young women survivors, who attended this past summer’s entrepreneurship program at Imperial Business School in London, came from 18 countries. They represented the most diverse class to date.  For the first time, the largest number came from Albania whereas those coming from Nigeria's northern and rural areas, decreased.  This year’s class profile resembled that of our first years, 2008 and 2009, of HERA's UK program rather than that of recent years.  The majority of young women were also educated and consequently had more of an academic focus than in recent years.  Their interests and reasons for enrolling in HERA ranged from improving their English language skills to opening a design business, requalifying for a law degree, or pursuing a doctorate in business. Used to classroom based learning, their attendance, excluding excused absences, was over 98%.  Several of the business professors and trainers noted that the women’s level of engagement was higher than anticipated, and they revised their presentations accordingly.  As in previous years, several women asked for more hands-on, finance training at the end of the course while others with a masters’ in economics or MBA background could have easily taught these sessions. The opportunity to practice English was critical for several young women living in safe houses.  The major difference with this year’s cohort, however, was that only a few have been granted asylum; and most are caught in lengthy asylum proceedings. Given their status they have not been able to work or enroll in a degree program after the HERA entrepreneurship training.  Thus, their business mentors face a challenge in helping these young women maintain their enthusiasm, confidence, and motivation.

These trends, particularly related to lengthening asylum periods, reflect the rise in immigration barriers in the UK and throughout the European Community.  Increasing barriers may be forcing more educated women to depend on traffickers’ services to migrate for work.  Likewise, young rural and refugee women without degrees and experience face stiffer migration barriers and may be reluctant to risk a negative trafficking decision.  With lengthier asylum decision periods and fears of rejection and deportation, more women may be working underground.  Given the uncertainty of the women’s future statuses, the final project for this year’s program was to develop a group venture so that the HERA participants would not be discouraged if they could not pursue their own microenterprise or other career plans in the near future. 

The average age of this year’s entrepreneurship program in London at 29.5 years was younger than in past years.  This younger trend reflected a deliberate decision of the HERA organizers to offer a separate program tailored to women trafficking survivors over 40 years of age.  Over the past few years, an increasing number of older women are escaping trafficking situations.  Their needs, demands, and how they learn best are often quite different from those of young women, who have an interest in pursuing further education and training and have less work experience. Instead of classroom based training at Imperial Business School, HERA UK is organizing a “Wise Women” program for women over 40 years at different work sites and places.  As one of our partners observed, many of the older women have no access to pensions so retirement is not an option and any income generating activities must be sustainable.  Providing ongoing technical and emotional support and networking specifically targeted to older women’s ventures and self-employment, as HERA France organized for several women this past year, will be critical to find and sustain their work. 

HERA France Association likewise is witnessing a need to develop new forms of support for several groups of refugee women and to offer training in both English and French.  Many of the women they plan to serve come from Nigeria, China, the Middle East, and South Asia. These groups of refugee women, particularly the Chinese, have prior entrepreneurship experience so they mainly require targeted assistance for organizing a microenterprise in the French context.  The HERA France Coordinator is investigating how best to assist these women to access the new procedure of "regularisation par le travail" so that they may continue to live and work in France.

Women's entrepreneurship is also changing In the countries, where HERA currently provides grants (mainly in the form of equipment) to women’s ventures. This support is intended to assist the ventures to scale up so as to provide employment and training opportunities for young women at risk of trafficking.  In Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, many women-owned ventures continue to be involved in food services and production, and textiles.  However, an increasing number of women entrepreneurs are leading agricultural ventures, particularly as men migrate to the Middle East and Russia for construction work. The diversity of agricultural products is also increasing and this year's grantees include wine, nut, corn, honey, wild herb, berry, and tea producers.  Young rural and urban women are increasingly involved in tech ventures and developing new apps.  Young women entrepreneurs are also more likely to utilize e-commerce and report selling their products on line to reach more distant markets.  For example, one of HERA's Armenian grantees, who was featured in Yerevan Fashion Week, sells her designer wear in Moscow. Tea and wild herb producers market their products through online outlets in the UK.  Women, who are trying to generate more employment in their communities, are organizing social enterprises.  While many of these social enterprises continue to focus on traditional handicrafts often produced by older women at home, young women leading these ventures are also developing products and services related to tourism; wild herb, lavender and tea production; printing; beekeeping; cultural icons; and nanny services.  

Access to new markets is critical for sustaining and growing these ventures. Most of the ventures that HERA supports remain as microenterprises that provide subsistence incomes.  Many women owners and their employees are thus obliged to find other employment and can only commit part-time to the ventures.  Training and expertise in marketing, selling and expanding one’s customer or client base are critical to their sustainability.  The microenterprises also need to grow by adding value.  In these uncertain times, no venture owner can afford to assume the sustainability of her customers or customer base.

In collaboration with the grants programs, HERA has developed training sessions for young women at risk of dangerous migration in Armenia. We have also organized networking events for our current and former grantees in Armenia and Moldova.  A second, follow up training on entrepreneurship for young women exiting an orphanage was recently held in Yerevan.  One of the most inspiring trainers and role model for others, was a 2016 HERA grantee, a young woman, who developed “BeeArt.”  This venture in rural Armenia produces beeswax candles, honeycomb, and other bee products that are sold in Yerevan, local markets, and trade fairs.  BeeArt also employs four women to produce the honey and products.  In the future, the international teams of volunteers plan to organize more combined training and networking events in several of the countries, where HERA provides grants to women entrepreneurs to prevent dangerous migration and trafficking. 

Being entrepreneurial, HERA is also changing and growing.  This year several trustees completed one or more five year terms. The HERA Board voted in new trustees with legal, marketing, investment, and financial expertise on both our French and UK Boards.   In June, Gwenaelle Pellerin, an Imperial MBA from Paris, became President of the French Association. In early July, Elise Do, a trustee, former mentor, and Imperial MBA, became Chair of the UK Board. They in turn are bringing on other new members, several of whom have volunteered in the past for HERA as mentors and trainers. Gokce Tuna, our UK Director, had to step down to complete her doctorate in business at Imperial.  In July, Sarah Videau, a Sciences Po masters graduate, who organised the Paris program last year, became the new UK Director.  Clemence Tondut, another Sciences Po graduate, took over organizing the French program. This coming Friday, September 29, HERA France is organizing its first on line seminar on trafficking to increase awareness of this issue in France (see link below). Finally, the HERA teams are very happy to report that our “Prevent Trafficking in Women Thru Entrepreneurship” project has been selected as GlobalGiving’s high-impact "Project of the Month" for October 2017.  Many thanks to all our donors and volunteers for your support!

25 September 2017 

BeeArt Training in Yerevan
BeeArt Training in Yerevan
Nut Producer in Georgia
Nut Producer in Georgia


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.

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