Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship

by HERA (Her Economic Rights and Autonomy)
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Prevent Trafficking in Women thru Entrepreneurship
Vintner in Georgia
Vintner in Georgia

Since September, our HERA volunteers have supported some hard working and aspiring women entrepreneurs in Armenia, Georgia, France, Moldova, United Kingdom and Ukraine.  Through entrepreneurship training, mentoring and grants, we are working to prevent trafficking and retrafficking and to address all forms of violence against women.  We also provide equipment to promising women entrepreneurs to scale up their ventures so as to employ young women at risk of trafficking and retrafficking and other forms of violence.

Here is a brief update of our work since September in each country:

  • Armenia - With financing from Lily Xander Foundation, we awarded grants to 11 young Armenian women.  Gayane, a young woman entrepreneur, had organised "BeesArt."  She works with women in her region to produce beeswax products, which she sells in local and regional markets.  We also gave equipment to a group of young women entrepreneurs in a remote mountain village. They are gathering, producing and packaging herbal teas. All knew women in their region who had been trafficked.  We provided a grant to a local NGO trainer who works with young Syrian women refugees, who have fled to  Armenia, and with other ethnic minority women to produce ornaments to sell in the annual Yerevan holiday market. In collaboartion with Luys Foundation, during our visit, we trained 12 women on entrepreneurship in Yerevan.  The trainees were primarily young women who had recently exited an orphanage and two Armenian social workers, who want to promote women's entrepreneurship.
  • Georgia - We awarded grants to 11 Georgian women entrepreneurs.  In Georgia many young women from rural areas seek employment in the two major cities, Tbilisi or Batumi.  When they fail to find work, they may be trafficked initially to Russia, Turkey or the Middle East.  As we saw this past summer, some young women were also trafficked to London. We collaborated with USAID's REAP (Restoring Efficiency  to Agricultural Production) to identify promising agricultural ventures as Georgia is primarily an agricultural country.  Baia, one of the young women grantees, has opened a guesthouse at her family's winery. She employs and trains local, young women and is herself involved in her family's wine production.  At the end of the visit, we organised a celebration for all the women grantees at REAP's office in Tbilisi. 
  • France - In collaboration with Le Bus des Femmes, we provided another round of intensive entrepreneurship training for five aspiring women enterpreneurs in Paris.  We also organised an online seminar on the trafficking of women in France and lessons learned from our pilot training this past year.
  • Moldova - We provided grants to 11 Moldovan women. Moldova has one of the highest trafficking rates in the world and an estimated one in 100 Moldovan may have been trafficked.  One of our grantees was a 21 year old woman who had returned from abroad. She offers the only pedicure and nail services in Cahul and currently averages 45 clients per month.  We bought her a pedicure chair. Whilst in Moldova, we also collaborated with Centrul Regional de Devoltare Economica, the Regional Medical College, and Fermeriul du Sud to offer a one day training workshop to 57 young Moldovans (many at risk of trafficking) on entrepreneurship.  Our presenters  included a past HERA grantee, who came from quite far, to share her experiences and expertise.
  • United Kingdom (UK) - In the UK, Sarah Videau, our staff director, organised 24 hours of intensive entrepreneurship training over several weekends for five older women survivors of trafficking and violence (ranging from 37 to 64 years of age). All women in our new "Wise Women" program wanted to launch their own business and had prior experience and/or a venture idea. We also continued to provide monthly, evening seminars for the 36 young women and their mentors from the summer on entrepreneurship and career topics.  Some 20 women survivors attended these seminars. Our new group of UK business volunteers are also mentoring the summer class of 36 young women survivors.
  • Ukraine - We awarded grants to three Ukrainian women entrepreneurs. One of our entrepreneurs helped to organise a HERA event to assess young Ukrainian refugee women's interest in our entrepreneurship training.  When we invited refugee women at less than a day's notice to a HERA pilot entrepreneurship training, 27 young women came.  They asked for more training and promised to bring many more, young women to the next round.  We plan to return in early 2018 to award more grants and to provide a longer training for up to 60 young refugee women.

We promoted women's entrepreneurship in many parts of Europe this autumn to support women's autonomy and prevent all forms of violence against women.  We plan to do more work ahead in all six countries and are working with potential partners to organise a new HERA program in NYC.  We depend entirely on your private contributions and in kind volunteer support to run all our programs.  Please consider donating to HERA in the upcoming "Giving Tuesday Campaign" and this year's "Holiday Season".    

In this holiday season, we also extend our greetings and thanks to our donors for your generous support, to our volunteers for all you do for our programs, to our partners who make our work so much better, and to the young women entrepreneurs for your courage and determination! You are all helping to provide sound economic and entrepreneurial alternatives to trafficking and retrafficking and to all forms of violence against women.  We wish you all a very good Holiday Season ahead!

Sewing Venture in Moldova
Sewing Venture in Moldova
Silage Producer in Georgia
Silage Producer in Georgia
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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

Links:

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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!”

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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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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!  

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HERA (Her Economic Rights and Autonomy)

Location: Paris - France
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Twitter: @herequality
Project Leader:
Lynellyn Long
Sancerre, France
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