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
Sharing Mentoring Experiences
Sharing Mentoring Experiences

Coming up to our 12th year, HERA faces many of the same struggles and challenges in starting and growing our own organisation as the women entrepreneurs we support face with their ventures.  We advise women trafficking survivors in our entrepreneurship program to: "take risks that you can afford to fail."   Taking risks and being ready to fail is an inevitable part of being entrepreneurial.  At HERA we have had our own share of failures that have propelled us forward.  Here are just five of our "Fail Forward" lessons:

(1) Breaking Even - Only after two years were we breaking even and obtaining funds from outside donors rather than primarily using our own resources to run HERA.  Regardless of our track record, HERA's new programs in Paris (starting this year) and Seattle (last year) have demanded the same investment of personal time and financial resources for these new start ups.  It would be lovely to start new operations with all resources fully in place.  However, having to invest one's own resources and raise funds forces us to be competitive, demonstrate value, and meet a real demand for our services.

(2) Understanding the Client -- We should know our clients well: their histories, motivations, and needs. Working with only one safe house for trafficked women at first we thought our clients would all fit the profiles of these women.  However, when encouraged to work with another charity supporting women living on the streets, we realised that many women trafficked within the UK had different experiences and profiles. They were not necessarily defined as "trafficked" even if their situations and experiences fit the Palermo Definition of Trafficking. Some had suffered violence in care homes or in prostitution.  Over time, we expanded our assumptions and understanding about who was trafficked and how. Rather than only focusing on women who came from the national referral system, we began working with many different partners, including the National Health Services (NHS) and with women survivors themselves to identify and enrol participants. We also realised that in providing an official certificate for our training that we had to avoid stigmatizing the women by identifying them as trafficked.  The women themselves demanded to be treated as entrepreneurs.  Today we define our target groups as: "women survivors of trafficking, conflict and other forms of violence and exploitation as well as young women at risk to these situations."  We also have participants who because of sexual orientation, have suffered violence in their origin countries. Since our goal is to prevent trafficking and retrafficking, we help all at risk and/or who have survived such trauma, pursue their career aspirations and ventures.

(3) Valuing People and Developing Systems - As a small operation working on entrepreneurship, we require not only technical expertise, which we obtain from business volunteers and consultants, but also a level of personal commitment that goes way beyond 9-5 day or 40 hour work week. However, we can only offer charity rates to consultants. Therefore, our work has had to align well with people's own passions and goals.  After a few years, most people also want and/or need to move on to avoid burn out and the secondary trauma that one can develop from helping trafficking survivors.  As a venture, we have had to develop transition strategies so that those taking over continue and build on the earlier work.  When faced with gaps in services, we learned first hand the importance of documenting systems and procedures on line and to the extent possible, providing ongoing support and training through our extended networks.

(4) Branding, Meeting Unmet Needs and Innovating - As a charity we invariably face an underlying tension in that our public appeal is in assisting "trafficking victims".  While often asked about the women's stories, we seek to avoid the "voyeurism" of asking survivors to recount their prior experiences.  Such recounting is often retraumatising and can undermine the woman's own career plans. Trying to inform popular narratives on trafficking, however, is challenging. Much of the media reporting focuses on stories of individual abuse and/or criminal raids and prosecutions. We argue for engaging entrepreneurship and business acumen to counter the growing multi-billion business of trafficking and for addressing the underlying drivers fuelling its global networks.  As any small business, we need to prove to address an unmet need or demand effectively in face of a well organised, global and complex industry.  We also face the challenge of innovating the concept of engaging economic approaches and business expertise to stop trafficking and retrafficking.

(5) Taking Calculated Risks - A risk assessment is critical for a woman entrepreneur who may be investing all her resources in the business and whose family depends on her. The women enterpreneurs we support are sometimes criticised by loan officers and programs for being too risk adverse. We are sometimes criticised as well for not being expanding or growing fast enough.  We have opened and closed programs in Belgrade, Boston and Paris (and opened again in Paris).  Successful entrepreneurs take small risks all the time. Many will fail and restart the venture one or more times over.  However, none of us should risk so much that we cannot continue to do work that matters.

(6) Learning from Outliers - At the end of the entrepreneurship training, participants provide feedback on the course.  Their feedback is invariably highly positive so we started trying to understand more about the highs and lows that happen over the year during the mentoring period.  It is instructive to learn from the person whose mentoring relationship does not work or who was disatisfied with the training.  With the international grants program we evaluate most of the ventures one to two years later and try to understand why a few do not continue and/or the woman migrates.  There is also value in learning from those who do exceptionally well and why they succeed against all apparent odds.  As a group most HERA participants are outliers each one defying the odds in her own way.   

As entrepreneurial risk takers, we gain valuable insights from the HERA women entrepreneurs.   They demonstrate the courage and strength needed to continue even when they have already sacrificed and lost much.  As a group, these women entrepreneurs set a new standard in their commitment to persevere.

Many thanks to all our Donors, Volunteers, and Participants for your hard work, support, and expertise in preventing trafficking and re-trafficking!


[Photo captions for HERA's activities since our last Global Giving Report in July 2016]

London Entrepreneurship and Mentoring Program  - HERA's autumn program has included: (1) a "Careers Seminar" on managing time and personal boundaries and on building one's personal brand; and (2) "A Successful Entrepreneur's Story."  In addition HERA hosted a day long training for old and new mentors at Imperial Business School.  [photo 1]  

Paris Entrepreneurship Program - The program was launched for eight participants with the initial training sessions over six evenings and a Saturday are being held at Le Bus des Femmes.  Following this training a group of participants have been invited to attend Sciences Po Entrepreneurs training and incubator support for start ups.  [photo 2 - setting up for a Saturday training]

International Grants Program - New grants were made to women's ventures in Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and Armenia.  The women owners use the support for capital equipment to grow their ventures and employ more young women at risk. Some owners are themselves trafficking survivors.  In Armenia, in collaboration with Luys Foundation, HERA trainers also provided entrepreneurship training and mentoring for 12 young women at risk of trafficking.  [Photo 3 - a poultry venture in Moldova]

Preparing for the Paris Trainees
Preparing for the Paris Trainees
Poultry Venture in Moldova
Poultry Venture in Moldova
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Beekeeper in Armenia
Beekeeper in Armenia

The Second Quarter of 2016 has been busy and productive! The HERA teams ran an international grants competition in five countries, trained over 25 new mentors; and are currently providing entrepreneurship training for 40 women survivors of trafficking, conflict, and other forms of violence and exploitation at Imperial Business School.


In May HERA launched its 7th International Grants Competition (fourth on line) for Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine. These grants provide equipment for women’s ventures to generate new jobs and prevent dangerous migration, trafficking, and re-trafficking. Eight advisors across six countries volunteered time to score and read 97 grants. Over the next three months five teams of volunteers will assess the top ranked ventures in operation. This year’s grantees include preschools, agriculture, dairy, children’s toys and clothes, and beekeeping (see photo below). The women owners who receive an award will in turn train and employ more young women at risk. As Maria Kodua, one of last year’s successful ventures (nut production) who employs and trains refugee women in Georgia, wrote us:


Thank you for your email. Your grant really helped me to improve my product quality. I did not apply for a new grant because I want to give the chance to other Georgian small businesses from the Reap Gender Platform members. I want others to have these grants, I hope they send you good applications.


The quality of the applications from all five countries was high this year. In large part, this quality reflects the impressive support from local organisations, such as REAP, who recruited the ventures and are committed to helping these women owners grow their businesses.


In June HERA volunteers trained 25 new business mentors to partner with our new class of entrepreneurs. By July we had recruited 38 mentors to meet the needs of our largest class of women entrepreneurs ever. The three training sessions included coaching and mentoring techniques and partner organisation presentations (NIA and St Mary’s University) on trafficking, exiting prostitution, and the recovery process.


Currently HERA staff and volunteers are running our ninth UK annual three-week entrepreneurship program for 40 survivors of trafficking, conflict and exploitation at Imperial Business School. In addition, HERA volunteers in collaboration with Luys Foundation have organised a three day entrepreneurship training for 15 -20 young women at risk of trafficking in Yerevan, Armenia. HERA is also collaborating with Le Bus des Femmes and Sciences Politique in Paris to organise a five-day pilot training for 12 young women in precarious situations in late September.


The Imperial Entrepreneurship training, directed by Gokce Tuna, a doctoral candidate at Imperial Business School has featured sessions on assessing one’s Meyer Briggs profile and business/venture ideas, finance and budgeting, and presentation skills (see photo). This year’s class of 40 women originate from 20 different nationalities with the largest number coming from Nigeria (9), Albania (8), and UK (4). Referred by 12 partner charities, they range in age from 18-53 with an average age of 31.


As Grace, one African student wrote recently[1]:


I have just come out of an abusive relationship that lasted over 13 years and had two beautiful girls, who are 10 and 7 years. During that time I was a prisoner: I had no contact with the outside world; I had no voice; and I left with nothing, no clothes, no phone, and only one pair of shoes that I am wearing, but I am ok. I am happy. I have peace. I don't look at myself and say well I am a charity case. I am not a victim anymore if I have survived all that, I will survive the rest that comes my way.


Aniza, another student in this year’s class, originally came from South Asia to the UK to improve her English. She then planned to pursue an accounting degree. Her parents took a loan to support her graduate studies and she was the first in her family to attend university. In the UK she met Rabia, an older businesswoman from her home community. Rabia asked Aniza to look after her children while she travelled for work. Needing money for living expenses, Aniza agreed. When Rabia returned, she told Aniza that she would report her for working illegally and that Aniza would be deported. Aniza did not want to return home without fulfilling her parents’ plans for her. Using threats Rabia convinced Aniza to work 15 hours a day for her for two years for minimal pay. Aniza was not allowed to sit, take breaks, and barely had enough funds to eat. One day she was so tired that she fainted at a bus stop. A policewoman seeing Aniza’s condition, gave her a helpline number to call. It took Aniza another few weeks to have enough courage but eventually she made the call.


Each woman has a past history of enslavement, labour, and/or exploitation. Many have survived sexual exploitation. To understand what many young women from Albania have endured, we showed a short clip of “The Price of Sex” ( to the new mentors. We recommend this very realistic account to all who want to know more about this growing black market that generates profits of £98 billion per annum. As the short clip and the numbers suggest, trafficking will stopped without addressing the underlying economic incentives that put many women in harm’s way.


Once in the entrepreneurship programme, no one is compelled or even expected to tell her story in this program. Each woman in the programme is encouraged to focus on her own aspirations and to build on the strength and resilience that she has gained from surviving difficult past experiences.   While she may not want to start a business, her entrepreneurship skills will help her to find and develop a meaningful career path. This year women are planning careers and businesses in health, education, law, food services, fashion, beauty services, events planning, finance, and accounting.   All 40 have been matched now with a business mentor and for the first time, we are also trialling group mentoring for a few older women who have established career plans.


We thank all our supporters and volunteers who have made our work possible. This summer we have had volunteers from the UK, USA, and Italy working in our programmes. We also thank the professors from Cranfield and Imperial, private sector trainers, and entrepreneurs who continue to volunteer their time. Our thanks to the Salesforce team for teaching in the programme and for hosting a Summer Reception on behalf of HERA. Finally we thank each and every Global Giving contributor as your funding is supporting a new group of women entrepreneurs and mentors who will make a difference in stopping trafficking and re-trafficking.


[1] Names and some details are changed to protect identities.

HERA Entrepreneurship Class at Imperial
HERA Entrepreneurship Class at Imperial
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It was with great pleasure that I got to meet the inspiring HERA team and attend one of their entrepreneurship seminars at the Imperial College of London this January. Working to counter human trafficking, HERA strives to economically empower women who have either been victim of trafficking or are vulnerable to it. To do so, they provide these women with entrepreneurship training, professional mentoring, business seminars, and grants. Since 2010, they have provided over £70,000 worth of grants, and helped an estimated 500 young women obtain employment and entrepreneurial training.

By attending one of these seminars, I was able to witness first-hand the fantastic work done by HERA, noticing in particular the attention, hard-work, and passion put into this project by HERA employees and volunteers. Visa versa, the community of women who attended struck me with their outstanding engagement in the seminar, clearly enthusiastic about what they were a part of. In fact, while with the help of HERA many go on to become lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, and more, most of the women stay in touch with the community long after having completed their training. HERA seemed to me not only to be a source of professional support, but also a source of social support, inspiration, and empowerment.

It was a pleasure to get to meet this community and see HERA in action, and I could not be more supportive of the work they do.

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Celebrating International Women's Day
Celebrating International Women's Day

The first quarter of 2016 began with monthly career development and networking events for women survivors of trafficking, conflict, and exploitation. These events brought together a mix of past and present HERA students, HERA mentors, volunteers, supporters from the business sector, and business school students. Our flagship event this quarter was the Second Annual International Women’s Day panel on women breaking barriers traditional male industries. Turnout at all events this quarter was unprecedentedly high with active audience participation. A former HERA student reported that "this event gave me hope and courage again, I know I can keep going."


During this quarter HERA also ran our first Crowd Funding campaign of the year to which many of you generously contributed.  Thank you for your generosity!


 HERA celebrated International Women's Day to commemorate women's stories of struggle and success. The Panel of “Women Breaking Barriers” featured nine women working in sectors where women are still under-represented: policing, military, mining, construction, architecture, IT, medicine and management consulting. Over 80 people joined the event that Saturday afternoon. The ensuing discussion with lively participation from the audience extended a good half hour beyond the end time and finally had to be called off. Panelists discussed reasons for selecting the field, challenges faced and the importance of being supported by mentors and mentoring others to succeed. Professor Anandalingam, Dean of Imperial College Business School kindly moderated the panel.  The following are a few quotes from the speakers:


"There is a business case to be made for women's access to leadership in all sectors, including management consulting and construction" - Architect and construction project manager


"Women are channeled into particular careers but we need to realise what is important to us and what we are personally interested in" - High ranking former police officer


"When an older, high ranking woman is not that supportive of you, remember she has probably punched through an even thicker glass ceiling and is still dusting off the shards" – Former City Trader in Finance and Mining


HERA also participated in GlobalGiving UK’s "We Believe in Girls" campaign from 7 to 14 March in honour of International Women's Day. Thanks to the generosity of all HERA trustees; Cranfield Business School professors, staff, and alumna; and many kind private contributors, we raised almost £7,000 in one week. We also want to thank Gloria Steinem and her team who retweeted our campaign message!


First Wednesday Evening Business, Career and Networking Events


Each month HERA hosts career, entrepreneurship, and networking events for current and former students. At these events, leading experts in business and entrepreneurship share their expertise with the HERA women. This year we have been privileged to host three stimulating and thought provoking speakers.


In January, Kaldor Product Development Group's Commercial Director Zoë Corbishley spoke on business development strategies to advance one’s career or venture. Corbishley outlined the characteristics of successful marketing experts, networking and generating new business leads, pitching and presenting a project, and   developing new routes to the market.  


In February, entrepreneur and investor Javier Tordable, who brings extensive experience in the international financial services industry, is a passionate entrepreneur focusing on advisory and/or investment activities in SMEs and Internet start-ups. Tordable addressed the ABCs of entrepreneurship from concept stage and business plan to funding and execution.


In March, Dr Muhammad Azam Roomi, Director of the Executive MBA at Cranfield School of Management, presented strategies in spotting opportunities and generating ideas for entrepreneurial ventures through creativity and innovation. Dr Roomi has delivered training and development programmes for women's entrepreneurship in over 40 countries and provided interesting first hand examples to share, including from helping his own mother’s start up in Pakistan!


Upcoming Events on HERA's Calendar

Don't miss a HERA event, keep up with our website or sign up to our monthly newsletter!


Salesforce Careers Half Day  (30th March 2016, Salesforce Tower)


The Salesforce team will provide a training session for past and present HERA students at Salesforce Tower. HERA students will benefit from career development training, including CV writing, interview skills and public speaking. Several Salesforce managers are generously volunteering their time and expertise to this event.


Women and Diversity Live Crowdfunding Event (April 25th 2016, CMS Cannon Place)


The City Funding Network, city professionals who organise Crowd Funding sessions for social enterprises and charitable causes, selected HERA and two other enterprises to pitch at their live event entitled "Women and Diversity". Tickets may be purchased at CFN's website.


Entrepreneurship Training and Mentoring in London


HERA is currently recruiting a new cohort of students for our 2016 summer entrepreneurship training delivered in partnership with Imperial College Business School. HERA also partners with over 20 charities to identify survivors who are ready and want to take on this intensive “bootcamp” experience. Please encourage women, who fit the HERA profile, to register on our website.


HERA is also recruiting mentors for our professional mentoring programme, which matches business and other professionals with women graduates from the entrepreneurship training over a year’s time. Upcoming mentor training sessions will be in June 15, 18 and 22.  Please register online if you are interested in mentoring.


International Grants Competition


In April HERA will launch its Fourth International Grants Competition (and seventh year) to fund capital equipment for women entrepreneurs in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine. These grants allow the women venture owner to scale up their micro and small businesses. They in turn commit to employing and/or training young women at risk and survivors of human trafficking.


The HERA Team


The HERA Team is primarily made up of volunteers with two paid staff posts. In January, Luciana Tellez joined HERA as Head of Fundraising and Communications. She brings experience in the nonprofit sector, development and human rights. Gokce Tuna, who volunteered for two summers and is a doctoral candidate in business and international consultant, is organising this summer's entrepreneurship course. Artemis Panigyraki, also a PhD candidate at Imperial College Business School, continues as HERA’s Academic and Events Coordinator and is managing the 2016 entrepreneurship recruitment. Liis Kreegipuu continues to serve as Mentor Coordinator, leading the new recruitment and supporting mentor-mentee relationships. We are always looking for volunteers, so get in touch if you want to support HERA in a volunteer capacity!

IWD 2016 Fundraising Campaign
IWD 2016 Fundraising Campaign
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Thank you for your continued support for HERA! As 2015 draws to a close, we are reflecting on the record impact made this year and looking forward to an exciting new year ahead. 

In 2015, HERA funded 31 women-owned ventures in Central and Eastern Europe! During March-April, HERA held a Third Annual Grants competition, during which we received 94 applications. Following field assessments, HERA teams funded 31 ventures across 5 countries: Moldova (12); Armenia (10); Ukraine (6); Georgia (2); and Romania (1). Read about three of the ventures below: 

In Armenia, a young mother who started a preschool center for over 200 children is developing a nanny services venture. She is training young women to become qualified in-home childcare workers. She also places and follows up with the women and families to ensure all is working well. Her first training, held in November, included young women at risk of trafficking as well as recent unemployed graduates.

In Moldova, HERA has successfully supported greenhouse agricultural production. The far South is a tomato-growing region. A young couple met in Russia, where they migrated for work, married, and decided to return to their home village to start a tomato farm on land given as a wedding gift. They had already built the greenhouses and were into their second year of production, but wanted to increase their return. HERA contributed toward the cost of purchasing and installing a heating system. With the expanded production, they employed young women to tend and harvest their tomatoes.

In Ukraine, HERA's two projects directly support young women in the IDP/refugee settlements. One provides reproductive health training and counseling for refugee and returned trafficked women who become pregnant. The organizer provides prenatal care, training, and support and information to the women and has also developed relationships with the local hospital and medical teams. 

HERA’s vision is to prevent the growing business of trafficking and re-trafficking through women’s entrepreneurship. Women developing their own new businesses are the most effective in countering trafficking of young women for sexual and other forms of exploitation in their own communities. They can make and are making a difference by launching their own legitimate businesses. Many in turn employ and train more young women and thereby provide a serious alternative to the growing industries of dangerous migration and trafficking. 

Your support helps to make this vision a reality! We invite you to consider sponsoring a HERA entrepreneur this holiday season. Every gift you make – no matter the amount – will positively impact a woman’s life. Thank you for helping young women in harm’s way pursue their career aspirations and achieve economic autonomy!  

For USA donors: Maximize your giving this holiday season! Every recurring donation made in December will receive a one-time 100% match. Click here to give!

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*Please note that, in order to protect the identities of trafficking survivors in our programs, we do not publish their names or pictures. 


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HERA (Her Economic Rights and Autonomy)

Location: Paris - France
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @herequality
Project Leader:
Lynellyn Long
Sancerre, France
$148,921 raised of $200,000 goal
1,169 donations
$51,079 to go
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