By Shyam Pokharel
Samrakshak Samuha Nepal (SASANE) is a survivor-led organization that was established in 2008 under the founding principle that women survivors of human trafficking have immense potential to combat the exploitation of Nepalese women and girls and to create social change. Founded in Kathmandu and later expanding to Pokhara and ten mountain villages, the organization is based on four key and interrelated programmes: Paralegal, Sisterhood of Survivors (SOS), School Awareness, and Community Outreach. These programmes were created through an innovative strategy combining paralegal training, small business development, school awareness, and community outreach. These independent programmes assume a rights-based approach to break the cycles of exploitation and victimization, increase women’s access to justice, and reintegrate survivors into society as valued and respected members.
SASANE envisions a Nepal where each survivor is equipped with self-esteem and the skills and knowledge necessary to become a leader in her chosen field. We aim to achieve this goal by consulting and engaging with trafficking survivors in anti-trafficking activities and decision-making roles across the organization.
To create varied job opportunities for female survivors of trafficking, SASANE formed SASANE Sisterhood Trekking and Travels Pvt. Ltd in 2016. This is a for-profit, travel company which trains female human trafficking survivors as trekking and tour guides to lead tours through rural mountain villages of Nepal.
SASANE now uses a hybrid for-profit/non-profit model to finance our women-led trekking, which is a tour for-profit company, as well as non-profit programmes. This hybrid model achieves significantly greater sustainable social and economic impact compared to other business models. The non-profit provides human capital in exchange for financial support from the for-profit initiatives.
SASANE has reintegrated 371 female survivors of human trafficking into the workforce by training them to become certified paralegals or tour/trekking guides, and offering education in the field of law, journalism and social work. SASANE coordinates with the Nepalese police and local government stakeholders thereby advocating and lobbying about gender equal rights and their effective implementation. SASANE has open doors of employment for female survivors of trafficking—motivating them to achieve their dreams and live a free and dignified life.
With achievement comes challenges, and there were many on the way. We were accused of highlighting false case stories of female survivors and ignoring the fact that human trafficking is a very sensitive issue in a developing country like Nepal. The challenges for an organization to work with female survivors of human trafficking, who are compelled to live in shame and distress at all times, was also felt to have been dismissed. However, the ongoing support and motivation from our donors and unlimited compassion and dedication from our survivor sisters has encouraged SASANE to do good every day and to reach out to more survivors. We continue to strive to work together to end human trafficking from Nepal.