Project report: Combatting child trafficking and gender-based violence in Kyrgyzstan

SGS 2023 Grantee: Oasis Foundation, Kyrgyzstan.

Project: Support for victims of child trafficking and gender-based violence.

Here is their report:

Research by UNODC and Oasis shows that social orphans, children left without parental care, are the most vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking. UNICEF states that 277,000 children in Kyrgyzstan live without parental care. Some experts consider that the number of vulnerable children is much greater considering that 46% of the working-age population of Kyrgyzstan are labour migrants. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the level of domestic violence has increased by 60% in two years, and violence among vulnerable children has doubled. Oasis’s survey shows almost 50% of all social orphans who are care leavers plan to migrate to another country in the next two years. Every year 91% of care leavers (from orphanages) migrate to big cities seeking educational and job opportunities. Most of them (78.1%) do not have the skills to protect themselves from violence or exploitation. As a result, 30% of them become victims of trafficking. In 2022, more than 60% of all the Oasis Foundation’s beneficiaries were victims of trafficking and gender-based violence.

With the support of the BEARR Trust, the Oasis Foundation successfully implemented the project “Support for victims of child trafficking and gender-based violence”. The project empowered 41 survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking through direct assistance and life skills/human rights education. Participants received access to various educational and safe job opportunities, psychosocial support, legal assistance, and other services. All beneficiaries went through human rights training sessions to learn more about safe migration and safe employment, violence and trafficking prevention. In addition, almost all participants participated in workshops on future planning, mental health support, sports activities, and various team-building programmes.

It should be noted that almost 30% of the participants did not have access to formal education in schools. Thanks to the Bilim-Belek educational programme, the Oasis Foundation has helped many participants gain access to formal education and professional courses. The Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Migration (Social Services) also provided great support in this regard, redirecting participants to state and private educational institutions. Oasis’s partners helped also to purchase stationery and seasonal clothes for schools.

In addition to working with beneficiaries, creating a resource centre for social workers and educators is crucial for capacity-building and improving the system. After working with social services and representatives of schools and law enforcement agencies, the Oasis team realised that most of them do not have proper education and guidance on social work, trauma, or victim-centred/child-friendly approaches. Most of them need help in developing qualifications, and even with professional literature and online resources. Therefore, additionally, 38 social pedagogues/social workers from more than 20 schools (where more than 1500 children study) and NGOs in Chui region and Bishkek city learnt about identification of victims of violence and trafficking, psychological trauma and attachment theory.

Almost all specialists highlighted the fact that they had never before participated in such training sessions. Most of them liked the session about attachment theory, which highlights the importance of a child’s emotional bond with their primary caregivers. Pedagogues emphasised the importance of this theory in developing various methods of working with victims of violence among at-risk children and young people. In the long term, this can help improve wellbeing and provide positive outcomes in creating more resources and methods on psychotherapy, and the training of young people.

Generally, the project has inspired the Oasis Foundation to initiate a new project: establishing the Oasis Support Centre for Victims of Violence among At-risk Young People and Children. This will help not only provide direct assistance to beneficiaries but also improve national referral mechanisms. Several partners expressed their interest in this initiative, and finally the Swiss Embassy and Kairesh Foundation provided financial support. In addition, Oasis is continuing its cooperation with the Ministry of Labour, Social Protection and Migration.

It should be noted that the Oasis Foundation is the only organisation in Kyrgyzstan systematically working on countering child trafficking. For us, it is crucial that we support our beneficiaries long-term as they mostly do not have other supporters (relatives or families). Bureaucratic procedures and complex mechanisms in accessing guaranteed public services leave many vulnerable children and young people behind, leading to exploitation and forced criminality. This situation is further aggravated by the lack of legal literacy among young people and victims of violence/human trafficking. The Oasis Foundation will continue to work with all partners in countering human trafficking and violence to foster national referral mechanisms.

Photos by Askat Chynaly

Oasis, Kyrgyzstan

Meerim Osmonalieva, Country Director

Tel: +996770554503

Facebook: Oasis Kyrgyzstan

Instagram: @oasiskg

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