of India’s most vulnerable villages
from safe village training
on the Red Alert helpline
Data to December 2020
Voice of the program
In July 2020, 17-year-old Malalani went missing from Gadag, Karnataka. In India, this is an all too frequent occurrence, with estimates that one child goes missing every few minutes. Many children are trafficked as part of a nationwide trade separating them from their families; millions end up in forced labour, domestic slavery and sex work.
Some people in Malalani’s village started a rumour that she had eloped. This meant that her family did not file a formal complaint with the police because they feared the loss of respect and reputation that would result if their unmarried daughter had run off. They asked the police to find out what had happened but police were unable to trace her.
Over the next three months, her family received missed calls from different phone numbers in Bangalore but every time they tried to call back there was no response or the person who responded told them that it was a wrong number.
Naraspur, who lived in a nearby village, had attended the Safe Village Program, run by Opportunity partner, My Choices, which creates awareness about child trafficking. She asked Malalani’s father to call the Red Alert National Child Helpline dedicated to addressing human sex trafficking to see if Malalani could be rescued.
After Malalani’s father called the helpline in November, the case was referred to a local NGO partner who followed up on the missed calls and discovered the identity of the man who had enticed Malalani away. The trafficker was known in garment workers’ circles for luring girls with promises of jobs in garment and shoe factories.
Operation Red Alert
From August to November 2020 the Safe Village Program reached 64,441 participants in 237 villages, distributing 40,246 comic books with anti-trafficking messaging and reinforcing key messages with social media campaigns. The Safe Village Program teams also distributed relief supplies, responding to the grave hardship that COVID-19 restrictions had caused.
By using targeted text messages and mass media community radio broadcasts the team broadened the reach of their anti-trafficking and women’s safety messages to 70,000 people per month.
Distressed helpline callers were geographically mapped using the SafeTracker tool which incorporates data from Operation Red Alert’s implementing partners.
Using this digital data collection tool, all helpline callers and local champions of the Safe Village Program who have been trained to be vigilant to risks of child trafficking were contacted regularly with text messages.
Operation PeaceMaker expanded operations from four states reaching poorer rural communities and is now active in six states. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, Operation PeaceMaker recruited and trained new counsellors across West Bengal, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, creating awareness of domestic violence and conducting counselling sessions for women. Between August and December 2020, the team ran 541 meetings that reached 15,189 community members and students in these communities.
The PeaceMaker prevention program helps young students (female and male) become agents for change in their local communities. At the end of 2020, over 180,000 high-school and college students and adults had been trained in the prevention of domestic violence. From October to December 2020, counsellors handled over 2,300 domestic violence cases that had been referred through community-based Peacemakers or via the police.
Operation PeaceMaker launched a national toll-free helpline service they promoted through local community radio to address the huge spike in domestic violence during lockdown. The PeaceMakers and counsellors reached out to over 1,000 clients in their database to stay connected with the women they knew, and offered their support. They were overwhelmed with gratitude for reaching out – these often-isolated women felt comforted knowing someone was looking out for them. In some cases they used encrypted WhatsApp messaging groups to provide privacy for women who were concerned that their husbands or mothers-in-law might record their conversations or track their calls.
Engaging the local police in domestic violence training is a critical step in changing how women are treated when reporting a crime. Links with Telangana police were strengthened when 2,000 police officers received domestic violence training from Opportunity partner, My Choices. Training was also expanded for the community volunteers called Margadarshaks and Sangamitras to equip them to be change agents in their communities.
- Support rehabilitation of women and girls who have been trafficked and experienced domestic violence by strengthening connections with their programs.
- Implement the competency framework built through digital data collection using SafeTracker for Operation Red Alert and PeaceTracker for Operation PeaceMaker.
- Train and upskill field trainers remotely using new digital training modules. Opportunity’s implementing partner will expand their digital training modules to improve their reach to rural women and girls in the poorest communities.
Building impact-measuring capacity
In October 2018, Opportunity’s Evaluation Manager visited the Women’s Safety Program’s implementing partner My Choices and worked with them over the following six months to build their knowledge and skills in collecting and using data to demonstrate evidence of their impact.
The Head of Operation Red Alert, Sudha Upadhyayula, said that following the training My Choices:
- Built a monitoring and evaluation framework for the Safe Village Program to continue to improve their program design
- Started collecting survey data including statistics on the inclusion of people with disabilities
- Built digital training modules to reinforce the key messages and increase impact.
Overall, the team is now more aware of the importance of collecting monitoring data to measure the impact, scale and sustainability of their program.
This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
1 Name changed
2 BBC news 16 May 2020 https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-south-asia-52685559
Your support is empowering millions of women and children to live in safety, and training community members to take better care of the vulnerable. These are some of their stories.
For their safety, names have often been changed and locations generalised.
Elca Grobler, founder of My Choices Foundation, shared with us how the work of My Choices is helping make communities safer for women and children.
Gender-based violence - "the shadow pandemic"
For every three months of lockdown due to COVID-19, an estimated 15 million people—mostly women and girls—have suffered from gender-based violence, globally.
When a woman from their community came to Saidul with a marriage proposal for his 16-year-old daughter, Saidul thought it sounded like a good opportunity. Marriage preparations were well underway when Operation Red Alert’s Safe Village Program came to Saidul’s village.
"I discovered strength, independence and peace during my training."
– Maheshwari, India
Maheshwari runs awareness workshops throughout her local community and provides support to women who are experiencing domestic violence.