A Second Chance: Women Taking their Lives Back

Last week I watched a video clip from ABC News about honor killings in Pakistan (http://vodpod.com/watch/1445016-five-pakistani-women-buried-alive-in-group-honor-killing?pod=womennewsnetwork). It was leaving me feeling rather depressed when halfway through it switched to a completely different story. In the city of Lahore an anonymous foundation has set up a beauty parlor just for women. The interesting thing about this establishment, however, is that the group hires women who have been disfigured by acid attacks. They give them free training, pay them a salary, and pay for their surgeries. I thought this was a great idea—acid attacks often leave women isolated from society but this group was pulling them back in.

My current research is on trafficking victims, and from reading human rights reports I know that many countries do not make sufficient efforts to reintegrate women who survive this ordeal. So I wondered, is there anything like this out there for trafficked women? A Google search led me to an article from Dhaka, Bangladesh where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) began a pilot reintegration project in 2008 (http://visitdhaka.blogspot.com/2009/04/coffee-shop-of-freedom-for-trafficking.html).They opened up four “coffee shop[s] of freedom” called Kafé Mukti that employ former trafficking victims from shelters in the city. Zakia K. Hassan, an IOM officer in Dhaka, said, “The society usually isolates these women. By making them self-reliant we want to give them back their dignity and lost status in the society. Creating acceptance is also a goal.” The workers are trained in management and accountancy and grants are also available for them.

These coffee shops are part of an IOM project called “Prevention and Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking in Bangladesh.” This reintegration technique seems like it would take away some of the helplessness and stigma of being a “victim” because the women are in active control of their situation and their futures. I hope they have similar projects going on in other countries, or that the success of Bangladesh will prompt more.

—by MIR

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