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Small Business as Re-Entry Prevention

small business

They need jobs…different jobs…opportunity,” the head of non-profit organization told me.

According to statistics from IOM Indonesia of reported human trafficking cases occurring in or from Indonesia from 2005-2015, the reason for 91% of those cases was economic problems.1

“Indonesia is a key source of cross-border and domestic trafficking in persons. A big majority of the victims are women being trafficked through recruitment channels for labour purposes or sexual exploitation.”2

But statistics aren’t stories. The staff of anti-trafficking organizations personally know women and teenagers who were lured with the promise of a job, then forced into prostitution, and finally trapped there because of debt-bondage or lack of other economic opportunities.  They also see women who have the courage to leave only to fail to find or create or sustain work substantial enough to provide for themselves and their families.  Sometimes their “choice” to work in a brothel is made only because there is no other choice.

Work is hard to come by in Indonesia.  Businesses open and then close a few months later. Market saturation is prevalent in areas of tourism services such as hotels, restaurants, spas.  Higher education and fluency in English are almost a requirement for most of the stable jobs available.

What options are available for these women and teens coming out of recovery?  Often women left with no other choice, or because of shame or poor understanding of self-worth, go back to what they know.

“Reentry…captures the reality of the exit process… Reentry into prostitution may result in a complete re-immersion into the industry/lifestyle, or it may stimulate feelings of being ‘stuck or trapped’.  Baker, et al. (2010) explains, ‘…despite conscious awareness of a need to change, she may lack the confidence, initiative, coping skills, or necessary resources to allow her to engage in deliberate preparation…despite their desire to exit… (p. 593).” 3

Counter trafficking efforts have to include after after-care to break that cycle of reentry. 

Our partners recognized this need and have developed programs to provide basic business theory training to survivors of trafficking and those at risk of becoming trafficked.  One robust project in Bali uses stories and illustrations and a facilitative approach to explain concepts such as business idea selection and evaluation, product development, market research, costs, income and profit estimation, and reinvesting for growth.  The training also weaves in how to handle culturally relevant situations such as what to do when your family asks for money that belongs to the business (in Indonesia it is almost impossible to refuse to give when someone asks).

Each cohort consists of groups of 6-12 women at a time who want to start their own small businesses.  By attending this training, the women will hopefully be able to avoid most of the reasons why small businesses fail because they will learn how to:

  • select a business idea based on market research
  • understand the customer and competition through market research
  • estimate costs and profit and plan for growth
  • manage money well in this collective culture

They will also have formed a support system of other women with their same background and future hopes and dreams, which is vitally important to continued recovery, motivation and accountability.  They will be able to have a community impact because built into this training is the pay-it-forward concept: in every lesson the women are encouraged to go back to their home and neighborhoods to share their new insights and knowledge.

Addressing the complex issue of human trafficking is an enormous task. It takes many people working in specialized areas across the spectrum from prevention to rescue to aftercare to after aftercare to ensure that each survivor has what she needs to make and fulfill her own dreams for her life.

(As an organization, we are delighted to get to make abundant outside resources available to our local Indonesian partners in their efforts to combat modern day slavery in Indonesia. You can learn more about our partners around the country or you can partner with us financially to support and expand programs like this one.)


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