Research and Awareness Raising

Research and Awareness Raising

As a child, Samita Rai would hear stories of children being kidnapped and sold into brothels or circuses. When she was older, she witnessed some of her peers leave school, only to learn they had been sent somewhere, to marry someone. She didn’t call it forced marriage then – she does now. After years of work in the sector and involvement with ACRATH, Samita knows only too well the reality of forced marriage.

Samita, a volunteer member of ACRATH’s Research and Advocacy Group, supports the United Nations 16 days of activism against gender-based violence which begins on 25th November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on 10th December – Human Rights Day. Human trafficking, a $150 billion global industry, is one of the greatest examples of violence against women and girls. Millions of women and girls are forced to marry, or to work in terrible conditions for little, or no, pay and no chance of an education.

In 2021 the Australian Government appears before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva for its major four yearly Universal Periodic Review (UPR), essentially a review of the Government’s human rights behaviour. ACRATH’s Research and Advocacy Group contributed to this review, making a number of recommendations that included:

    •  Continue to provide support and services to all victims of human trafficking.
    • Take concrete measures to eradicate labour trafficking and exploitation by implementing a National Compensation Scheme for victims of human trafficking and slavery.
    • Appoint an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to advise and encourage businesses to implement ethical business practices to eradicate human trafficking and slavery.

Samita first encountered ACRATH when living in South Australia. She worked in the Red Cross Support for Trafficked People Program and developed strong networks with other agencies to ensure that the program reached those who needed it.

“I really believe that pooling the expertise that people have can lead to maximum effect. When it comes to human trafficking we can’t work in silos, we have to work together,” she said.

Samita, a youth coordinator with Sunshine Youth Space in Melbourne, with ACRATH is helping to establish the Brimbank Anti-Trafficking Network in Melbourne’s west and is working to raise awareness of forced marriage through the network. Samita’s involvement with ACRATH in South Australia also ‘opened her eyes’ to different aspects of human trafficking particularly with supply chains and how forced labour is used in so much of what we buy. In 2018 Samita moved to Melbourne and linked up with ACRATH’s co-founder and current President Sr Louise Cleary csb, becoming part of the Research and Advocacy Group coordinated by Sr Louise.

Her own story drives her passion to combat human trafficking, particularly forced marriage. Raised in Singapore, of Nepalese background, Samita knew of students in her school who were forced to marry someone and who didn’t come back to complete their education.

“I think there is a greater understanding of forced marriage now. When I was growing up I think it was something that was considered part of a culture and left at that. For a long time people only associated human trafficking with women forced into sex work,” she said.

She is also inspired by her faith and belief that everyone is a child of God and has intrinsic value.

For more 16 Days Against Gender-based Violence Campaign information and resources click here.

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