The Strength to Survive

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Maryna (name changed) and her husband worked as warehouse sorters at the local market in Ukraine. They were looking for opportunities to get capital to start their own business, so when a colleague introduced them to two job brokers, and said that they were hiring a brigade of laborers for harvesting in Russia, they jumped at the chance. The work was not difficult: picking vegetables for $800 a month and compensation for accommodation and travel. When they arrived, their employers took away their passports “for registration purposes”. Maryna and others were settled in old barracks with clay walls and a ceiling consisting of tarpaulins. They worked from 5am to 10pm, seven days a week even when the temperature was above 40 degrees. The only food they received was instant porridge or old vegetables.

At the end of the first month, when the workers didn’t get any money for their hard work in such poor conditions, they started to argue with the employers and got severely beaten by the guards who secured the territory. They found out that they had been bought from a job broker and were warned about punishment if they tried to escape or contact the police. Maryna got sick and couldn’t work that much and was beaten for this. Her husband had his arm broken during a beating from the guards. After three months of exploitation and the arrival of a new group Maryna and others were taken to the train station and left there, again threatened not to turn to authorities.

When they got home they were identified as trafficking victims by an IOM partner organization and were provided with comprehensive rehabilitation support. They received psychological counselling and other assistance which helped them to return to their normal lives. She has received business training and now has a hundred quails, which she is planning to increase fivefold. She uses natural feed additives and is constantly researching best international practice. The training gave her necessary skills to evaluate her competitors in the region, to search for new ways to distribute her product and to use social networks for advertising.  

IOM’s Economic Empowerment Programme assists former victims of trafficking in sustainable reintegration through self-employment opportunities. The programme trains trafficking survivors on business and career development and provides self-employment grants for those who develop and successfully defend a business plan after participation in the training. The programme of the training covers numerous actual topics and it often becomes a platform with vibrant atmosphere where people with different backgrounds and professional experience, determined to receive new knowledge and equipment exchange their views and network in search for potential partnerships and so on. An experienced business trainer guides the participants using different formats of interaction – team work, business games, presentations, discussions.

During the business training under the Economic Empowerment Programme Maryna is one of the most active participants. She carefully listens and takes notes, leads her team work, always willing to make presentations and share her experiences. “The training itself is already an incredible opportunity to regain confidence in yourself and your capability to be successfully self-employed. I doubt that I could afford to take such a high-quality training in some business academy due to its high cost and I am really grateful for that.”