Written by Nomi Network Staff
Nandita* was cast out of her home at 17 years-old. Her parents and in-laws disapproved of her marriage to a young man named Vyom*, no matter how they tried to win their families’ blessing. With nowhere to go, Nandita lived with her husband and his family and eventually they rented a small house nearby, where they struggled to stay financially afloat. Vyom is a daily wage earner, one of the most economically marginalized groups in rural India. Nandita was unemployed. This marginalization and unemployment kept Nandita and her husband below the poverty line and more vulnerable to predatory lenders and traffickers.
Nandita lives in Bihar, one of India’s least economically developed states and a hotbed of human trafficking. Bihar’s economy has taken a significant hit from the COVID pandemic, exacerbating the existing threats to women’s financial stability and safety. Nomi Network, a Vista Hermosa Foundation partner, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending human trafficking by creating safe employment pathways for survivors and women like Nandita, who are economically vulnerable to exploitation. Women and girls are empowered by Nomi Network to break cycles of slavery in their families and communities through workforce development and job creation programming.
In the fight against human trafficking, Nomi Network focuses on building intergenerational and community-based resilience through a trauma-informed financial literacy and technical skills training model. Women develop life skills such as good time management, conflict resolution and communication, and positive self-image. In tandem, industry-specific technical training prepares program participants to either start businesses or land full-time employment with vetted job creation partners in the private sector.
When Nomi Network field staff visited Nandita’s home, they explained how she could use their programming as a springboard to long-term economic stability and independence. Nandita decided to enroll in the program and quickly became an enthusiastic participant. Reflecting on the experience, she said, ” I learned a lot of good things in those months of training and enjoyed the excellent environment and making new friends.” The training emphasizes the inherent value of women and girls, brings together a diverse group of women through shared values, and empowers them to engage with social issues in their community. In Nandita’s case, her experiences in training informed her decision not to have children until she can afford to support them.
During the second phase of the Workforce Development Program, Nandita pursued sewing and passed quality checks with flying colors! She opened her own savings account and learned about money management. Nandita has since continued on the path to financial independence by joining a local women’s Self-Help Group (SHG). Nomi Network encourages program participants to join SHGs or form other mutual support networks. Nandita took out a loan from her SHG to invest in her budding tailoring business. She knows that she can rely on the group’s support in times of need in addition to her own savings.
Nandita now takes orders for sewing work from a doorstep in town and is sought after for her beautiful dresses and the heart she pours into her work. Recently, she has expanded her business to offer cosmetology services. Nandita and Nomi Network graduates like her are respected in their communities. Their example creates a powerful intergenerational ripple effect. Former trainees often lend their support by mentoring current participants, raising their daughters to pursue a future of their own choosing, and forming strong networks against human trafficking.
*names changed for privacy