Here is the continuation of a westerner’s experience at a shelter for victims of human trafficking in Kazakhstan. Quite revealing about a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. Awareness and education in the rural areas is the key to make the traffickers and exploiters go away from this great land.
“A concrete example might be of interest at this juncture: Natasha, who I have met, was ‘sold’ by her mother, an alcoholic, to buy drink after years of neglect and abuse, both physical and psychological. Her school attendance was extremely poor and, when she was there, could not understand what was being taught with the consequences you can imagine. Both neighbours and teachers must have been aware of the situation, but did nothing to help; an attitude that is not exactly unknown in our own countries! Natasha was ‘sold’ and brought to Astana to be a sex worker before finally escaping She hopes to start some kind of vocational training in September (paid for by the Ministry of Justice) Her one talent seems to be in art – she was the young woman I mentioned previously as having a talent for drawing and entirely self-taught; so at least one happy ending in sight one hopes!
Not all are so fortunate; the Ukranian woman I had also previously mentioned had, apparently, been in bonded labour/servitude since Soviet times – she did not even know what a tenge was! As you may imagine, readjustment for her has been very difficult as her ‘certainties’ in life have been removed and she is much older so it is hard to see what she might do – even back in her own country I was told that the age profile for bonded labour/trafficking is generally older as younger people cannot physically withstand the nature of the work hence women tend to be late 20s or early 30s though men may be slightly younger
I should tell a little about the centre I mentioned earlier. The money collected earlier in the term went to buy art material & also sports equipment for the young people who have to go there It is also funded by the Ministry of Justice and is quite separate from the shelter. Its purpose is for the re-education of young people who have got into trouble
or ‘bad company’ (to use a translated phrase) so includes some from orphanages, juvenile delinquents, behavioural problems as well as the local equivalent of ASBOs. Attendance is obligatory though for its duration varies; Aigerim teaches an English class there, but we are talking about young people who do not have particularly good study habits or motivation. There are full-time staff but also volunteers who are university students.
I went again on a Saturday with Connie and her daughter, Sandy, at Aigerim’s invitation to show the class some pictures of Brighton, Edinburgh and other parts of the UK. It should be said the kids were rather intimidated in class, but we went outside to play with the sports equipment we had bought: volleyball with the boys at first, but the girls rather liked the hula hoops and skipping ropes (great suggestions from Sandy). In the end, we all played a sort of ‘piggy in the middle’ volleyball together which was fun.
So a worthwhile couple of visits where I learned a lot and gained an insight into the difficulties of rehabilitation for those unfortunate enough to have been victims of trafficking I hope that this has been worthwhile for you too and I also attach a report from the US Government on the scale of trafficking in Kazakhstan, which you might find of interest. Should you wish to learn more or help more directly, you might like to look at the website www.free2work.org which rates companies on their attitudes to labour trafficking or child labour (eg Gap) which might inform your next shopping spree!
Many thanks are due to Aigerim for the terrific work she did as a translator/interpreter (if you have ever done any you know how tiring it can be). Any questions please do not hesitate to contact me & I hope to enlist your support again in the new academic year.”