Leadership Next
A Programme that facilitates leadership development in survivors of human trafficking


Existing context:

The approach to engaging with victims of any form of violence in almost all societies and countries has been one of protectionism and welfare.

Once a person becomes a victim of some form of abuse, violence and exploitation, its triggers sympathy and protectionism in others wherein one wishes to protect the victim from violence and abuse, fight the oppressor or exploiter on behalf of the victim and help victims recover from injuries and rehabilitate themselves.

However, this approach of protectionism often discounts the agency of people who may have been victims of violence but also have inner resources, powers, desires and aspirations for themselves. The State, civil society organisations inadvertently invalidates their choice making in their own recovery and rehabilitation, deciding what is appropriate for them on their behalf.

This phenomenon can be observed with a number of disenfranchised populations amongst whom survivors of human trafficking is a significant group. The dominant approach of protection and rehabilitation of survivors of human trafficking is to institutionalise them and provide them with limited services that are possible in that context, even if those services are ineffective in their social assimilation, poverty reduction or psychological empowerment. The dependence of survivors on state agencies and civil society organisations obstructs their growth and empowerment and pushes them into psychological locations of recipients of decisions and services, and when they fail, they are left feeling more disenfranchised and alienated, which perpetuates their victimhood.

Why survivor leadership?

Sanjog believes that people become victims of exploitation and oppression because of their vulnerable circumstances and neglect. However, victimhood is often self perpetuating wherein people who have been victims of violence and exploitation also find it difficult to restore their power, agency and confidence and drive their own journeys of self actualisation.

Sanjog initiated this programme with a group of survivors of sex trafficking in 2016 which led to the creation of the first collective Utthan (Emergence), in Bengal. In 2020, Sanjog started to support a collective of survivors of labour trafficking in Chhattisgarh, Saans (Breath).

Sanjog’s leadership development programme is based on principles of social group theories, and focusses on both individual and collective leadership development. While the purpose and longer term objectives and identities of these groups may emerge differently for each group, Sanjog’s aim from this programme is to build pedagogy on Leadership Development with people and groups who have been victims of violence and exploitation.

The goals of leadership development projects:

Sanjog is committed to supporting and facilitating Utthan and Saans’ growth as collectives, and to enable them to achieve stages of maturation, action and actualisation of its purposes. The expectations of change from these projects are that these collectives and its members will find resources in themselves, in their collectives, families and communities to realise their psychological and social potential. This will play out in their personal and professional choices and actions and empower the collectives as agents of change in their context and the larger macro system.

Impact of the projects:

Because both the collectives are of survivors of human trafficking, this programme expects the following outcomes:

  1. Utthan and Saans become Independent social actions groups of survivors of human trafficking, building their influence and creating impact in their communities that are relevant and sustainable
  2. A stronger participation of survivors of human trafficking in development and monitoring of policies on human trafficking
  3. A strengthened membership in decision making spaces with regard to anti trafficking funding and accountability of financiers and service providers
  4. Better alignment between services provided by anti trafficking NGOs and rights and entitlements of survivors for their recovery, reparation, rehabilitation and right to justice