Exploring Anti-Trafficking in Nepal: examining lived experiences - FreedomUnited.org
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April 19, 2023 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm BST

Exploring Anti-Trafficking in Nepal: examining lived experiences

“The past decade of armed conflict in Nepal has led to a significant displacement and out-migration of the population, with people from diverse backgrounds seeking better opportunities elsewhere. This rise in migration has brought to the forefront the intersection of trafficking and migration debates, particularly when it comes to women.

On one hand, there are governmental and non-governmental organisations in Nepal that have recognized the issue of trafficking and have taken steps to combat it by adopting international human rights instruments.

On the other hand, there are scholars who view anti-trafficking efforts as perpetrating human rights violations and consider trafficking research as a “political epistemology”. This highlights a potential tension between the goals of anti-trafficking efforts and the critical examination of these efforts from a human rights perspective.

Dr Shovita Dhakal Adhikari will present her research on “Women at the Margins: Exploring the Lived Experiences of Migrant Women in the Entertainment Sector in Nepal”. A higher proportion of females in Nepal are engaged in the informal sector and they are often subject to gender bias both in their pay and conditions (ILO, 2018).

Over the past decade, the entertainment sector has evolved as the largest informal sector in Nepal. Increasing number of jobs are available in bars, guest houses, massage parlours, dohori, tea shops and restaurants (including cabin restaurants) both in urban and semi-urban areas. The problems of the entertainment sector in Nepal overlap with certain trafficking phenomena. A number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have extended their engagement in this sector implementing a range of anti-trafficking programmes focusing on abolitionist strategies – often limited to controlling measures (rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration model). Depictions of females in these sectors are often sensationalised lacking nuances, and their voices and experiences marginalised.

Drawing on participatory approach, Shovita aims to explore the lives and lived experiences of migrant women engaged in the entertainment sector of Nepal. Data for the study have been derived pursuing qualitative research involving in-depth interviews with female entertainment workers and key stakeholders, and focus group discussions with field workers of an NGO providing outreach services (such as counselling, training).

The findings show the contested nature of the entertainment sector where work-exploitation boundaries are largely blurred. Illustrating the key factors at play in shaping the experiences of women (for instance, the process of entry, working conditions, and the reasons for remaining in the sector), Shovita argues that the responses to the entertainment sector have been largely inadequate. Based on the findings, Shovita challenges the dominant representations of women as passive victims, thereby providing an alternative narrative of women migrant’s agency in the choices they make as entertainment workers.

Lastly, Shovita presents the main challenges that the NGO field worker’s encounter in their outreach work and reflects on some strategies which could potentially be developed “with”, as opposed to “for”, and which could address the issues the entertainment workers are facing- abuse, health and labour problems, more effectively.

Dr Ayushman Bhagat will present his research on “Thinking-with-Failure: Embracing the radical potentialities of failure in research on human trafficking”. The emphasis on the impact that has been demanded of researchers in recent times does not allow them to engage with the radical potentialities of failure. Scholars drawing on the radical black tradition in human geography offer a nuanced understanding of failure as a site of resistance, transformation, and possibility. Failure, in this context, is not seen as a setback to overcome, but rather as a central component of any endeavour.

However, despite the growing recognition of the need to highlight failure as a vital aspect of any research project, there is still a lack of conceptual traction of the term among researchers. Drawing on a participatory action research project in Nepal’s so-called “human trafficking-prone” region, Ayushman aims to advance the nascent literature on failure by placing the concept at the center of the research process. Ayushman seeks to unpick the various sites of failure that emerged throughout the research process to demonstrate the immense potentialities of thinking-with-failure.

Based on the findings of the research, Ayushman argues that failure is not simply a by-product of research but rather a constitutive other of impact, which has the potential to generate new and innovative ways of understanding the world. Engaging with failure as a productive element of the research process can challenge assumptions, showcase limitations, and generate new insights into the debate on human trafficking.

The Global Diversities and Inequalities Research Centre is a home for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary scholarship that explores migration, diasporas, nations, regions and localities through the lenses of diversity and inequality.

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April 19, 2023 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm BST




Research and Postgraduate Office