Out pilot project in Ghana has been finally closed. I have blogged already about this project here, and now this is going to be a final recap of what happened in the past 4 months and what we learned from this pilot.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE SO FAR?
The activities planned for this pilot were:
- Create a map that assesses community assets that can address modern-day slavery. Through this process, the leading organization EPAWA wanted to understand community's needs and existing gaps in services. The asset maps were created for all of the 21 communities participating in the pilot. These included both services for survivors of human trafficking, sexual violence, domestic violence and child abuse. While doing the training for the communities, EPAWA realized that the issue of human trafficking can't be addressed without including categories like sexual violence, domestic violence as well, as they both create the vulnerability to trafficking and various types of trafficking are often are misidentified into one of these categories instead.
- Set up of SMS Helpline Network. The SMS helpline was set up in early October 2011 by Survivors Connect using a private customized ushahidi platform and FrontlineSMS. A toll free number, e- mail and online reporting options were included into the types of reporting available for the monitors. The most popular is the toll free line, followed by SMS and then the other two options.
- Train EPAWA staff on how to run SMS Helpline Network. Survivors Connect trained EPAWA staff first week of October.
- Identify, recruit and train 12 monitors in 20 trafficking prone communities. 240 monitors were trained in 21 communities in Volta, Northern and Greater Accra Regions by both EPAWA and Survivors Connect. Two communities had 6 monitors each, to establish whether a smaller number of monitors would result in equal reports as that of 12 monitors in a community. The communities were selected to be diverse, but all were prone to human trafficking as either sending or receiving communities. The communities were rural, semi-urban and urban. The monitors were both literate and semi- literate, composed of both genders and various age groups. Although EPAWA tried to ensure gender parity and each monitor group contained females, majority of the monitors were men.
- Create a national referral database. A national referral database was created including all possible organizations and meetings were held with stakeholders in each community as well as a national stakeholders.
- Generate and distribute a quarterly report on human trafficking trends. EPAWA has been releasing the first quarterly report on the second week of February, post-completion of the pilot. The Department of Social Welfare and the Ministry of Women and Children, as well as other stakeholders, were contacntly keept up to date and provided with periodical updates on the incoming cases.
- Coordinate rescues of victims and immediate post-rescue care. Each incoming case was handled by an EPAWA staff in coordination with local and national stakeholders. From the first few reported cases, it became evident that working relationships with local stakeholders had to be established and could only be done through onsite participation by EPAWA. Seeing EPAWA working onsite also created trust within the communities to continue reporting, as well as for the first responders to be accountable in the way they handled cases. EPAWA has created files for and during the pilot case has worked on and continues to work on 66 real cases. Some of the cases reported were not real cases after further investigation or did not fit the scope of the cases EPAWA covers.
(Infographic from iHubResearch)
The cases have been labeled as following:
- Urgent: requires immediate investigation and rescue/action
- Follow Up: the victim has been rescued and has received medical attention/shelter; the case is in court; or the case is not urgent
- Investigation: a general report requiring investigation and evidence collection
- Closed: a resolution has been reached to the case (long-term assistance to the victim was secured, legal case completed, settlement has been reached)
- SMS educational campaign through mobile phone number listserv creation. EPAWA teamed up with a company called Hekimax Solutions Ghana to do th educational campaign. The SMS line has been having serious issues as well as many of the mobile phone lines, which made the SMS educational campaign through mobile phones difficult.
WHAT INFORMATION WAS COLLECTED AND HOW WAS IT USED?
EPAWA through the various options of the hotline received cases in the following categories in all three regions covered by the pilot received from Community Monitors (54) and Public Reports (14):
1. Forced Marriage
2. Gender-Based Domestic Violence:
- Accusations of Witchcraft o Child Neglect
- Personal Threats
- Stalking or Following
- Verbal Harassment
4. Human Trafficking:
- Labour Trafficking (Ghanaian National)
- Sex Trafficking (Foreign National)
- Sex Trafficking (Ghanaian National)
- Trafficking for Adoptions
- Access to Primary Education
- Child Labour
- Drug Use
- Physical Assault
- Gang Rape o Incest
- Same-Sex Sexual Assault
After the communication from the monitors and the public were received, EPAWA coordinated rescues of victims in all three regions. It assisted with medical, law enforcement, shelter and reintegration. Once a case wa reported, victims obtained the necessary support in coordination with first responders. Other professionals did referred particularly difficult cases to EPAWA and EPAWA in turn referred incoming cases to them depending on their area of specialization.
All incoming texts, phone calls, e-mail and online reports have been mapped, as well as other case reports obtained from media reports and verified sources, but only after being cleaned of any private information about the victim.
WHAT WAS THE ACTUAL IMPACT OF THIS PROJECT?
Those are the actual cases that were addressed by EPAWA as a result of the SMS Help line project that Internews funded:
- Three forced marriage cases have been reported and resolved.
- With the assistance of Orphans Heroes, EPAWA has been able to move and place 6 children into educational institutions. Three of the placements made a court case possible, as they provided a safe place and allowed for the continuation of education during case proceedings (gang rape case, rape case and sodomy case).
- Two trafficking victims were placed in a skill training program. Another in a shelter/school.
- Approximately 10 cases reported are now in court as of now with perpetrators arrested in many of them. Some of these cases have been covered by the media repeatedly.
- EPAWA is working with NAPTIP (Nigeria) on 2 international human trafficking cases.
(Infographic from iHubResearch)
Due to the visibility that the organization gain out of this projects, EPAWA was invited to educate and assist some communities on the issues of human trafficking, as well as participate in community activities. One of the communities in the Volta Region, established an educational community group as a result of this. Another monitor in one of the villages part of the pilot decided to create an educational project for kids in elementary school. A community which experienced gang-rape violence towards school girls, after a case was reported and is now in court, is now being educated by a judge who is presiding over the case. EPAWA has also been given an entire column in the newspaper, "The Globe", in radio programs and television programs to talk about the project, their work and to raise awareness about the issue.
Cases which went unaddressed for years, once reported, are now in court or about to be submitted for action and the victims received assistance. In one of the targeted communities for example, people from surrounding communities hearing of EPAWA arrival went o the village to report cases and seek assistance.
In addition to that, the hotline had cases referred to it from government institutions such as Commission on Human Rights and Justice and Department of Social Welfare, which were formerly not addressed.
WHAT DID NOT WORK
The SMS hotline experienced technical difficulties from the first week. EPAWA registered the SIM cards distributed to the monitors 6 times with MTN with some still not working in December and others working and disconnected in the re-registration process. Approximately 40% phones purchased from MTN had a battery problem or some other malfunction. Many of the older monitors had also problems sending SMS as they reported that the screen is too small for them to see the letters.
EPAWA did not receive approximately 100 SMS messages from monitors, after trying to assess why the hotline was not receiving messages via SMS and getting reports on the toll-free line that SMS messages were not being addressed. This resulted in monitors relying on the toll-free line and choosing not to use the SMS reporting system as the priority method. EPAWA continue to experience similar issues to date, even after numerous meetings with MTN and are hoping to resolve these quickly.
Due to the hands-on approach required during the pilot phase of the hotline for each case, to set up response structures and accountable working relationships with first responders, stakeholders and communities, EPAWA human resources were severally overstretched often requiring 7 day a week/ 18 hour work days.
Each case requires onsite EPAWA attention and participation. One of the main deterrents to a well functioning first responders system was logistics. Even if the first responders were willing to immediately assist, they lacked transportation, phone credit, etc. The police would not respond to a case, because they had no car/fuel to get there. Once a case is reported to the police, a medical report had to be signed by a doctor. The doctor demands an exorbitant fee to do so, and the majority of the victims can't afford it and so the case can't continue.
The issue of corruption, lack of accountability and acting outside of scope of responsibilities, among first responders was one of main underlying cause of the failure of the system in some cases.
An example is the fact that although by law, victims of violence are supposed to receive free medical attention, hospitals demand money that victims cannot afford, and as a result, particularly in cases of sexual violence, crucial evidence is lost.
(Infographic from iHubResearch)
EPAWA was extremely happy with the system, apart form the technical problems and decided to continue using the SMS Help line in the future as the base of its work in Ghana. Post-pilot assessment, the next level of expansion will begin into other regions of Ghana in order to create a national system draft on the lessons learned from this pilot.
Internews will continue following the development of this process and will be releasing the research report around the end of April. In that report we hope to show actual real data on what was the situation before, what is the situation now and measurable criteria to use in the evaluation of the project.