Late last year, IJM Odisha partnered with local organizations across the Indian state to support a 10-day bicycle rally that traveled over 900 miles to raise awareness of human trafficking and bonded labor in vulnerable communities.
ODISHA, INDIA – Late last year, IJM’s team in Odisha networked with local organizations across the state to support a 10-day bicycle rally that raised awareness of human trafficking and bonded labor in vulnerable communities.
The initiative was led by Red Rope—an anti-trafficking NGO based in Telangana—who have run similar campaigns in other states. On November 27, they set off with a team of 16 social workers, youth volunteers, and students across seven at-risk districts of Odisha.
Many people in these impoverished areas migrate across India for work, which leaves them vulnerable to the lures and lies of human traffickers. Children and teens in these communities are also at risk of online sexual exploitation through social media and messaging apps.
“Despite the pandemic, the territory of traffickers has been flourishing in an unrestrained manner,” shared Chrysolyte Sanamanda, Red Rope’s founder. “Although the government has mechanisms to provide security in such cases, many victims still hesitate to report a crime.”
The cycling team made their way across 1,500 kilometers (900+ miles) of Odisha, with stops at colleges, marketplaces, and villages to raise awareness. Through creative skits, songs, and quizzes, they educated the community on how to spot traffickers and confidently report cases to local authorities. They reached nearly 5,000 people with these critical messages of protection.
IJM staff supported the rally along its stops to share compelling stories from the last 10 years of IJM's work in Odisha. Several survivors of trafficking and bonded labor also joined in to share their personal stories of hardship and hope.
One of the cyclists shared, “Interacting with students in schools and colleges and answering the queries of students on various trafficking-related crimes, ways to prevent them and roles of various state agencies have been a great experience. Songs, dances, and plays including colorful posters have made these sessions very interactive.”
Throughout the campaign, IJM and Red Rope were also able to network with 12 grassroots NGOs and schools who are helping protect their own communities from trafficking.
IJM’s Neenu Thomas shared, “The cycle rally event brought together partners, institutions, government and survivors, showcasing the possibilities we have in the state of Odisha in terms of collaboration. Survivors sharing their stories to generate awareness in communities, the response from institutions, and the sheer outreach of this event provided us a glimpse of the future, with different entities coming together to fight against the issue of human trafficking in the country.”