Kharbih’s Impulse Model: A focus on empowerment

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“We have tried to give women the opportunity to earn from their homes, as migration to towns and cities is mostly due to the lack of economic opportunities.”

By: Amarjyoti Borah

At a time when the entire North Eastern region is plagued with the problem of human-trafficking, mostly of people from the vulnerable sections in the society, an initiative by a Social-Entrepreneur from the region, Hasina Kharbhih promises to be a bankable model to curb this major menace. A recipient of the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship, Kharbhih’s initiative, titled the Impulse Model, operates under the six ‘P’s (Partnership, Prevention, Protection, Policing, Press and Prosecution) and five ‘R’s (Report, Rescue, Rehabilitation, Repatriation and Reintegration Re-compensation), and is being expanded across all the states in the region.

Explaining the model, which Kharbhih terms simple but effective, involves bringing together various stakeholders such as the law enforcement, social welfare, labour department, education, civil society, media and judiciary. She explained that the basic motive of the model involves organizing and creating resources of the different stakeholders to create a formal network of organizations for the purpose of generating co-ordination that is required to tackle human trafficking in the North East.

“The beginning of this endeavour was small but steady, and it started at the Syntein village in the east Khasi Hills, and since then there has been no looking back,” she said.

The model revolves around economic empowerment, creating awareness and enforcement of the government agencies, and focuses on pushing production of local items beyond domestic consumption. Kharbhih pointed out that to curb trafficking there is a need to give a push and support to the local trade, and for this she created a market network involving artisans from the region.

“Through the initiative, I began marketing the prototypical textile, bamboo, cane and silk articles made by my network of artisans with foreign buyers. We have been able to provide a platform to market the products, which includes handloom products made by the artisans in all the eight states,” Kharbhih said.

How successful has been the Impulse Model?

Kharbhih said that over sixty percent of the population of India belongs to the rural areas and usually women from these places don’t have much exposure and income earning opportunities.

“Through this model under sister concern Impulse Social Enterprises,, we have tried to give such women the opportunity to earn from their homes, as migration to towns and cities is mostly due to the lack of economic opportunities,” Kharbhih said.

She also said that such women are vulnerable to trafficking if they go out to cities for jobs, and could also land in exploitative situations. She pointed out that sustainable livelihood has always been a major issue among the tribal women and that there is a need to harness their skills and talent in the areas they know best.

“So, our emphasis has been on weaving, making of bamboo products and textile apparels, and we provide solutions to the problems of livelihood by engaging with local communities through skill based training, product development and distribution of raw materials,” said Kharbhih.

Kharbhih and her team have devoted a lot of time and attention in creating a good market and a brand—EMPOWER, under which artisans make various products that feature different tribal patterns. The products include apparels, home furnishings such as place mats and table runners, scarves and stoles in a quality suitable for 5-star hotels and fine-dining establishments as well as ordinary homes.

The focus of the model has also been to remove the middleman, which Kharbih points out has been achieved, which invariably means that the artisans earn far more than expected.

Road ahead for the Impulse Model

Kharbhih laments that the policies of the Indian government has always side-tracked the region; as a result of this the economic growth in the region has been static.

“This had left many people in the region with no other alternative but to migrate to cities in search of work, and in many cases they were commercially, physically, mentally and sexually exploited,” said Kharbhih. Kharbhih however said that the Impulse Model has been successful in curbing trafficking, and presently apart from the states in the region, is also being replicated in the countries of Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh.

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