Co-producing Knowledge with Post-trafficked Women in Nepal: Influencing Policy, Building Capacity, Challenging Exclusion

Submitting Institution

Newcastle University

Unit of Assessment

Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Sociology

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Summary of the impact

Research on the livelihoods of post-trafficked women in Nepal, co-produced with the women themselves, has produced three significant impacts by:

  1. Informing and influencing policy debate and formation within Nepali government organisations and NGOs, and with international donors and agencies working in the region, on post-trafficking development challenges.
  2. Building capacity amongst post-trafficked women to enhance their self-advocacy and influence as they secure their livelihoods and claim citizenship rights in Nepal.
  3. Raising public awareness and changing conventional wisdom about post-trafficking livelihoods, locally and internationally, enabling women and their advocates to challenge their exclusion.

Underpinning research

Pioneering research in gender and development at Newcastle (Laurie 1992 to present, Townsend as Senior Research Investigator, 2004-12) has challenged how knowledge is produced on and for international development. Specifically, this work has established how neoliberal professionalisation influences the agency of social movements (1, 2), NGOs (3) and specific vulnerable groups (4, 5). This theoretically innovative and policy engaged research underpinned a major ESRC-funded empirical study examining the post-trafficking livelihoods of women in Nepal ( This research significantly advanced understandings of how trafficking intersects with international development by highlighting how women's experiences post- trafficking represent significant development challenges. In particular, it showed how stigma associated with being a post-trafficked woman can make accessing rights to livelihoods and citizenship difficult or even impossible in some circumstances.

Research collaborations were established through the Developing Areas Research Network (DARN), founded by Laurie (2005) at Newcastle University. This network built a partnership with Durham and Northumbria Universities to bring together NGO practitioners and academics to generate research and knowledge exchange on international development in the UK North East. The post-trafficking research involved interdisciplinary collaboration with colleagues in Sociology at Newcastle University (Richardson, PI; Poudel as DARN Post-Doctoral Researcher [PDR]) in an innovative research partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Shakti Samuha, one of the first anti-trafficking NGOs, globally, to be founded by post-trafficked women. Laurie and Townsend's involvement brought conceptual expertise on gender and development, spearheading the research's distinctive participatory approach. Their extensive partnership experience with Global South NGOs working in challenging settings shaped the research's strategic focus on knowledge co-production for advocacy.

This research, funded from 2009-2012, is the first in the world to systematically analyse women's post-trafficking experiences. Most trafficking work addresses its causes and characteristics, feeding into policy frameworks targeting the `rescue' of those experiencing diverse trafficking situations. Post-trafficking starts when these scenarios end and describes the processes and practices associated with leaving trafficking situations. The underpinning research shows that at this point post-trafficked women encounter often extreme development challenges. They are typically stigmatized (labelled as prostitutes and/or HIV `carriers') and experience social rejection from their families and communities. Lacking family support makes it difficult for them to access citizenship and livelihoods. As citizenship is typically conferred after the age of 16 through a male relative, usually a girl's father or husband, this can also result in post-trafficked women being unable to confer citizenship on their children, either because they lack citizenship themselves or their children were born in trafficking situations (and thus lack a known father) (5). In this way poverty and exclusion are passed on generationally. One of the few ways of breaking this cycle is by post-trafficked women developing solidarity and finding alternative livelihoods through involvement with anti-trafficking NGOs, including as paid staff when NGOs professionalise. By co- producing knowledge with post-trafficked women through research, including for the purpose of strategic lobbying on citizenship rights and livelihoods, this project has brought trafficked women's voices into advocacy and policy development and implementation in international development.

References to the research

1. Laurie, N. and Bondi, L. (eds) (2006) Working the Spaces of Neoliberalism: Activism, Professionalisation and Incorporation. London: Blackwell. Available on request. [Originally published as a Journal Special Issue. Bondi, L. and Laurie, N. (2005) Special issue editors: Working the Spaces of Neoliberalism: Activism, Professionalisation and Incorporation. Antipode 37(3), including: Bondi, L. and Laurie, N. `Introduction', Antipode 37(3): 393-401.] DOI: 10.1111/j.0066-4812.2005.00503


2. Laurie, N., Andolina, R. and Radcliffe, S. (2005) `Ethnodevelopment: Social Movements, Creating Experts and Professionalising Indigenous Knowledge in Ecuador', Antipode 37(3): 470-495. DOI: 10.1111/j.0066-4812.2005.00507


3. Townsend, J.G., Porter, G. and Mawdsley, E. (2004) `Creating Spaces of Resistance: Development NGOs and their Clients in Ghana, India and Mexico', Antipode 36(5): 871-899. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8330.2004.00459


4. Andolina, R., Laurie, N. and Radcliffe, S. (2009) Indigenous Development in the Andes: Culture, Power and Transnationalism. Raleigh, Durham: Duke University Press. REF2 output, 170780. Available on request.


5. Richardson, D., Poudel, M. and Laurie, N. (2009) `Sexual Trafficking in Nepal: Constructing Citizenship and Livelihoods', Gender, Place and Culture 16, (3): 257-76. DOI: 10.1080/09663690902836300



Investigator Grant Title Sponsor Period of Grant Value
Nina Laurie (Co-Investigator) Post Trafficking Livelihoods in Nepal:
Women, Sexuality and Citizenship (RES-062-23-1490)
Economic and Social Research Council October 2009 - April 2012 £241,000 at full economic cost

Details of the impact

1. Informing and influencing policy debate and formation

i) In Kathmandu, in February 2011, an Activist Workshop set up and led by the research team brought together NGOs, donors, trafficked women and high-level government representatives (80+). Preliminary research findings were used to review NGO programming and led directly to the following policy debate and political lobbying.

a. Shakti Samuha, one of the first anti-trafficking NGOs to be founded by post-trafficked women, drafted demands on citizenship rights/livelihoods which were submitted to political parties and elected government and Constituent Assembly core committees, including the Fundamental Rights Committee (FRC). Six specific recommendations that were raised from the Activist Workshop are listed in this document regarding citizenship provision to women and children in general, plus a number pertaining to trafficked women and children whose mothers were sexually exploited abroad (IMP1).

b. This led to the FRC Chair soliciting case studies of post-trafficked women and their children's exclusion from citizenship from Shakti Samuha.

c. Case studies co-selected by Shakti Samuha and the research team were then presented by the FRC to the Constituent Assembly (CA) recommending that `children without having a father's known identity should be granted rights of citizenship'. This demand was adopted in March 2012, and is registered by the CA Secretariat to be ratified as part of the new Constitution when the Secretariat and CA are re-elected (currently scheduled for November 2013) (IMP2).

ii) As a technical expert to the National Committee in Controlling Human Trafficking, the research team directly influenced recommendations on access to housing, healthcare, education and livelihoods for women post-trafficking, later endorsed by Cabinet in the National Plan of Action in May 2012 (IMP3).

iii) The American Bar Association used research findings to formulate policy on witness protection and support services moving to ensure a `more nuanced and survivor-centric framework for assessing survivors needs and how justice actors should address those' (IMP4), citing `Post- Trafficking in Nepal: a project on livelihood strategies for survivors of human trafficking implemented in cooperation with the IOM and Newcastle University' as an example of best pratice in `services provided to trafficking victims by NGOs' (IMP5).

iv) DFID's Asia social development agenda was directly informed by the research team's input into the development, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of DFID's large anti-trafficking regional programme (£9.75m: 2011-18). DFID's Senior Regional Social Development Advisor for Asia states `[y]our research helped us understand the complexity of trafficking and how it works and how it interacts and who to listen to'. Referring specifically to Laurie's role in the M&E tender selection process (December 2011-January 2012), she stated `your expertise...gave professionalism, rigour and expertise to our selection panel' (IMP6).

2. Building capacity for self-advocacy amongst women

Local level in Nepal — drawing on the research team's expertise, a modular training programme in action-research methodologies was put together. This was delivered to the Shakti Samuha leadership, which consisted of 12 post-trafficked women, between 2010 and 2012. The importance of this training was emphasised in their presentation `Trafficking Survivors to Social Researchers: Reflections on a Journey' to the `Making Livelihoods: Sexuality, Citizenship and Stigma Conference (Kathmandu, November 2011; co-hosted by IOM, Newcastle University and Shakti Samuha; the conference attracted 100+ participants including CA members and senior policy-makers): `Research conducted by survivors themselves would be more effective and help to identify the real status of trafficking survivors, identify their needs and make recommendations to stakeholders in order to fulfil their actual needs' (IMP7). As a result of this training and with on-going consultation with the research team, in 2012-2013 Shakti Samuha designed and implemented an action-research project to improve trafficked women's access to justice when taking traffickers to court.

Nationally — in November 2010, research insights were used to provide training to AATWIN, Nepal's national anti-trafficking alliance (32 member groups) with a specific focus on anti- trafficking's relationship with human rights. As the AATWIN Programme Coordinator stated following the training, `The project website is being widely used by our member organisations to gain conceptual understanding on trafficking and challenges women have been facing post-trafficking' and she noted how training sessions enabled those campaigning for the fundamental rights of trafficked women (IMP8).

Internationally — as part of extending the training internationally, Poudel (PDR) was seconded to work with IOM Turkmenistan (December 2011-February 2012) to develop and deliver an anti- trafficking toolkit for high-level Central Asian policy makers. This resulted in post-trafficking being incorporated into the Turkmen government's and IOM's work in Turkmenistan for the first time, setting the scene to shape policy agendas by building NGO capacity into the future because as IOM Programme Coordinator Turkmenistan argued following the training, `Once the NGOs will be strengthened, then significant positive impacts will reached' (IMP9). In 2012, Poudel also worked in partnership with AATWIN and GAATW (a leading global anti-trafficking network) to develop and deliver field-based training to 15 women from 5 anti-trafficking NGOs to build capacity in generating baseline data on livelihood needs for future international lobbying around the UN Optional Protocol on Trafficking (IMP8).

3. Raising public awareness and challenging conventional wisdom

The research has made visible the exclusions faced by post-trafficked women in Nepal. Achieved through extensive media exposure, this includes more than 11 TV and 25 radio interviews (some web-streamed internationally), 8 print media articles (half in the major English daily, Kathmandu Post), and conceptual input into the anti-trafficking documentary The Color of Brave (made by Film Himalaya) (IMP10). Metrics on research project website visits indicate impact on a large readership (51,932 visitors, January 2010 - October 2013). Figures for the last year show 75% new visits, with visitors from 10 countries (Google Analytics).

Sources to corroborate the impact

(IMP1) Shakti Samuha's Proposal to Change Current Citizenship Provision in the New Constitution. 8 March 2011, Kathmandu, Nepal. Available on request.

(IMP2) The Fundamental Rights Committee's final submission to the Constituent Assembly of Nepal, approved May 2012, p.5. Available on request.

(IMP3) The National Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Trafficking in Women and Children 2068 (AD 2012), Kathmandu Nepal, May 2012, pp.7-15. Available at: iking%20in%20Persons%20%20Especially%20%20on%20women%20and%20Children%20in%20Nepal%20-%202012.pdf.

(IMP4) Factual statement by the then Country Director (Nepal) American Bar Association (ABA), following attendance at the `Making Livelihoods: Sexuality, Citizenship and Stigma' Conference November, 2011, Kathmandu, Nepal. Available on request.

(IMP5) American Bar Association (2011, pp. 80-81) Human Trafficking Assessment Tool Report. ABA Washington. Available at: king_assessment_report_2011.authcheckdam.pdf.

(IMP6) Factual statement from the Regional Senior Social Development Advisor, Asia Regional Team, DFID (Department For International Development), London UK. Available on request.

(IMP7) Factual statement from the Chairperson of the Anti-trafficking organisation, Shakti Samuha. Available on request.

(IMP8) Factual statement from the Programme Coordinator of the Alliance Against Trafficking in Women and Children in Nepal (AATWIN). Available on request.

(IMP9) Factual statement from the Programme Coordinator, International Organization for Migration (IOM), Turkmenistan. Available on request.

(IMP10) ESRC Research Outcomes System: Post Trafficking Livelihoods in Nepal: Women, Sexuality and Citizenship. Lists project media outputs and hosts uploaded original film/documentary and paper press coverage. Available at: