This week, 37 vulnerable persons, including victims of trafficking, are starting new lives as they officially open their small enterprises with support from IOM, the Ministry of Labour and local governments of Ocotal, Somoto and Chinandega.
The participants, who received assistance to develop a business plan and financial support, are now the proud owners of small food stores, fast food stalls, bakeries, barber shops, bicycle repair shops, and new and used clothing stores, amongst others.
Since 2007, when IOM Nicaragua began providing return and reintegration assistance to victims of trafficking, with funding from the United States Department of States Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), it has been working on forming a solid partnership with local governments and the private sector to ensure the successful economic reintegration of returned migrants.
“The initiative is now part of an IOM regional project and a model for Central America. Our principal strategy is inter-institutional coordination at the local level with the public and private sectors,” explains Brenda de Trinidad, Manager of the IOM project in Nicaragua.
“IOM has carried out awareness raising activities, as well as training and capacity building with families, community leaders and entire communities, and local authorities that are now well-established support networks for these returning migrants,” de Trinidad adds.
A young woman victim of trafficking who was tricked by a female trafficker and later assisted by IOM to return home recalls: “I met a lady who gave me some money and said we could go together to Panama to buy clothing and other merchandise so I could set up a small business in Nicaragua. I had no money and no job, so I accepted her offer.”
But she realized something was amiss when the bus entered Honduras. “I asked her why we were going the opposite way, and she told me not to worry and gave me a soda. I don’t know what she put in the drink, but I fell asleep and woke up in Guatemala,” she adds.
Once in Guatemala, she was taken to a nightclub and forced into prostitution.
Nicaragua is a country of origin and transit for human trafficking for sexual exploitation. Although in 2011 some cases of men being trafficked for labour exploitation in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors have been reported.The main countries of destination for Nicaraguan victims of trafficking are Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Mexico.
“The persons we are assisting are all failed migrants, including victims of trafficking, who endured all types of abuse – rape, beatings, sexual and labour exploitation, and theft,” concludes de Trinidad.
“To ensure success for the new entrepreneurs, IOM and its partners produced a practical guide for small businesses which includes lessons learned, developing investment and business plans and legal advice, as well as other important issues such as gaining self-esteem and hygiene at the work place,” explains Daizen Oda, IOM Programme Specialist in Economic Reintegration for Vulnerable Migration Population.
IOM partners include: the ministries of Interior, Labour, and Family, mayors, local Chambers of Commerce, NGOs, private companies, the media and volunteers.