Can Economic Empowerment of Women Combat Human Trafficking?


Barbora Mayer


3 min read

Human trafficking is an abhorrent practice that undermines human rights. Estimates indicate that women and girls may constitute up to 80% of the 24.9 million people trafficked globally, with more than 60% of those trafficked coming from the Asia region. 

Factors that make a person vulnerable to human trafficking include poverty, lack of economic opportunities, unemployment, domestic violence, civil unrest, lack of access to education and low levels of human trafficking awareness. These factors provide human traffickers with a pool of susceptible people who easily fall for empty promises of a better life. The forces of demand and supply are also at play in human trafficking; the demand for cheap labour and sexual services ensure that human traffickers remain in business.

How do we combat human trafficking? How do we ensure the progress made to protect women and children is not undermined?

The engagement and empowerment of women can have a powerful effect in dismantling this global criminal activity. Survivors of trafficking require protection, counselling, legal support, access to remedies, and safe reintegration into their communities with dignity and respect. 

Economic empowerment is one of the key elements in recovery and reintegration of women survivors of human trafficking, because it certifies that these women can regain control, have independence, increase their financial resilience, make decisions for their own development and decrease risks of ending up in exploitation situations again. 

Without economic empowerment we cannot talk about any long-term fight against trafficking or hope the victims will not remain marginalized, and perhaps become victims of some other form of violence. 

It is particularly important to raise awareness of the significance of economic empowerment, and to implement it in local environments, since there are less support and protection services in place, and victims are exposed to additional risk of discrimination and marginalization. 

‘What we gave the women through the monthly community meetings was far more important than just the money. We see the change in the women so clearly. As each month goes by, they are happier and more confident. They have changed their entire world.’  Economic Empowerment Officer, Hagar Vietnam 

Prevention, Protection, Prosecution

However, programmes with focus on economic empowerment cannot work in isolation. They require a holistic approach with a string of social awareness and political mobilization components because the causes of human trafficking are multifaceted. 

Information sharing and awareness building is invaluable, especially when working in underprivileged and rural communities. Through partnerships at local, national and regional levels, NGOs and communities can strategically organize resources in a coordinated manner to comprehensively combat human trafficking.

Human trafficking is not a peripheral issue, but something which causes immense physical and mental trauma. Survivors suffer from psychological torture, are normally physically abused and are constantly exposed to contracting sexually transmitted infections. This is why protection of survivors is an important counter trafficking objective.

Prosecution sends a warning to human traffickers. By enforcing the law and by strengthening legislation and policies, a hostile trafficking environment can be created thus acting as a barrier to the human trafficking trade.

What can funders do to support the effectiveness of economic empowerment of women to combat human trafficking?

– Form partnerships with NGOs with a holistic approach to survivor support, with well-developed Survivor Empowerment programs designed to disrupt the cycle of human trafficking and to equip survivors with tools to help build and lead their communities.

– Work to transform gendered expectations within their organization and in the wider community that can limit women’s aspirations.

– Undertake deliberate outreach to marginalised populations by leveraging existing networks of community organisations that can facilitate access to a more diverse pool of applicants for vacancies within your organisation.

Let us know what you think!

Hagar International welcomes any questions about the Economic Empowerment programmes implemented as part of The Trauma Informed Care approach which guides our work with survivors of human trafficking.

We are open to discuss any questions – please reach out to us on [email protected], or learn more on www.hagarinternational.org


A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training


Barbora Mayer

Executive Director

Barbora Mayer is the Executive Director of Hagar International (Hong Kong), an international NGO dedicated to recovery of survivors of extreme human rights abuse, particularly human trafficking, slavery and gender-based violence. Hagar deliver their programming in Cambodia, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Singapore focusing on underprivileged, marginalised communities with fewer opportunities.

Barbora is a Czech national with over 15 years of international company leadership and project management experience, in both not-for-profit and corporate environments in the UK and Hong Kong SAR. She feels passionate about using her skills, expertise and knowledge to make a positive impact on the society and community we live in and she believes it is an important human right to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion.

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