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7 Ways Covid-19 Has Affected IJM's Work

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7 Ways Covid-19 Has Affected IJM's Work

The world is changing, but the work of justice is just as important as ever! In the midst of all the changes, we know this for certain: there is still reason to hope and still reason to keep fighting for justice.

W

ith police violence on the rise in countries like Kenya, and the risk of domestic violence and OSEC (online sexual exploitation of children) predicted to increase, we know many of IJM's clients are not safe at home.


Covid-19 has affected the world indelibly, and IJM's work is adapting accordingly. Yet in the midst of all the changes, we consider why there is reason to hope and reason to keep fighting for justice.

1. Survivor needs have changed - and IJM is responding accordingly

Not everyone is safe in lockdown, and our teams are receiving urgent requests for help from many, including some survivor families, whose livelihoods have been put at risk. As Ghana moved into lockdown against COVID-19, IJM's aftercare team have been loading trucks to deliver essential supplies to survivor families and partner care homes to support rescued children and families. Similarly, teams in places like South Asia have been granted permission to resource survivors and their communities in this time of need. Read more about this here.

2. Survivors are mobilising to educate and support other survivors

We have been hugely encouraged to see leaders of the Released Bonded Labourers Association (RBLA) in Tamil Nadu, India, visiting survivor communities to raise awareness about COVID-19 and how they can protect themselves from catching and spreading it. They also distributed hygiene packs. Survivors helping survivors!

3. Lockdown laws are increasing the vulnerability of children and women who are unsafe at home

While staying at home is curbing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and is necessary for public health, home is, for many children and women, the least safe place to be. Children and women in Bolivia, Guatemala, Kenya and Uganda are more vulnerable than ever to domestic violence, including sexual violence. Children in the Philippines are more vulnerable to cybersex trafficking. At the same time, foreign customers - including Brits - are spending more time online and are more ready, as they search for entertainment, to commission the online sexual exploitation of children.

4. Some survivors are more vulnerable to re-trafficking and re-victimisation

The closure of businesses due to lockdown laws means survivors who have lost jobs or clients now have no source of income. This makes them vulnerable to re-trafficking. Meanwhile migrant workers in South and Southeast Asia, for example, are rushing home with no social distancing measures possible in these situations of mass migration.

5. Trials are being put on hold - or being run virtually

Many cases have been adjourned as courts close during the pandemic, delaying justice for survivors who have already been waiting for years to see their abusers held accountable by the law. The good news is that Kenyan courts are running virtual hearings, resulting in the release of many wrongfully imprisoned individuals. The Dominican Republic is doing the same for "critical" hearings and our team is pushing for our cases to be classified as such so that sex trafficking survivors can see justice delivered swiftly. In Mumbai, several courts remain operational. In Kolkata, a court granted an IJM client (a survivor of sex trafficking) interim victim compensation amounting to almost £1,500.

6. Major events are being cancelled - and we launched an urgent fundraising appeal

IJM UK made the difficult decision to cancel this year's Freedom Gala as a result of latest health advice about COVID-19. With these major fundraising events in England, Scotland and in Northern Ireland, we had hoped to fund over 30 rescue operations (£150K). Our team quickly adapted, and we launched an urgent fundraising appeal with an online virtual auction and matched funding thanks to kind UK supporters.

We were completely blown away by the response from the IJM community: UK supporters and Freedom Partners chose to be rebelliously generous and kind, raising over £150,000! This is phenomenal news, and IJM UK were so thankful. What a heartening sign of hope, amidst the chaos and uncertainty today.

7. IJM UK and teams around the world are working remotely

While this has its limits, where possible our work continues, and we are as dedicated to ending slavery as ever. IJM Australia even hosted their national prayer gathering online - with over 500 people turning up on Zoom, including Anita Budu from Ghana, and IJM CEO Gary Haugen! While for our field offices, work has drastically changed. Where possible our field offices are continuing work, and IJM has in many instances been granted exemptions from lockdown restrictions (or found alternative means) to provide our essential services of rescue, restoration, restraint of criminals and repair of justice systems.

The work of justice goes on

What hasn't changed is our commitment to keep seeking justice for the poor.

This week in India, despite the country being in lockdown, a partner lawyer was able to secure government support for the rescue of five boys from slavery at a paper-making factory. The boys are now in a government shelter and charges have been laid against the factory owner. It's just one example of the transformation that we are still working hard to effect and still seeing in IJM's work.

There is reason to hope and reason to keep fighting.
Written by Hsu-Ann from IJM Australia, and adapted for IJM UK by Abigail Sumption.
Hsu-Ann is Marketing & Communications Coordinator at IJM Australia. Previously, she served as Communications Fellow at IJM Bolivia.
Abigail Sumption is Digital Marketing and Communications Officer for IJM UK.

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