Magazine Online  |  November 15, 2021

Impact Focus The Hummingbird Foundation & Equal Community Foundation – Agents of Change

By Aparajita Dhar
India Country Head, The Hummingbird Foundation

The Hummingbird Foundation was established in 2014 by the Mathias family to support innovative community action to prevent human trafficking in West Bengal, India. Hummingbird’s aim is to reduce human trafficking by targeting attitudes and processes that create or exacerbate vulnerability. This aim is embodied in the creation of a Prevention of Trafficking Model as a key methodology to evolve and replicate Hummingbird’s work. With dedicated teams in India and the UK, Hummingbird’s approach is to foster robust partnerships with non-government organisations, community-based organisations, and relevant government bodies.

Hummingbird sees itself as an enabler that can convene, communicate, and collaborate with these stakeholders for maximum impact. Hummingbird partners with local organisations to build communities that promote gender equality and resilience against the core drivers of human trafficking.

Hummingbird and its seven field-based partners in West Bengal are developing a Prevention of Trafficking Model comprised of four distinct and mutually supportive pillars. Through a series of deliberations and workshops, Hummingbird and its partners have identified three programmatic pillars that form the foundation of the Model, which the partners have been implementing since January 2017.

Through the initial project cycle, Hummingbird’s partners are developing programmatic content and training programmes around these three pillars, building evidence of good practice, and analysing the effectiveness of implementation in a rapid manner that promotes adaptability and responsiveness.

The three programmatic pillars are:

  • The Collectivisation of Children and Youth
  • Forming and Strengthening Community-Based Institutions
  • Access to Rights and Entitlements

In the world, 40 per cent of trafficked victims are from India (16.6 million people are trafficked in India), and from this number, 44 per cent are trafficked from West Bengal, India. The main objective of the Hummingbird model is to create overall systemic change within a local network of stakeholders to address key vulnerabilities that can lead to trafficking. In line with Sustainable Development Goal 5 – Achieving Gender Equality and Empowering Women and Girls, Hummingbird believes that if young people – both boys and girls – are provided with equitable opportunities to challenge inequitable social, cultural, and religious practices and gender norms, and if consciousness can be raised among them about their fundamental human rights with the active support of their parents, these young boys and girls can become agents of change in their community. The Hummingbird Foundation promotes child-friendly environments and behaviours, and assists with the building of community-owned programmes in active collaboration with key community-based institutions such as village-level Child Protection Committees, self-help groups, youth clubs, religious leaders, and so on, thereby creating a multi-stakeholder community child safety net working in close collaboration with accountable local government.

They have 2,000 youth members who are actively involved in the intervention process of child rights violation cases in collaboration with the village-level Child Protection Committees. In one incident, a local youth group heard about the marriage of a 15-year-old girl. The group intervened and made the family members understand the negative effects of child marriage. They stopped the marriage and enrolled the girl in her village school.

One of the other projects is known as Hummingbird Raise.

Hummingbird Raise was both a programme and a coalition. The goal of Hummingbird Raise was to ensure that the largest possible number of adolescents in 24 north and south Parganas in West Bengal were given the knowledge, skills, peer support, and leadership to bring about change in themselves, their family and peers, and their communities to prevent gender-based violence and trafficking.

This programme was implemented in 68 villages and reached out to 4,984 adolescent boys. Towards the end of the programme, 65 per cent of the boys demonstrated gender-equitable attitudes. The project was partnered by the Equal Community Foundation (ECF). Their mission is to raise every boy in India to be gender-equitable. Two main projects of the ECF are Action for Equality and Project Raise.

Action for Equality is a behaviour change programme that is designed to work with boys in the 13 to 17-year-old age group. Over a period of one year, we equip the boys with knowledge, skills, peer support, and leadership abilities to challenge gender norms, change their own behaviour, and advocate for such change in their families and wider communities.

Project Raise is a national collaborative programme designed to support organisations across India in raising gender equitable boys. The programme provides its members with access to resources, training, peer learning opportunities, and collective evidence. Using the provided support, organisations can independently deliver programmes, evaluate progress, and accelerate progress towards the common outcome of raising gender equitable boys.

The ECF believes that not every male is part of the problem, but that every male can be part of the solution. Gender equality is always talked about from the female perspective, hence the ECF wants boys to know that gender equality is also a male issue. Through their intervention, 12,599 boys across India have participated in their programmes and begun their journey towards becoming gender equitable, and 199 collective actions are taken by the participants each year to challenge gender norms in their communities.