Forging New Business Ideas

Vadym, Pavel and Viktor* went to the Russian Federation as seasonal construction workers. Lack of job opportunities and low real wages left them with no other choices. “We heard many success stories from our friends and acquaintances working abroad, and decided that we should also try,” says Viktor. They got in touch with a job broker and in a few weeks were riding a train to Moscow, where they were promised a contract with decent pay and paid accommodation near the construction site. “Upon arrival, we were taken to the outskirts of Moscow, where they made us build cottages along with other captives under constant surveillance without any pay,” Pavel recalls. The men spent seven months there in poor living conditions. When their health deteriorated after 12 hours of heavy work a day, they were taken to the train station and let free.

Shortly after they returned to Ukraine, Vadym, Pavel and Viktor met the IOM local partner NGO “Revival of the Nation”. With funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, IOM and the NGO provided them with qualified reintegration assistance including psychosocial support and counselling. As a next step forward, Vadym, Pavel and Viktor were included into the IOM Economic Empowerment Programme which trains trafficking survivors on business and career development and provides self-employment grants for those who develop and successfully defend their business plans. “The training was a place where people with different backgrounds and professional experience met, creating vibrant atmosphere, sharing our experiences, brainstorming and learning a lot of new things,” Pavel recalls.

IOM economic empowerment training for former victims of trafficking is a five-day event which guides its participants through many thematic areas such as business plan development, marketing, finance management involving different formats — both team and individual work, presentations, business games and open discussions. “An important and the most motivational part of the training was to meet  the people who have been already supported by IOM, listen to their success stories, ask them questions and have ‘get up and go’ feeling,” says Viktor.

After the training Vadym, Pavel and Viktor jointly developed a comprehensive business plan to start up a blacksmith shop in their home district, which they presented to the selection committee for final verdict. They won the competition and received a micro-grant which helped them fit their workshop with all the necessary equipment such as welding machines, a pneumatic hammer, compressors, airbrushes, other hand tools and instruments and even an exhaust system to provide for safe labour environment. Now they produce iron fences, window bars, stairs, advertisement stands and a range of decorative items. “The order list is constantly growing, we feel the need to expand our business and hire more workers,” says Pavel. Their workshop is becoming popular even beyond their community. One of their recent orders came from local authorities to produce a decorative fence for the central square.

IOM Ukraine has provided holistic reintegration assistance to over 14,000 victims of trafficking since the year 2000. This included legal aid, medical care, psychosocial counselling, family support, vocational training and additional assistance based on individual needs, providing for sustainable recovery. Almost 900 former victims have benefited from IOM’s Economic Empowerment Programme, creating hundreds of new jobs and contributing tens of thousands of hryvnias in local taxes.

The names have been changed to protect privacy