Since 2012 we have received around 50 women acutely, mainly placed by Stockholm Police’s Prostitution Group and the Police Unit Against International Organized Crime, IGOB (formerly the Human Trafficking Section). The majority of these women have come from Romania - one of Europe’s largest recruitment hubs for prostitution and trafficking for sexual purposes.
Each of the women who are placed at Talita are offered to stay on a long-term basis and partake in our one-year program. However, many of the women for various reasons, such as having to provide for their families, are unable to accept the offer. A safe return to Romania is in some cases an option (preferably through the County Board and IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Program), but this is not always a straightforward solution, since trust for authorities in the home country is often lacking and pressure from others to stay in prostitution may be strong.
For some time we have dreamed of the possibility of doing more for the Romanian women in our target group. During the period September 2016-March 2017, our co-worker Meghan Donevan conducted an explorative study to survey the situation in Romania with the purpose of determining out how we could better assist this particular group.
The study resulted in the report Breaking Free * Breaking free *
About the same time this report was finished, Simon Häggström (author and criminal inspector at the National Operative Department), who we have collaborated with for many years, came home from a study trip in Romania’s capital city Bucharest. He was very shaken up by what he saw and experienced, and you can read about this in his latest book Nattstad (Kalla Kulor Förlag). After listening to Simon’s heartbreaking stories, the matter was settled.
We decided right then and there to start operations in Romania and have done so by establishing a partnership with the local organisationen FREE
FREE is a non-profit organisation that aligns very closely with Talita in terms of target group, values and working methods. Together we will run the safe house Casa Talita, where women in our target group will receive both acute help and long tern support in the form of Talita’s one-year program. Our aim is to be able to also create work opportunities for the women to make it possible for them to provide for themselves and become fully reintegrated in society.
A Mongolian woman called Chuna who has participated in Talita’s rehabilitation program in Sweden, returned to her home country in 2013 and started Talita Mongolia (Talita Asia). Today, she runs an office and a long-term shelter for women and children who have experienced violence and/or exploitation in prostitution or human trafficking for sexual purposes.
Human trafficking is a growing problem in Mongolia, especially from towns to cities, but even from Mongolia to other countries like China (Reference: National Center Against Violence). Several thousands of Mongolian women and children are lured into the sex industry every year, yet a shortage of initiatives dedicated toward this target group persists (Reference: Mongolia Gender Equality Center). Even violence in the home is a large problem that affects approximately one of every three women in Mongolia (Reference: NCAV), but only four acute shelters exist (apart from Talita’s shelter), and none of these offer long-term support. On top of this, these shelters share more similarities to that of a prison than a shelter.
In Mongolia, violence in the home is considered a private matter. Many seek after help, but when they contact the police and social authorities, they are told that the problem is not society’s responsibility; it is an issue that should be solved within the domains of a family. Since men are typically the financial providers and hold a stronger position in society, it is very difficult for women and children to leave an abusive man. Rather than end up in prostitution and homelessness, they remain trapped in their homes. These problems are highly visible in large cities like Ulam Bator.
”I am staying at Talita - this is my home!”
One of our Mongolian girls, who recently had to fight for her life due to severe epilepsy, has survived! She was sent home from the hospital with the announcement from the doctor that said, “Unfortunately we cannot do anything more now; she is most likely going to die.” Mongolia currently faces economic hardships and many doctors and nurses work without an income. However, Chuna, as the leader of Talita’s work, found another hospital about 100 kilometers from the capital city that was prepared to help the girl. Today she is energetic, strong, and happy! The girls’ mother and stepfather who sold her into prostitution have tried to get her back—but she has declared, “I am staying at Talita – this is my home!”
You can read more about Talita’s work in Mongolia at Facebook.com/talitasverige and Facebook.com/Talita-Asia