lördag 2 augusti 2014

The move to "Silicon Valley of India"

During the winter of 2012/ 2013, me and my (now) husband, and dog, decided that we wanted to live in a developing country. Now you may wonder why, well, we dream about living on the African continent, but we figured India could be a great country to start our expat-life in. We figured that if we manage to live in India, we can manage to live more or less everywhere. As the opportunity arose, we were quick to grab it. So, we moved to Bangalore, which often is referred to as Indias response to Silicon Valley. 
Our dog Baloo's first time flying
However, before we moved, I decided that (in case no job opportunity arose) I should undertake some more studies. So, before the move I enrolled at Malmö University, at the Faculty of Health and Society, and more specifically at the Department of Social Work. As an political scientist I always felt that I wanted to do more, and on a grass-root level. As a key focus of social work is about understanding and explaining social deprivation and social problems, and on creating opportunities for social change amongst both vulnerable individuals and groups at a more structural level, it seemed as though it could be of great use to me in my efforts to combat injustices. figured that the combination of my background and having a degree in political science as well as one in social work could be really good, and especially to the benefit of less fortunate people. Finally the time came when we moved, and we arrived in Bangalore when there was a heat peak of about 37-40° (!). Despite the heat, I soon started to enjoy my new adventures and academic life in India. Or well, after a while, it actually took some time to get 'settled in' and acclimatized. 

UNODC-work South Africa
As I had some past knowledge and experience of sex trafficking (from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) I had decided to focus on this as a subject for my Master thesis. As such, I started to carry out fieldwork in the area of sex trafficking, or more specifically on support to victims of sex trafficking, in terms of protective and rehabilitative homes, and in the State of Karnataka. I decided to focus my research on the State of Karnataka, obviously due to our move, but as it turned out the state was also a major hub with a high population density that increasingly were becoming affected by trafficking. 

Kids in the streets of Koramangala
The population of the state has increased considerably due to rapid efforts towards development and progress.[1] Bangalore has also grown into a hub for many major companies, and in the last decade the process of globalization is claimed to have enhanced the ‘push and pull’ factors that drive migrants’ desires to seek gainful employments. This is claimed to have caused an unprecedented amount of migration. Migration itself does not lead to trafficking, but trafficking often happens in the process of migration. Obviously there are other push and pull factors as well. 

The vibrant city of Bangalore first chocked me, then it amazed me. The contrast between the rich and the poor was not new to me, nevertheless, it is always sad to see. Complaints of missing nightlife, not withstanding, the city seem to have emerged as one of the most vibrant cities in India. Further more, I had no idea that in Bangalore, and Karnataka, there would be that many Swedish companies. In fact, it has been recognized that the number of Swedish companies in India almost doubled during 2006-2011. At present (2014) there are as many as 63 swedish companies registered only in Karnataka. [2]
Questions soon started to arise …Are victims being provided with livelihood skills to link them with productive employments later, or are victims subjected merely to traditional training in shelter homes, such as cleaning and cooking?  Need not to be said, but the (corporate) community should press local governance structures to monitor and account for human rights issues, such as caste/ethnic and gender discrimination, including sexual exploitation. With excitement and questions I began my work...

[1]. Census of India, 2011. 
[2]. Sweden - India Business Guide, 2014.

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