Staying Safe in Conflict Zones
Life as a social entrepreneur, particularly if you are female, is a dangerous one. Fareeda “Kokikhel” Afridi, founder of SAWERA (Society for Appraisal and Women Empowerment in Rural Areas) was shot dead by extremists in a tribal region in Pakistan’s northwest hinterland.
Hasina Kharbhih is the founder of Impulse Social Enterprises which provides livelihood opportunities for vulnerable communities affected by human trafficking in North-East India, and has faced several death threats and even been assaulted in front of a local court when fighting a case.
“It’s very psychologically draining when you are being threatened,” she says, “but if I become weakened in the process, the team or the institution will collapse.”
In North-east India, political instability has worsened the problem of human trafficking. Building a strong support network with agencies, community bodies and the police is mandatory for any social entrepreneur working in these fragile areas, says Kharbhih. It is crucial to learn your rights and equip yourself with all the legal knowledge necessary to ensure your safety.
Sumaira Abdulali, founder of the Awaaz Foundation, agrees: having worked in the environmental sector in India for more than 10 years, she has faced physical assault during mining inspections. She says that when she ventures into hostile zones she always informs her lawyer and makes sure she is accompanied by a trustworthy person within the community or support network.
Maintaining transparency is key to establishing one’s integrity. “I think one mistake activists make is that they tend to work in a secretive manner and no one knows what they are doing,” she suggests. “The truth is, letting the outside world know – the public and the press – is a safety mechanism in itself.”
Do you take precautions when you travel in zones of conflict?
Adapted from an article by Meera Vijayann, The Guardian, Social Enterprise Network