A NON-PROFIT (Charity) Organization for Social Utility (O.N.L.U.S. – Organizzazione Non Lucarativa di Utilità Sociale) registered in the Turin Municipal Council Registry of Non Profit Organizations and in the Regional Council Registry of Non Profit (Charity) Organizations. Iroko is also a member of the Coordinamento interregionale Antitratta, which operates through the Anti-trafficking platform, and the Coordinamento Cittadini contro la Violenza alle Donne (CCCVD) in Turin; IROKO has joined the network Nodo territoriale metropolitano contro le discriminazioni in Turin.
The main activities of the Organization are: Services given directly to victims of trafficking and violence:
- Shelters for the victims of trafficking and violence
- Temporary economic assistance immediately after escaping from their exploiters
- Assistance in the search for employment and housing for the victims of trafficking in their search for economic independence and personal autonomy
- Psychological support and ethno-clinical Cultural Mediation for the victims in need of special sustenance
- Cultural mediation and accompaniment of the victims and other immigrants to social and health services
- Specialised medical assistance, in collaboration with volunteer doctors and medical specialists
- Legal consultancy and information on immigration issues, residence permits and visas, and on civil and penal rights
- Translation of documents for use in employment search and in applying for training courses and for all purposes permitted by law
Iroko has 2 apartments where it also offers emergency, short-term accommodation to women and children in need. It also has a temporary economic assistance programme for victims of trafficking. These services are based on direct contact with the women and on their being accompanied and continuously sustained by the Organization’s operators, until they attain full economic independence and personal social autonomy. This sustenance and accompaniment is carried out by agreeing with them a program of activities, services and training courses, which would assist them in the search for employment and housing. The objectives agreed on between the operators of the organization and the victims are regularly evaluated and revised to better address the evolving needs and capacities of the victims. In the months in which the women are sustained and accompanied, their full participation and consensus is always sought, for the successful achievement of the objectives agreed with them. In this way, more than 140 women have successfully completed various terms of support and accompaniment and have become fully integrated into Italian society. Two, who were also very young – 17 and 19 years respectively, chose to go back home to their families. They were both accompanied physically home and handed over to their families and for a certain period of time – a maximum of one year, the Organization continued to offer support to them and in one case, also to her family. Many of the women also failed to successfully complete the terms of support and accompaniment offered by the Organization. Two of them unfortunately went back to prostitution, while 18 of them achieved various levels of social and economic integration, without completing the full term. They sometimes come back every now and then to ask for assistance from the Organization. Such assistance is always given.
From the beginning of all her activities in 1999 up to date, female victims of trafficking with little children have been followed up; single women who have also been given temporary economic assistance; there have also been cases of men who have been assisted by the Association (victims of political violence), in difficult psychological conditions and they are still been followed up in the ambit of etno-clinical mediation. The Association is presently providing services to 78 women, many with children, of which 10 are direct victims of trafficking.
The Nationalities of the women, children and men using the services of the Organization are (in numerical order): Nigeria; Albania; Romania; Morocco, Peru, Egypt, Bulgaria, Moldavia, Russia, Hungary, Tunisia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Italy.
The quality and solidness of the services offered over the years of activities of the Organization is a tribute to and fruit of the professionalism, experience and seriousness of the members of the Organization. This is more so when one considers the experience of some of the Cultural Mediators of the Organization, with over nineteen years of providing services to victims of trafficking and also the experience acquired within the ambit of various European Union Projects; the participation of some of the Cultural Mediators in the MATERNITY PROJECT OF THE DG of the European Union, on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, the support and accompaniment of pregnant female immigrants from the very first moment of pregnancy to delivery, and afterwards, in taking care of the new born baby, etc.; the experience of some of the Cultural Mediators of the Organization in Gruppo KHANTARA within the Health Education Department of the Local Health Agency 1 of Turin (ASL TO 1) in Via Bertola 53, in a project of assistance to pregnant women, in the role of DUOLA (specialized persons who assist women at the moment they give birth and thereafter, assist them in taking care of the new born), health education, the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and of sexually transmitted diseases, etc., and at the I.S.I office, the experience of the Cultural Mediators of the Association at the Centre FRANTZ FANON (Centre for Ethno Psychiatric, Psychological and Ethno Cultural Mediation Support for Immigrants and their families within the ASL TO 1).
Methodology Used In Working With Victims Of Trafficking And Activities Adopted For Their Training And Employment:
- Italian Language course structured on different levels, to enable the victims of trafficking obtain their first Primary School Leaving Certificate (if they do not have one) and to allow those who already have such a qualifications to register for and attain higher level training. This is an annual project carried out in collaboration with some public schools like the Scuola “PARINI” evening courses of Italian language for foreigners. For this academic year, 6 women have been inserted into the program.
- Training in higher institute: IROKO has agreed on a collaborative project with a Technical Commercial Institute “ITC SELLA” for the training of the women to enable them attain qualifications as accounting clerks, accounting secretaries, geometers, and commercial agents. The importance of this course is that it is an evening course, which permits the women to work and which allows them to obtain the State recognized qualifications in a fewer number of years, by giving them educational credits and recognition for previous educational qualifications they already have from their countries or for employment experience. Thus a five-year course can be done in three or four years, according to the personal capacity and previous qualifications of the woman. Another important aspect of this course is that it permits the women to aspire to higher levels of employment and not just to low level, sometimes de-qualifying employment for those with previous higher levels of education. It also widens their employment possibilities and permits them to aspire to higher levels. This course is to take off next academic year.
- Sewing and fashion designing course: This course was initiated in January 2004 on the request of some of the women, to enable them open their own commercial activities in this line of trade. In view of the ever greater difficulty the women have in finding employment, it was considered useful to organize this type of vocational training. The women, on completion of the vocational training period, can obtain micro-credit from a Social cooperative which grants such credit to low-income or no income women, with the support of IROKO as guarantee, to open an individual commercial concern, or in partnership with each other. 10 women were inserted into this course and they are already half way into the course with very encouraging results. This is an ongoing project.
- Employment orientation and counselling: this is a project, which permits the Organization to give adequate support to the women in assisting them to obtain employment. It involves regular meetings with them, to determine the best employment option they should follow, taking into consideration the resources present on the territory, their personal capacities and qualifications and their real possibilities of obtaining such employment. Their full consent and willingness to follow the guide suggested by the IROKO operators or to provide alternative options where they are not in agreement with such guide is essential to the work carried out with them under this project. The operating methods and counselling theories followed are those provided by Rogers “Counselling”. The Activation of Personal Vocational Development (APVD) method, which is an educative approach to orientation proposed by the equip of the University of Laval at Quebec, Canada is used. This method is especially important as it underlines the evolutive character of the process of a professional choice of employment and living conditions and thus permits the identification of a sequential model of decision-making, which assists in sustaining the process of orientation. Meetings with the women are carried out both individually and in small groups and the women inserted into the various training and employment programs of the Organization were selected on this basis. More than 60 women have gone through the process and 17 found permanent employment on full time basis. 20 are still in training and planning the opening of individual and or partnership commercial concerns. 3 unfortunately went out of the program.
- Employment insertion: this project involves the creation of special agreements with local firms, temporary employment agencies, state and private employment agencies and individuals. In this way, while the employment orientation process is going on, as soon as an employment opening is indicated to the organization, we are able to immediately contact one of the women and if they are interested and if the employment agency is in agreement, the woman is inserted into that employment opening. There is also a continuous monitoring of relations between our women and the employee for some period of time, in other to guarantee that things run smoothly. When she is completely settled in, the Organization can then take it that the process of accompaniment of the woman is concluded. She could always pass by anytime to ask for assistance, support or just to confer with us, but the complete handling of her case is considered concluded. At the height of our program in 2004, 12 women were inserted in various firms and agencies. In the years after that, the number of women we have been able to insert into employment have progressively been less, due to the economic and financial crisis. In view of the difficult moment of crisis that the employment market is going through, IROKO also decided to create its own employment possibilities for the women. We are thus creating a small social cooperative with some of the women; we have a farmhouse in a small village (Villamiroglio) close to Turin, where we intend to create an agricultural tourist center, which would create employment for the women. The farmhouse is in a very beautiful part of Piedmont, in wine country, where there is a lot of request for the type of services we are going to offer in the farmhouse. Lack of funds has made this project a dream on paper, for now.
- It has been possible to achieve these objectives and various others, thanks to the dedication and professionalism of the members of the Organization, the support of individuals, groups and other organizations which permitted us to carry forward our commitment, in the spirit of service to and respect for persons, which has also characterised the work of the group of cultural mediators, volunteers and other operators who gave us of their time, energy and who believed in our work. We are immensely grateful for their help and support.
- Special mention is made here of our funders and of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International. The technical, material and financial support of CATW, has permitted IROKO to carry out many of its objectives. Without such support, IROKO would not have been able to continue its important work in giving support to victims of trafficking and of violence. As members of the Coalition, we feel honoured to be part of this important network, which supports oppressed women and children all over the world. We are immensely grateful for their support and assistance.