The Safe Village Program, aimed at building awareness against human trafficking among rural masses across 100 villages in Andhra Pradesh, has received great response from the people. Hundreds of people enrolled as volunteers and Rakshaks (protectors) just on the second day of the launch of the program. The program which was sponsored by the U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad is being managed by My Choices Foundation. The program was launched in Sabbavaram village near Visakhapatnam by Joel Reifman, Consul General, U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad. The Safe Village Program is a holistic program aimed at sensitizing at-risk community members about human trafficking, its causes, and its risk factors, creating awareness about ways to prevent trafficking from happening, sustaining the awareness and conducting vulnerability-reduction workshops.
To run this program Operation Red Alert - a division partner of My Choices Foundation has partnered with local NGOs that work on issues of women and trafficking, trains them on the Safe Village Programs, and appoints them as official “Implementing Partners”. These implementing partners, conduct Safe Village Programs under the management of Operation Red Alert. Only the staff who have been trained by Operation Red Alert are eligible to conduct these programs.
There are three stages in a Safe Village Program: pre-visit, two days Safe Village Program and the follow up. As part of pre-visit, volunteers visit the targeted villages and collect data to confirm the vulnerability and trafficking risk and get a deeper assessment of the of the issue. The volunteers then discuss the issue with authorities including village sarpanch and NGOs seeking their partnership in the programme. Other partners in this mission are school headmasters, Anganwadi workers and ASHA workers. After obtaining the consensus and assurance from stake holders the Operation Red Alert designs the program schedule for a particular village. During this intensive program volunteers speak about the signs of potential traffickers, potential vulnerable people and the strategies the traffickers adopt to lure innocent people. During the course of this program, volunteers distribute fliers and material among the masses with emergency phone numbers to alert the police when they suspect any trafficking activity, child abuse or child marriage in the village. During this program a Rakshak team is formed so that they take initiative when villagers reach them with human trafficking complaints. Addressing the volunteers Mr. Reifman said "Our team at the Department of State and the U.S. Consulate in Hyderabad works with local civil society organizations and host governments through various programmes and campaigns to eradicate modern day slavery." He wished volunteers all the best for making the programme being sponsored by the U.S. Consulate a great success. Sudha Upadhyayula, Head of Operations, My Choices Foundation, said the program will be conducted in 100 villages in Andhra Pradesh and these villages are being identified with the help from authorities and respective village heads after assessing the vulnerability to the problem.