Reducing Vulnerability to Human Trafficking (2016)

An Experimental Intervention Using Anti-Trafficking Campaigns to Change Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs, and Practices in Nepal

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Principal Investigators:

Through the C-TIP Campus Challenge Research Grants, teams of researchers at three universities implemented public opinion surveys in USAID priority countries for C-TIP programming. The researchers sought to generate data to inform the design of programs to raise awareness about trafficking among vulnerable populations and influence knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices related to trafficking. This publication focuses on research conducted in Nepal by a team led by Vanderbilt University. C-TIP Campus Challenge grants also were awarded to Texas Christian University (TCU) to conduct research in Albania and Moldova and to the University of Southern California (USC) to conduct research in Indonesia.

The research team conducted a series of randomized controlled trials in Nepal to determine the effectiveness of various types of mass media campaigns designed to raise C-TIP awareness. The researchers developed, tested, and then randomly assigned different types of C-TIP messaging to survey participants, varying by format (a fact-based poster, and narrative graphic novels, radio, and audio-visual treatments). Within the narratives, the research team also varied the message type (empowerment versus fear-based stories). Study participants also were randomly assigned to experience the messages either individually, or in groups that allow for community-level deliberation. The research was conducted in 160 communities across Nepal, and included two full rounds of treatment to gauge long-term effects; the research is continuing for a third round in Nepal and expanding into China, with support from the US Department of Labor. Key findings include:

  • All forms of media increase 1) general knowledge about human trafficking, including the perception that boys and men are also vulnerable, and 2) the ability of respondents to self-identify as victims of trafficking and to recognize trafficking situations that have affected family and friends. The media campaigns also increased respondents’ sense of urgency about trafficking in Nepal and stated commitment to act to address trafficking. They even increased actual actions to prevent trafficking: exposure to a mass media campaign almost doubled the percentage of respondents who mailed a postcard with an anti-trafficking message to the Government of Nepal (from 5.9% to 10.2%).
  • Despite increases in knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices, the media campaigns did not increase respondents’ awareness about the prevalence of human trafficking in their own communities. This finding is cause for concern: if respondents believe their community is exceptional or immune to the push and pull factors of human trafficking, and do not believe that human trafficking is an issue in their community, they may be more likely to overlook it when it does actually manifest itself.
  • There were several differences in effects among the various forms of media: overall, narratives were more effective than the informational poster. In addition, empowerment narratives were more effective than fear-based narratives. There were no consistent differences among the three narrative formats (graphic novel, radio, audio-visual), suggesting a policy preference for use of radio narratives in a country such as Nepal, where radio is widely accessed and is most affordable from a production and dissemination perspective.