A 10-year effort to reduce the trafficking of women in Asia, and sexual assault against them was launched in Singapore yesterday.
Called the Kalinga Fellowship, the programme has its roots in India and aims to reduce trafficking and sexual assault by having governments, companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) work together.
Kalinga Fellowship kicked off with a pilot in March this year in the eastern state of Odisha in India. Over five days, 120 attendees from NGOs, and the private and public sectors tackled topics such as fighting sexual harassment at work and educating Indians on trafficking.
Attendees from March's pilot were split into work-groups with specific agendas that have to be met in a year's time. One group, for example, will develop a television show to educate viewers on trafficking and sexual assault.
Next year, the group intends to focus on Telangana state in south India and then Bangladesh in 2019. Other countries it will launch programmes in include Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand and Nepal.
Organisers decided to launch the programme here since Singapore is a "heart of commercial strength" and businesses have "a profound role in stopping the trafficking of girls in Asia", said Mr Simon McKenzie, chief operating officer of non-profit Bridge Institute, one of the five partners behind the Kalinga Fellowship.
"While sexual abuse happens less in Singapore, its ability to create a platform is much greater," said Mr McKenzie.
In March 2015, Singapore enacted the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act.
In February last year, a 25-year-old man was sentenced to six years and three months in jail, and fined $30,000 for forcing two teenage girls into prostitution - the first case to be prosecuted under the Act.
In a 2015 report on human trafficking, the US State Department gave Singapore a Tier 2 position on a four-tier ranking, meaning that the Republic had not fully complied with US laws on human trafficking but is making "significant efforts" to do so.
Yesterday's launch was attended by more than 80 people, including business leaders, activists and educators.