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

Randomized controlled trial impact evaluations examining the effects of mass media campaigns on norms and behaviors related to vulnerability to forced labor and the worst forms of child labor in Nepal
Project Duration
December 2014
June 2020
Funding and Year

Our impact evaluation projects use rigorous quantitative techniques to evaluate the impact of interventions on reducing child labor, forced labor and human trafficking—part of a broader ILAB effort to build rigorous evidence on what works to secure and protect the rights of children and adults. Such evaluations support our partner governments’ evidence-based policymaking efforts, and also help identify proven strategies to inform ILAB’s future investments in global programs to combat child labor and forced labor.

Note: This study was funded through a cooperative agreement (IL-31824) with UC Berkeley that included three studies for a total of $999,993.

The Problem

Increasingly, organizations working to combat the worst forms of child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking (CFT) support media campaigns, which often enfold educational messages in a dramatic story, to educate civil society (e.g., potential victims, community members and leaders) around CFT vulnerability, victim support, and programs and policy instruments. However, very little is known about the impacts of awareness-raising on knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and practices (KABP) to reduce the incidence of CFT.

The worst forms of child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking are phenomena that affect millions of individuals worldwide, and non-governmental organizations and state agencies spend millions of dollars annually on anti-CFT media campaigns. However, the effectiveness of such sensitization programs is unknown. The lack of concrete data has meant that organizations planning and implementing education activities predominantly rely upon anecdotal information to decide where and how to focus their efforts. This scarcity of reliable data also makes it difficult for organizations to effectively advocate for government action on the subject of CFT.

Our Strategy

This project will use a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) evaluation methodology to implement evaluations of media campaigns aimed at:
1. Decreasing vulnerability to CFT among the general population in Nepal;
2. Increasing awareness around CFT among law enforcement officers in Nepal

Each study will test the relative effectiveness of different formats of the mass media campaigns, including the immediate and long-term differential effects of (1) campaigns experienced individually or through a group campaign; (2) campaigns delivered as brochures, graphic novels, radio narratives, or audio-visual treatments; (3) campaigns focused on fear messages versus empowerment messages; and (4) campaigns that do or do not incorporate relatively inexpensive reminders. 

Key research questions include:
-What is the effect of mass media campaigns on norms and behaviors related to vulnerability to forced labor and the worst forms of child labor?  
-Can mass media campaigns be employed to induce shifts in knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and practices (KABP) that will reduce the incidence of  CFT and assist victims of forced labor and the worst forms of child labor?

The study on decreasing vulnerability to CFT among the general population in Nepal is based on a randomized controlled trial that included three rounds of data collection – referred to as Round 1, Round 2, and Round 3 of the study – in order to measure the longitudinal effects of a set of awareness campaigns disseminated five years ago.


Findings Related to Law Enforcement

  • Empowerment narratives are more effective than danger narratives. For example, the empowerment narrative increased knowledge that an individual found guilty of trafficking can be fined NRS 200,000 by 10.58 percentage points in relation to the control group, a statistically significant difference. The danger narrative only increased this knowledge by 4.81 percentage points, a difference that is not statistically significant.
  • It is simple to increase knowledge on penalties of human trafficking, but not procedural knowledge (e.g., how to handle suspects and how to recognize human trafficking). For example, none of the awareness campaigns had a statistically significant impact on knowledge that human trafficking does not require movement across borders.
  • The narrative campaigns that emphasized male victimhood resulted in greater concern among officers that men and boys are at risk of being trafficked. For example, the danger narrative increased concern by 10.62 percentage points for men (p < 0.001), and the empowerment narrative increased concern by 10.50 percentage points for men (p < 0.001). Not surprisingly, since these narratives did not emphasize female victimhood, no change was observed in concerns for women and girls being at risk for trafficking.
  • Narratives can have unintended consequences. Among law enforcement officers, narratives about human trafficking victims that chart how individuals become trafficked could result in an increase in victim blaming. The danger narrative increased victim blaming of labor trafficking victims by 5.41 (p = 0.02) percentage points, and the empowerment narrative increased victim blaming by 3.82 percentage points (p = 0.03).

Findings Related to General Population

  • This study presents the medium- and long-term effects that awareness campaigns have on individuals’ knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices (KABP) regarding human trafficking and child labor, as measured in Round 2 (medium term) and Round 3 (long term) of the HTV Survey and compared to the data collected in Round 1 of the HTV Survey. We found some differences in the durability of effects depending on whether they received the danger or empowerment narrative and whether they received the campaign in a group or individual setting.
  • The effects of receiving the campaign in a group setting were mixed. For instance, in the long term, compared to those who received the campaign individually, receiving the campaign in a group increased the respondents’ concern for human trafficking, but decreased the concern for human trafficking in their community; it reduced the likelihood of blaming sex trafficking victims for what happened to them, but also reduced the notion that boys are at high risk of being trafficked; and it increased support for legalizing prostitution as well as providing people with information about trafficking, while also increasing support for a law that would restrict girls from moving outside of Nepal.
  • There were no long-term differences in the effects of the campaign dependent on the format of delivery (poster, graphic novel, radio dramatization, audio-visual dramatization). It is worth noting, however, that at least in the short-term, narrative campaigns (graphic novel, radio dramatization, audio-visual dramatization) were notably more effective than non-narrative campaigns (poster).
  • The durability of effects from the fear-based appeal versus empowerment-based appeal were minimal. When effects did last, the empowerment-based campaigns tended to perform better than fear-based ones.

For more information as well as the awareness raising campaign materials, please visit here.