How My Choices Foundation used market research to help prevent trafficking of girls for sexual exploitation

Photo: Copyright My Choices Foundation

Understanding how to address men’s behaviour to buy and sell girls


The primary objective of this research was to develop programs to effectively prevent buying and selling of girls in the human trafficking trade. Operation Red Alert commissioned Final Mile to understand the compulsions of male behaviour leading to the selling/sending and purchasing of girls in the human trafficking trade, in order to develop effective messaging and programs that can be used to address such behaviour and prevent girls from being sold into forced commercial sexual exploitation.

Tailored research technique

Finale Mile used a proprietary research technique called EthnoLabTM, which involves a game that simulates the real-world context of the participants in order to solicit real world reactions and behaviours. The game was the medium through which context, emotions, and mental models that influence the behavior of at-risk families and urban clientele were studied. The game was developed in digital form and a remote response system was used to collect the participants’ responses. Audio instructions and narration were used without the inclusion of any text, in order to accommodate the literacy and comprehension levels of target groups. The game was followed by a hot state interview session, which was designed to elicit emotions felt by the participants and to gather perceptions in relation to trafficking and purchasing sex.

Understanding of key stakeholder behaviour: redefining the approach to human trafficking prevention.

The results showed that both the decision to sell/send a girl into trafficking and to buy a girl are guided by emotional, financial and social frameworks of the men. Crucially, the results pointed to non-malicious behaviour by men that is motivated by a desire to abide by the expectations of these frameworks. The results redefined Operation Red Alert’s approach to developing messaging to speak to men and boys in at-risk areas. Crucially the results pointed to the benefit of engaging men and boys with positive messaging framing, highlighting the benefits of protecting and educating girls and encouraging affection and protection for girls. Inducing fear among fathers selling their daughters, and shame among young men (potential purchasers of sex) was identified as a harmful approach, likely to be ignored by men and boys and deter them from engaging with the issue. Operation Red Alert has used the results as the basis for its grassroots prevention work in at-risk villages across rural India and the Red Alert Helpline, which is India’s first national, anti-sex trafficking helpline. This research has the potential to change the national response of NGO and Government responses to trafficking alike. The results not only inform methods to change behaviour that sits at the root of the problem, but also the development of tools for public education and engagement.

Operation Red Alert is the anti-trafficking initiative of My Choices Foundation commissioned to Finale Mile Consulting