By A Staff Reporter Kathmandu, July 31: Despite the impact of COVID-19, the Government of Nepal continues to make gains in countering human trafficking, stakeholders said in a webinar organized for the United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on Friday. “We must have strong engagement and participation of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) survivors to address these challenges,” they said. With this year’s theme of Victims’ Voices Lead the Way, the webinar focused on the voice, agency, and leadership of survivors and survivor-centered interventions that address TIP. These survivors, who have received support from the Hamro Samman project, shared their stories, how they overcame trafficking, and the resilience they gained from the experience. They are now working to improve awareness, community engagement, and transformative empowerment at the local level in coordination with committees and governments. The event also discussed the heightened vulnerability, renewed challenges, and collaborative solutions to countering TIP, a press statement issued by the organisers said. “This event served as a platform for highlighting the efforts of local governments countering TIP in their communities,” said Adriana Hayes, the acting Mission Director for USAID/Nepal. She continued, “Hearing about the municipal and provincial-level survivors’ networks, how the private sector is engaging with survivors, and the collaboration of various ministries and government agencies at the federal level is inspiring and makes me proud that USAID is a partner in this effort.” Nathanael Bevan, Development Director at the British Embassy Kathmandu said, “Crises have a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities including women and girls. The pandemic has put such groups at more risk than ever before. By working with local governments and stakeholders, our Hamro Samman programme is ensuring that survivors’ voices and leadership are at the centre of tackling trafficking. I am delighted to see the progress that has been made this year and the UK will continue to work hard with government and international partners to reduce harm to vulnerable groups.” According to the 2021 US Trafficking in Persons Report, these included ratification of the Palermo Protocol, steps to amend the Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act, and continuing to raise awareness on trafficking. With the rapid development in communication technology, the challenges of countering TIP have also changed. The lockdown has seen traffickers increasingly use social media and mobile technologies to lure and deceive victims. The many Nepalis whose homes the 2015 earthquakes destroyed, and who are now being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, are especially vulnerable to trafficking, states the press release.