Today, July 30, is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
At just 10 years of age, Radhika was forced to leave school and work in the fields to help her family survive the harsh realities of living in rural Nepal. At the end of the day, she would go to the marketplace to sell her family’s produce.
When she was 15, a man who had befriended her at the market told her he could get her a good-paying job in India. He told her he would help her finish her education, and she would also be able to send money home to her family to help them get out of debt. It was a win-win situation.
Although India is just across the border, to young girls like Radhika, it is an exotic, far off country. A place of Bollywood fantasies.
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One moment she was in a taxi; the next thing she knew was waking up hours later, in great pain, only to discover that her kidney had been removed and sold to the highest bidder. She had fallen victim to one of the worst forms of human trafficking – organ harvesting.
She was married by force and eventually gave birth to a son. What should have been a happy time in her life turned into another nightmare as she was trafficked again and sold to a brothel, and forced to prostitute herself 20+ times a day.
Eventually, Radhika was rescued by an anti-trafficking organisation. Thankfully, she and her son Rohan now live happily back in Nepal.
Radhika is one of the “lucky” ones – she was finally rescued. Sadly, there are thousands of ‘Radhika’s’ who go missing every year, never to be heard of again.
As we mark World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on 30th July, Radhika’s story is a stark reminder that there is still much to be done to rid the world of this evil.
Human Trafficking is a $150 billion a year industry.
The 1750km open border between Nepal and India is known as one of the busiest human trafficking highways globally, where upwards of 20,000 Nepali girls are trafficked every year. Most will never return home.
Nepali girls are especially desirable as prostitutes in India because of their lighter skin colour, temperament and because Nepali virgins are believed to cure AIDS and other diseases.
What makes these Nepali girls particularly vulnerable to being trafficked is their poverty, lack of education and a society favouring sons over daughters. Traffickers use their innocence and vulnerability as weapons against them.
They are tricked with promises of good jobs, a better life or even the promise of a love marriage.
But there is hope
Every Daughter Matters is a Christian not-for-profit based in Australia working on the Nepali border to intercept girls at bus stations and strategic border crossings before crossing the border and trafficked. Before their innocence is stolen and their lives are changed forever. Our goal is to end it before it begins.
We have Border Surveillance Booths staffed with trained counsellors who work in conjunction with the bus companies and local police to identify girls in potential trafficking scenarios.
Our staff intercept around 30 girls at each booth every month.
With three booths, that’s over 90 girls every month who have been tricked or deceived into believing a better life was waiting for them on the other side of the border.
We have a vision for 20 booths stretched right across the border, rescuing and restoring thousands of girls, introducing them to Jesus and empowering them to live.
There is no doubt COVID-19 will prove to be a lethal co-conspirator with one of the greatest drivers of human trafficking – poverty
When a girl is intercepted, she is taken to our emergency shelter houses for counselling and care. If it is safe to do so, she is returned home to her family. If there is a suggestion that her family may have been involved in the trafficking, we will take her to one of our safe homes.
We empower our girls towards a brighter future at safe homes through counselling, holistic care, and vocational training – skills such as sewing, embroidery, screen printing, and administration. After the six-month training is the opportunity to establish a small micro-enterprise business so they can become self-supporting.
We also engage with communities through education and awareness programmes.
Over the last twelve months, covid-19 has caused untold hardship to the Nepali people. In the long term, there is no doubt COVID-19 will prove to be a lethal co-conspirator with one of the greatest drivers of human trafficking – poverty.
Because most Nepali people are day labourers, the extended lockdowns have meant prolonged periods without any form of income. So many families have faced starvation. Nepal’s daughters are at increased risk of being vulnerable to traffickers as they seek good-paying jobs abroad to help relieve their families’ economic stress.
I am regularly asked how I came to be involved in this work.
I have been working in Nepal since 2011 with International Mission Ministries (IMM), training and equipping indigenous church planters, facilitating child sponsorships, and undertaking humanitarian relief.
I heard many heart-breaking stories regarding the human trafficking crisis in Nepal; then, in May 2019, I was introduced to Pastor Yubaraj B.K, the Director of ASSN (Aashish Social Service Nepal). For the first time, I was taken to a border surveillance booth and saw the face of trafficking in Nepal.
In that moment, everything changed, and the call of God to stand with ASSN on the Nepali border was unmistakable. Having seen, how could I turn away? From there, we established Every Daughter Matters.
In Proverbs 31:8-9, we read, ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’
I believe this call to action is a mandate for all God’s people. In the words of John Wesley, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
For me, that involves interrupting evil and providing hope by rescuing Nepal’s daughters.
On 30th July, as we acknowledge World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the EDM Team will wake and think… three more today, Lord, three more today.
Ross Nancarrow is Executive Director of Every Daughter Matters www.everydaughtermatters.org.au