Poverty and Human Trafficking in South Asia

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Poverty and Human Trafficking

Southeast Asia is a hub for human trafficking.  Too often, young girls are lured by traffickers through promises of well paying jobs in the cities.  If you have read Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl Wudunn, you will already be aware of the horrors endured by women and girls caught in the web of modern day slavery, and if you don't know, read the book.  It's easy to read but hard to handle.

The United Nations describes trafficking in persons as the “recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion abduction, of fraud, for the purpose of exploitation”.  It is modern day slavery

I write for a woman that runs a non-profit in Northeastern India.  The work I have done for her has changed me.  It's overwhelming to realize that such brutality and twisted sexuality exists in the world.  On the other hand, it is an impetus to keep working and making a difference in the world.  

Poverty is the primary factor in human trafficking.  Most girls are not outright kidnapped, at least not in the sense that they are taken from their homes in the dead of night.  They are often promised a  modeling job or simply selling vegetables to provide for their families, then locked up in a brothel until they die of AIDS.  

What if they had job opportunities in their home villages?  With a bridge out of poverty, the path to slavery is blocked.  

Married to a Vision: Hasina Kharbhih

A successful entrepreneur is married to a vision and cannot rest until it has transformed all of society.” - Hasina Kharbhih

 A young Indian woman who works Northern India, Hasina Kharbhih’s work involves issues like child trafficking, HIV/AIDS intervention, and sustainable livelihood.  She first received recognition as a teenager when she was chosen as a Commonwealth Youth Ambassador for Positive Living. She was then selected as an Ashoka fellow because they want to help her in her efforts to spread the Meghalaya Model, an impressive and complete strategy to deal with child trafficking.

Her model is one of the most effective in all of Asia, and involves rescuing and restoring the lives of young girls caught in the web of human trafficking.  She also rehabilitates them with job training and professional counseling. 

Despite the world’s efforts to stop slavery in the late nineteenth century, it is today the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, with an estimated $32 billion in revenue yearly.  In fact, there are more people enslaved today than in any other time of the world, according to Mary Burke, director of the Project to End Human Trafficking.  They are trafficked to provide labor (domestic services, agricultural or sweatshop labor) or sexual services (street work, brothels, pornography, or massage parlors). 

Throwing Back Starfish:  Trina Talukdar

Are you familiar with the Hawaiian fable about the boy who, after a massive storm over the sea, threw starfish back into the ocean one by one?  An older man ridiculed him for it, saying that no matter how many starfish he threw back, he couldn’t even make a dent in the amount washed up on the beach.  He shrugged his shoulders and threw back another one.  “It makes a difference to that one,” he replied.

Trina Talukdar is doing just that.  She rescues girls from human trafficking and trains them in the career of their choice.  Just recently she rehabilitated a seven-year-old girl.  (I know, we don’t want to hear it, we don’t want to know, we don’t want to imagine the tortures this little girl faced.  But if it was your hometown that lost girl after girl to slavery, wouldn’t you want more people to know and stop this insanely lucrative crime from happening?)  The girls paint, sing, attend concerts, visit museums, and are becoming women who will change the world.  Trina aptly calls them her Revolutionaries. 

Trina Talukdar and a few of her Revolutionaries

This battle is against women, and will be won by women.  Have you ever thought that you would have been active in the Underground Railroad, had you been alive then?  If so, you have now been introduced to a new form of slavery, and have the opportunity to stop it.  You can be one of this generation’s Abolitionists.  I wholeheartedly believe it can be stopped. 

Let the Revolution begin.  


humanrightfilms March 29, 2011 at 3:08 AM  

I would like to share a documentary here. Tragedy of trafficking in South Asia where thousand of young girls and boys are sold into modern-day slavery. This documentary provides a compelling look into this dark, inhuman, and exploitative world and shows how each one of us can help to prevent modern-day slavery.


Renee Byrd April 4, 2011 at 12:45 PM  

How can I become more involved? What can I do to help? Please contact me.

Renee Byrd

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