Today is the 2nd annual World Day Against Human Trafficking, a day to raise awareness of the fact that at any given time, an estimated 2.5 million people across the globe are trapped in modern-day slavery, and to show solidarity with those most affected.
Adara knows all too well about the damage that human trafficking can cause to people and communities, and for the past decade, we have worked with a group of 136 children in Nepal who were trafficked from their homes to the capital, Kathmandu, and were found in deplorable conditions. We have worked with these children to rehabilitate and reintegrate them with their families, and today, their future is bright.
Pasang Sherpa works closely with the Adara Kids in his role as Youth Development Manager. He has also been active in working closely with our team following the Nepal earthquakes to provide support and assistance to a disadvantaged area called Ghangfedi – an area with extremely high rates of human trafficking.
BY PASANG SHERPA, YOUTH DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME MANAGER, ADARA DEVELOPMENT
Human trafficking has become an increasing problem in Nepal over the past 50 years. Poverty, an open border with India, high unemployment, and a lack of awareness and education are all significant factors contributing to Nepal’s human trafficking problem. Women and children are the biggest victims, and oftentimes it is their relatives or someone from their own village who becomes their trafficker. Young girls from the countryside are often promised an education and other opportunities by the traffickers, but instead are obliged to work in a dance bar, restaurant, in the sex trade or as domestic servants.
Since the earthquake, we have been working to provide assistance in Ghangfedi. Though it’s only around 150km from Kathmandu, Ghangfedi feels almost as remote as Humla. Literacy rates are below 20%, and it is thought to be the area of Nepal where human trafficking started. One of the first things you notice when you arrive in Ghangfedi is that there are hardly any women, as those from the ages of around 10 have been trafficked from the area due to severe poverty and lack of opportunity.
The landscape of Ghangfedi is a major push factor for trafficking. Potato, buck wheat, millet and maize are the key crops of the place, but these crops can only be harvested once a year, meaning there is not enough food to support a family year-round. There are also few opportunities for children to get an education, as despite the fact there are 12 schools in the area, none of them were operating well before the earthquake, and all of them were destroyed by the earthquake.
Similarly, unemployment is a huge push factor. We have even heard of some cases where women consent to being trafficked or sold, irrespective of the risks, as they do not want their families to die of starvation. For many, trafficking is the only income generating activity available to them.
We have heard countless horror stories from Ghangfedi about the victims of trafficking, and it is really quite hard to articulate the plight these victims endure. Many are sold to brothels and are forced into sexual exploitation. We heard stories of women who were required to engage with a minimum of 7-8 men a day without any compensation. They live with violence from their buyers, and are unable to leave due to the fear of torture or death. They are modern day slaves, bound to live there and work until they die or are rescued. In the worst scenario, they become the victim of HIV/AIDS, and are sent away from the brothels, back to their home villages. But even then, these women receive little compassion, and are often exiled due to fear from their community that they will spread HIV. Many women die due to lack of hygienic health and nutrition.
As Nepal works to recover from the earthquake, we need to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected from falling into the human trafficking trade. People who have lost everything will be particularly susceptible to the promises of the traffickers, as they are desperate to find a way to protect themselves and their families. As Ghangfedi recovers from the earthquake, Adara will work to try and prevent trafficking, by organising social awareness camps about trafficking, and helping Ghangfedi to enhance their schools.
Pondering the depth of the problem of human trafficking will not do anything to ease it, so we should rather emphasize on the solution. By making ourselves aware about trafficking and the push and pull factors, we can make others aware of it, and hopefully protect some of the most vulnerable from ending up in the human trafficking trade.
I am very fortunate to be able to work for the welfare and uplift of the Adara kids. Through these kids, I have seen first-hand the potential for victims of trafficking rehabilitate and have fulfilling lives when they are given the opportunity to do so. We should be seeking to give this opportunity to all who are currently enslaved in our world.
After all, the victims of trafficking are just like us – they are human beings. And they need our support.
So join us, make your hands into a heart and help us give hope for a brighter tomorrow.