A singing dream renewed

Irene* always dreamed she was going to become a star. As a young girl, she so desperately wanted to sing and become famous for her voice, she jumped at the chance when a stranger promised get her work as a singer if she travelled to India with him.

She spent her journey fantasising about her life after winning the Indian Idol but on arriving at her final destination she realised she had been deceived. The man who had promised to make her dreams come true had in fact trafficked her and wanted to sell her for sex. Irene refused to work – crying and fighting – until finally her trafficker sold her to a brothel owner. She was then kept in a dirty brothel, where she was tortured and forced to work.

A year after being trafficked, Irene was rescued in a joint operation by police and Justice and Care and taken to a safe house. Our social workers worked hard to help her get over the trauma of her past with regular counselling and therapy sessions. One day she asked if she could have singing lessons. Staff were overjoyed that she felt motivated to sing again and signed her up for classes. After some lessons, she regained the confidence to sing not only in the shelter but at another NGO programme.

Encouraged and touched by the response she got and the support she had received, Irene spoke out about how she had been trafficked on the pretense of gaining a career as a singer. A few months later she was invited on a radio show, where she spoke about her past and the issue of human trafficking.

Irene now wants to use her singing as a platform to spread awareness about the crime and its impact.

My Run for Freedom

Inspired by and dedicated to Yasmin.

By Julia Immonen

Nearly a decade ago I learned that the buying and selling of human beings is the fastest growing crime in the world. I wondered how I could make a difference to this overwhelming injustice? With sport being a big part of my world it seemed a natural way for me to do something. An initial half marathon turned into a 3000 mile Row for Freedom across the Atlantic Ocean - symbolic of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade route, raising funds and much needed awareness in 2011/12.

I have long known and respected the work of Justice and Care over the years but to recently see it first hand was utterly life changing for me. It was an honour to join Julia and James Thomas and a group of supporters to see their outstanding work in India.

We arrived in Kolkata and went straight into a briefing on an imminent rescue about to happen. To see their unique Multi Disciplinary Unit model in action with lawyers, social workers, accountants and everyone in between working together to dismantle criminal networks and survivors not just rescued, but their whole after care journey so well considered, was impressive.

The prevention work of Justice and Care is also far more extensive than I realised. We went to a centre in a really remote village where survivors and other vulnerable girls receive various skill training. After seeing first hand and learning from the girls how the organisation has helped them, we went to the home of one of the girls called Yasmin* in the latter stages of her time at the centre. She lived at least 40 minutes further along more remote, dusty roads and paths. The Justice and Care team pick her up and drop her off everyday; it blew me away - they care deeply and every life matters.

We visited Yasmin’s family home, where her father welcomed us warmly. He was a sick man who looked far older than his years and had many teeth missing from malnourishment. He explained how poor they are and because of his sickness he isn’t able to work. Yasmin’s mother gets limited earnings by peeling onions in the village. With tear filled eyes he told us how his childhood best friend tricked him to allow Yasmin to go and work in the other side of India to earn the family more money. It was a lie, he was tricked and deceived - Yasmin was forced into sex slavery and forced to do things that no child or indeed human being should ever have to experience.

Her father was so devastated by the betrayal and for what happened to his daughter. Words failed him to thank Justice and Care who rescued Yasmin and continue to invest her and their family’s future. Yasmin now has a sewing machine to sell garments and provide an income for the family having been trained at the centre.

Yasmin is 17 years old but looks a lot younger because her growth was stunted by the lack of food. She is fun and mischievous. Her strength and resilience amazes me. She renewed my passion for this injustice. Yasmin is my inspiration to Run for Freedom. We walked together and hugged - I’m so thankful she now has a good future ahead.

“I’d rather row the Atlantic than run a marathon” – I’ve said this many times. I’m not a natural long distance runner but Yasmin keeps me going on the cold, dark, rainy wintry nights when I have no option but to train. Letting Yasmin down is not an option.

I could tell you at least another 10 life changing stories like this from our time in India. I met a mother in a slum who was devastated that her son and his friend were tricked into bonded labour. After being rescued they have returned home as champions educating their community and through the help of Justice and Care the mother now has a little shop in the slum. She sources fresh produce each morning, which she sells within the community. She’s a great businesswoman! She beamed with joy telling us how she’s so grateful she can now provide 2 meals a day for her family and they are reunited and safe.

We can’t all do everything, but we can all do something. My something for now is to Run for Freedom and long term I’m excited to keep supporting Justice and Care’s life changing work.

Thank you for being part of this journey.

Click here to sponsor Julia on her Run for Freedom

 

 

 

Trafficker apprehended by own victim

In November 2017 and at only 16 years old, Damini* received an award for exceptional bravery from the government of West Bengal.

When Damini* was barely 13-years-old, she had been kidnapped, drugged and trafficked hundreds of miles away from home. She was sold to a brothel and forced to see 20 men a day. Three painful years later she was rescued and Justice and Care was asked by the State to look after the rehabilitation and prosecution aspects of her case. However, despite all efforts to trace them, the people who had trafficked her had been absconding.

After returning home Damini would walk through villages scanning faces looking for the person who had destroyed her childhood.

A few months later when she was at a train station with her mother, she spotted the lady who had trafficked her. Sensing Damini's eyes on her, the lady in question tried to escape but Damini quickly caught up with her and held her singlehandedly. In the scuffle that ensued, a crowd quickly gathered and the police were called. Despite the long wait and challenging processes, our lawyers assisted a brave Damini in filing a case against her trafficker. The offender was booked under the relevant sections of the law and sent to jail.

"The thought that if she was set free she could traffic many other girls encouraged me to keep going,” she said.

As a result of her fierce determination and courage, the trafficker is no longer able to snare young girls and sell them into sexual slavery.

Justice and Care continues to support her through counselling, tuition classes and skill-based training - in her case - karate lessons, which she enjoys and excels in. She tells us that she wants to become a police officer when she grows up and fight human trafficking by going after people who ruin the lives of young girls.

Survivor speaks out against trafficker and sees him jailed

Videoed naked by a boy who had drugged her, teenager Esha* was then blackmailed and sold into the sex trade.

The 14-year-old met her trafficker at a picnic. He had come along with her best friend’s boyfriend. Esha recalls drinking soda that the boys had supplied and having a lot of fun. That was until she felt dizzy and the rest of the evening she cannot remember.

The following day she received a phone call from the boy. He pressured her into meeting him that evening by promising her something special. But when she met up with him she was horrified to see a video of herself, naked, on his phone. He threatened to send the video to everyone in her school if she did not do what he said.

Deeply upset, Esha returned home and stayed off school for a week. When she returned she discovered the other students had seen the video.  Ashamed, Esha promised the boy she would do anything he asked if he would delete the video. He told her to meet him and she left home without telling her family. He then took her to another city before selling her for the equivalent of £350.

Each day she was forced to have sex with many men, in a city where she could not speak the language. She was beaten by the brothel manager as well the customers. At night, she was locked in a room where she would contemplate taking her life.

Several months later, Esha was rescued in a joint operation by the police and Justice and Care. Taken back to her home city and given a place to live and support by social workers, Esha began to heal and rebuild her life. She has reconnected with her family and continued her education. She aspires to become a police officer and to support her family.

A year after she was rescued, Esha testified against her trafficker in court. He was sentenced to many years in prison.

A new start for our survivors

 We were delighted when nine girls graduated from one of our training units earlier this month, as part of the effort to give survivors a new start. In our programme, we help those we’ve rescued to develop new skills, move into work and become financially independent. The girls enrolled in the programme receive a weekly stipend, as well as free transport and meals. We were so proud to celebrate this moment with their families and guardians.

At Justice and Care, we know that helping survivors cannot simply be about meeting basic needs - true rehabilitation must mean transformation, empowerment and building personal resilience. So, as well as new skills and training, our programmes work to reduce the vulnerability of girls being re-trafficked and help them become powerful role models in their communities. We wish each of them the very best as they begin the next phase of their journey in freedom - they each prove that transformation is possible.

Traced across the country and rescued in 72 hours

The police and Justice and Care successfully rescued 13-year-old Kajal*. Kajal went missing from a remote village in East India in what turned out to be a shocking case of bride trafficking.

When she was on her way to school one morning, Kajal was abducted and taken thousands of miles from home. A few days after she went missing, Kajal managed to get hold of a phone and spoke to her father, sharing information about her location and captors. A First Information Report was filed the same day and the local police began investigating.

After her abduction, Kajal was forcefully “married” to one of the alleged accused who sexually abused her. She was then sold to a brother of this accused, who got “married” to her and abused her too. Within 72 hours of receiving information about the missing child, the Justice and Care team assisted the police in not only rescuing Kajal but also arresting all the accused, saving her from further harm and exploitation.

Important study on trafficking and safety conducted along with BSF along Indo-Bangladesh border

Justice and Care in partnership with the Border Security Force conducted a study to understand the nuances of trafficking hidden within illegal migration, assist the BSF in detection, and provide casework support for victims of trafficking intercepted at the border.

The pilot initiative introduced new strategies to tackle trafficking and adopt victim-centric approaches to interception so that the crime is detected correctly at transit points and victims repatriated sensitively. This was experimented along a part of the Indo-Bangladesh border.

Through the study of eight villages around two check posts at the Indo-Bangladesh border in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, the research provides a glimpse into the issues faced by border communities and its relation to trafficking.

Supporting us in the endeavour, 15 dedicated community volunteers belonging to villages near the border conducted field studies on site for the study. In a shocking indicator of the high levels of vulnerability, one of these volunteers was trafficked during the course of the study. She is one among a handful of young girls who escaped from her captors and got home safe. Together with the other volunteers, she has become a champion on the ground to spread awareness on human trafficking.

The partnership is playing a significant role in the facilitation of highly successful and comprehensive interventions and helping understand the critical nuances of human trafficking along the border.

30 forced into prostitution. Now rescued!

In March 2017, after careful intelligence gathering and groundwork, Justice and Care helped the police rescue 30 young women and children from multiple brothels in a town in South India. Located close to an arterial road, criminal networks had established a presence to traffic young girls from across the state to this town. The girls - some as young as 13-years-old - were forced into the trade by initially luring them from distant villages with the promise of jobs. During the intervention, the team arrested 35 alleged traffickers, including 21 women who are now behind bars.

Once recruited from their homes and villages, the girls found themselves in situations with severely curtailed freedoms, suffering extreme physical and mental abuse, including imprisonment and physical brutality.

When attending to the girls, the aftercare team found that many of them suffered from poor health and a few from HIV but were still forced to have sex with 10 - 12 men every single day. A few even shared accounts of being beaten and traumatised by their keepers on a regular basis.

With the alleged traffickers and brothel owners now in jail, our lawyers are working to ensure they are held to account for the abuse inflicted on those in their custody.

The girls are now safe in shelter homes and our counsellors regularly visit to help process their terrifying ordeal. In the years to come, we will do everything we can - from counselling and medical attention to proper home investigations and repatriations - to see each rescued girl live a happy and fulfilling life.

Honoured for our path breaking work

Led by the Chief Minister, the Karnataka Government honoured Justice and Care with the Ballari police and the special public prosecutor on International Women’s Day for the role we played in securing a conviction against 39 people who were trafficking women and children for sex in Ballari. Here’s what some of our stakeholders had to say about the experience:

S Rudramani who was Deputy Superintendent of Police (Dy.SP) for Ballari at the time of the rescue (currently posted as DCP Crime, Mysore) said “Cooperation and team work at every step contributed to the success of this case in the court of law. Each stakeholder worked hard to ensure the perpetrators are punished for their crime. I appreciate the work of Non-Governmental Organisation Justice and Care and the prosecutor involved in working on the case. Protecting our women from being trafficked is a priority for us in the Police force.”

“This landmark verdict represents a huge step forward in the fight against human trafficking in India. I thank the Government of Karnataka and the Department of Women and Child Development for this honour and congratulate every stakeholder involved in ensuring the survivors get justice. I dedicate the appreciation we have received to every woman and child rescued in 2013 by our brave police in Ballari”, said Rathod Ramsingh, Special Public Prosecutor (PP).

 

Climate Change and the Impact on Children

The Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF), in collaboration with Justice and Care, hosted a round table discussion on ‘Climate Change and the Impact on Children’ on May 11, 2017 in New Delhi. 

The event was chaired by Monique Villa, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), TRF and moderated by Adrian Phillips, Director of Legal at Justice and Care. Attended by journalists, government officials and development practitioners, the event served as a key platform to highlight the human impact of climate change on vulnerable communities, and to identify gaps in the sector that organisations working on these issues should address.

Some of the key action items that emerged from the event

  • Improved monitoring of government schemes and the incorporation of monitoring plans within disaster reduction schemes
  • Mandatory social audits for schemes related to disaster risk reduction particularly the ones targeted towards women and children
  • Adopting a rights-based approach for schemes targeting women and children
  • Comparative research on issues related to climate change,particularly on protocols such as the declaration of drought.