Champion Survivor now helps others to recover from modern slavery

April 23, 2024

In Bangladesh, Justice and Care has the privilege of working with a group of independent and thriving young women – each has experienced the horrors of modern slavery, but they refuse to let their pasts define them. With the support of Justice and Care, they have determinedly rebuilt their lives and now support other survivors with their recovery journeys. We call them Champion Survivors.

Rehena* was just 14 years old when she was trafficked to India to work in the red-light area. More than a year later, she returned home with the support of Justice and Care – but new challenges awaited her as she tried to rebuild her life and cope with the trauma that modern slavery had left her with.

‘The journey of my life wasn’t easy as after coming back, I was stigmatised because of the comments in the community, she said.  ‘The community didn’t accept me.’

‘They used to say “Your girl should get married soon” to my father. If this happened, I wouldn’t have been able to continue my studies. It was a very challenging environment for me, with both my family and the community. People will keep poking you so that you cannot make a bright future.’

But Rehena was determined to rebuild her life and pursue her education. Working to ignore the judgement that surrounded her, she continued her education with our help and also received counselling, medical and grocery support.

She said: ‘I also got different kinds of training from Justice and Care which helped me get to know my skills and build up my confidence; that’s how I started thinking about my future and became sure about what to do in life. I knew I wanted to support others. That’s why I wanted to be a Champion.’

In 2021, Rehena became a Champion Survivor, and flourished as she used her experience to help other survivors by providing peer mentoring. Just over a year later, we asked her to work for us as an Aftercare Facilitator (ACF) and were thrilled when she accepted the role.

‘I was flying like a bird when I was told that I would be employed by Justice and Care as an ACF and I would work like my brothers and sisters’, she said.

‘When I talk with any survivor, it makes me feel very happy that it’s a kind of learning and teaching process. I’m learning something from the survivor and I’m also teaching her, so that makes me feel amazing. We are helping others so they can forget about their past and think about the future, and can be like us one day.

‘I was a trafficking survivor so I know how survivors can feel, how the community doesn’t accept them, so I want to change the lives of other girls who have faced the same experience.’

Reflecting on her achievements, Rehena shared: ‘When I became a Champion, I started warning my community. I helped one of my cousins who was involved in a fake relationship, warning her about the relationship and the impact of it. I saved her life, so I’m very proud of that.

‘The lens of the community completely changed after I joined as an ACF. Previously, they judged me but now they respect me as as a social worker.’

Thanks to her hard work and dedication, Rehena has achieved high grades, pursued college admission and is now completing her graduation. She is proud to be able to support her family financially and fund her niece’s schooling, and hopes to further her education and eventually work in a government role.

The empowered young woman is a beacon of hope for survivors of modern slavery – showing that lives can be rebuilt and hope restored.

She said: ‘I have full confidence after joining with Justice and Care that I will go forward with my bright future, and I will never look back at what happened with me.

‘When I came back to Bangladesh, I felt like I was nothing and I went from that to working as an ACF. It was a successful journey of mine, so hopefully I will complete my plan for the future too. I’m very much confident.’

*name changed to protect identity

The Champion Survivor programme is made possible by UK International Development from the UK Government.