Survivor was ostracised from society after walking free but battled to become a Champion

May 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.

Ruby* wanted to be a Champion Survivor because she knows exactly how hard it can be for survivors to rebuild their lives after facing modern slavery. 

After facing adversity from an early age, she sought a new beginning in India in 2016 and planned to attend school. But her plan was derailed when she was deceived by an acquaintance and forced into prostitution.

After local people rescued her, she returned to Bangladesh with Justice and Care’s assistance. But she re-entered a society that judged her for being sexually exploited and didn’t recognise the huge trauma that she had faced.

‘No one was speaking with me’, Ruby remembers. ‘I couldn’t go out anywhere as people weren’t accepting me in my community, they used to taunt me, say bad comments about me. I was feeling very low at that time, I was so broken and unhappy.

‘I tried to get admission to my school because I wanted to continue my studies but the headteacher didn’t allow me admission. He told me, “You have to go somewhere else where no one knows you. If you come to my school, you’ll leave a bad impression on the other girls and they’ll become like you.”’

Devastatingly, Ruby is not alone in her experience of ostracisation after modern slavery. Often, young women and girls who have been exploited find that harmful social norms allow stigma to thrive – majorly impacting their mental health and threatening to compromise their futures.

After Ruby shared her problems with Justice and Care, we helped her get admission to school – but the school authority would still only allow her to do tutoring outside the school, and people used to harass her when she went inside the local coaching centre.

She said ‘After facing those kind of challenges, Justice and Care helped me to connect with local leaders who helped me to get through that situation. They were the protectors for me against society and the tormenting decreased.’

Over time, we supported Ruby with her mental health, as well as her education, skill development and groceries – all of which sparked her hope for a better future. 

On top of this, our Bangladesh team provided Ruby’s father with medical support and financial aid to start a tea stall, which has been instrumental in her rehabilitation and empowerment. After training as a beautician, she used money saved from the tea stall to open her own beauty parlour – and she now proudly financially supports her elderly parents with her income. Ruby says this form of support not only enabled her to gain financial independence, but also restored her confidence and dignity.

But Ruby also had a second career in mind. During the early stages of her recovery, she was inspired by the way social workers helped others and knew she wanted to follow in their footsteps. When she was asked to be a Champion Survivor, she jumped at the chance to use her experiences to help others.

She said: ‘Around the time of Covid-19, I started working as a peer mentor, talking with survivors myself. I can relate with the feelings of a survivor as I was one once, so I know how they feel when they come back to Bangladesh and how they are being treated.

’The Champion Survivors have done lots of things through our forum; we have successfully stopped two childhood marriages and connected lots of people with stakeholders so they can get the benefits of governmental schemes.’

When Justice and Care got the opportunity to employ some of the Champions as Aftercare Facilitators (ACFs), who work in our team to help survivors with their recoveries, we knew Ruby was the perfect fit. 

Alongside providing her family with further financial stability, she says becoming an ACF has led to further social acceptance and given her a sense of pride that she is doing something good. 

One of the important jobs Ruby does as a Champion Survivor and ACF is educating people in her community about modern slavery in the hope that other survivors won’t face the stigma she did. Determined to not let her past define her, she wants to create a better world for other survivors.

Her journey is a testament to resilience and hope, and a shining example of how specialised support can transform lives and foster a sense of community and self-sufficiency.

Ruby, who is now happily married with a child, has big dreams for the future, saying: ‘I want to work with girls who have the same journey as me. I want to help girls who are not getting their human rights.

‘The way Justice and Care was with me, that made me powerful so I tried to provide my service to my survivors so they can feel the same way, and they can become a Champion one day and do my role. If 20 more ACFs join one day, we can all work together against human trafficking and we can reduce it day-by-day.

‘A Champion Survivor to me is someone who can forget about her own pain and struggles and can help others to forget their own. She will not be stuck in the past and she will move forward with her present and future.’

*name changed to protect identity

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