The latest report from the UN estimates that there are over 40 million slaves in the world today. 40% of the world's slavery is concentrated in South Asia. This same region has the highest rates of child labor, child marriage and other severe problems affecting women and girls.
Why India? India is caught between the developed and developing world, with the highest GNP in the South Asian region, immense wealth alongside abject poverty, and a massive population, coupled with endemic and institutionalized mysogny. 13 million of the world’s 40 million slaves are in India.
Why Nepal? Violence against women is a major problem in Thailand, partly due to cultural beliefs about female submissiveness and filial responsibility. Bangkok is an international hub for sex tourism, and many women are forced into prostitution due to poverty. The Hill Tribes, who do not have Thai citizenship have been disproportionately targeted for exploitation.
Why Thailand? Nepal is a source country for men, women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. A 15 year Maoist insurgency and a series of devastating earthquakes in 2015-2016 have diverted law enforcement away from the problem. 15-20 Nepali girls are trafficked each day into India and the Middle East. Most never return.
HFC strategically goes into the hardest, highest risk places, with programs serving survivors and vulnerable girls in India, Nepal and Thailand. In 2017, we served over 1000 women and children with long term shelter, education and employment projects on a budget of just $430,000.
As a young child, Rita was abused and exploited by her family and was later forced into child labor as a domestic servant. At age 12 she ran away to the city to escape her employer’s assaults, and was soon trafficked into a brothel. She was finally rescued and now lives in the shelter we built in Jalpaiguri, near the borders of Bangladesh and Nepal.
In the loving environment of the home Rita is coming to life, learning to hope, to laugh and to play. She has received excellent counseling and medical care. She has been in our school sponsorship program for two years and is very excited to be learning to read and write. She recently participated in our photography project and several other healing arts workshops. The early part of Rita’s life was full of pain and betrayal, but because of your love and support, she can look forward to a peaceful and promising future.
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By Sarah Annay, creator of Vision for Empowerment workshops.
We first started offering Vision for Empowerment workshops in 2015. What started as an employment exploration project has turned into something even more empowering—a workshop that gives young women and girls a voice in Kolkata, through photography and visual storytelling.