When young women are rescued from human trafficking it can seem as though the problem has been solved. But being brought to physical safety is only the first step.
Reintegration into an ordinary life can be difficult. What follows is an organization called International Sanctuary (iSanctuary) is working to care for these women in a way that guides them back to successful, sustainable independence by addressing the needs of body, mind, and soul.
Among the needs the organization addresses includes medical and dental care, and financial planning—including and even providing micro-loans. The group teaches basic life skills, such as opening a bank account. Education and counseling are a big part of the process of getting these women back on their feet after being rescued.
Why is the focus on girls? Eighty percent of people in slavery around the world are women and more than half are children as young as five, sold for sex or labor.
Born in Calcutta, she was sent by her stepmother to dance in the local brothels at the age of 12.
Co-founder Wendy Dailey told Opportunity Lives about Seema. Born in Calcutta, she was sent by her stepmother to dance in the local brothels at the age of 12.
“The exploitation quickly grew,” Dailey said. “She found herself at 14 years old servicing several men a night.”
Knowing that the same fate awaited her younger sister, they ran away together. As two young girls alone on the streets of India, however, they were taken and sold into the sex trade for less than $100 before being rescued. iSanctuary found Seema and her sister in this rescue facility.
Seema “wasn’t interested in developing relationships,” Dailey said. “She was very much outside of the circle. She wasn’t as engaged in relationships with staff leaders or even the other girls.” Still, she kept coming back.
She has become a teacher and now “provides her story of hope and healing” in the aftercare home where she once lived.
As weeks turned into months, Seema was thriving at her new skill of making jewelry and went on to become a leader in the organization after several years. She has become a teacher and now “provides her story of hope and healing” in the aftercare home where she once lived.
“She’s still with us today and has dreams of becoming a lawyer,” Dailey said. iSanctuary has helped her with this dream. Seema is now in her second year of law school and hopes to prosecute the traffickers who took her and her sister and others like them.
According to iSanctuary, there are currently 27 million people enslaved in the world today—more than the entire population of Australia. That’s also more people in bondage than at any time in history.
Seema is now in her second year of law school and hopes to prosecute the traffickers who took her and her sister and others like them.
It costs only $90 to purchase a young girl as a slave, but with the volume of trafficking around the world it’s a $32 billion industry — larger than Nike, Starbucks, and Google combined. The chances of a girl being rescued and her trafficker being convicted is a horrifyingly low one percent.
iSanctuary has centers in Mumbai, India and Orange County, California, though the group has rescued girls from around the world. So far, 300 young women have been served in the organization’s Mumbai sanctuary center with eight aftercare homes implementing their self-sufficiency training programs. Survivors have earned $120,000 paid directly to them in the form of wages. On the heels of this success, the organization is poised to expand to an additional 10 new sanctuary centers by 2020.
Every minute, according to iSanctuary, four children are forced into slavery. With organizations like iSanctuary, there is hope.
“People don’t understand the trauma, the severe damage that is done to victims of sex trafficking and to have someone overcome,” Dailey said, “not only in the sense that they’re able to rebuild their lives, but really dream and aspire for something more. It’s truly miraculous.”
Amelia Hamilton is a contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @ameliahammy.