Friday, 8 July 2011

Child trafficking in India - Rubina's return

Rubina's emotional reunion with her beloved grandmother/Fjona Hill

India is the fourth most dangerous country in the world for women, right after Afghanistan, DRC and Pakistan, according to a newly released global survey by the Thompson Reuters Foundation (I wrote a blogpost about the report a couple of weeks ago).  This unexpected distinction for the world’s largest democracy is due largely to the high numbers of women and girls trafficked in the country every year.  

It is estimated that 100 million people, mostly women and girls, were involved in trafficking in India in 2009 alone, according to the report.  Across the world, some of 1.2 million children are trafficked every year into prostitution, forced labour, child marriage, begging and other slavery-like conditions.

Rubina is one of them.  She was just ten when her father took her away from their small rural village in India’s Andhra Pradesh and sold her as a domestic slave in nearby Bangalore.

Photographer Fjona Hill followed her return home, after the little girl ran away and was taken to a Government’s Girls Home. There, Oasis, an NGO working with trafficked children, gave her counselling, traced her parents and brought her home. 

Although Rubina was luckier than most trafficked children, her story is fairly typical.

She lived with her parents, two young sisters and an elder bother in Chinampalle, a small Muslim village of 500 mud huts, where people eke out a meagre living off farming and stone mining.

Her father, a stone miner, could only find work two or three days a week, while her mother worked as a coolie (carrier) and toiled in the fields.  The family often went without food, and was in debt.  Rubina frequently bunked school and her father was convinced she was mentally unstable.  

Rubina arrives at her village and looks for her family/ Fjona Hill
Like most trafficked victims, Rubina had no idea what awaited her in Bangalore. Her father had told her he was taking her to an Islamic school, but sold her to a lady as a domestic servant instead.

In her case, the “dalal”, as recruiters are known in India, was her father – and that is not uncommon. Many children from poor families are sold by parents and relatives, who might not grasp the full implication of their actions.   Dalals can also be friends, neighbours, people who have been trafficked themselves, as well as corrupt police officers, passport officials and taxi/rickshaw drivers.  They haunt bus stops, railway stations and streets of deprived areas looking for potential victims, and use drugs, abduction, kidnapping, persuasion and deception to catch them.

Rubina kneels at her mother's feet as she explains where she had been taken by her father. A woman from the village looks on/Fjona Hill

 Rubina managed to escape, something few achieve, and was welcomed back into her village. The village elders disciplined the father. If she had been trafficked as a sex worker instead of a domestic servant, she might have been rejected by her family or her family would have been forced to leave their village because of the stigma and shame brought onto the household.

Oasis workers have been visiting Rubina recently. “She is now doing well and going to school, and the whole village are keeping an eye on her,” says Anita Kanaiya, Oasis executive director. 

For more information on Oasis, click here and to donate to the charity, click here.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Pakistani women need support

Last week, I wrote an entry about the world’s most dangerous places for women. Pakistan came third on the basis of cultural, tribal and religious practices harmful to women, according to a global report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
A few days later, I was approached by the head of a non-profit organization working for women’s rights and peace in Pakistan. She was asking for help.

Dr. Shabnam Nazli contacted me through the online women’s network PeaceXPeace, a grassroots community of women who share cross-cultural solutions to achieve peace in their families, communities and in the world.

Dr. Nazli is the chair of Hope Development Organization, founded in 1997 by a group of feminists to address and combat the “daily abuses and crimes against women in Pakistan, such as child marriage, honour killing, domestic violence, acid throwing, bride burning, dowry death, murder of pregnant women, human trafficking, sexual violence and female genital mutilation,” she says.

Despite some government’s actions, violence and discrimination against women remain rampant, as the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s TurstLaw global report testifies. “It is difficult to work for peace and equality in an environment of deep-seated traditionalism, terrorism, political instability and bad economy,” says Dr Nazli.   90% of Pakistani women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Women in the country earn 82% less than men and 1000 women and girls are victims of honour killings ever year, according to the global report.

HDO is doing much needed work to educate and empower women, and provide health services and skills training.  But they lack the resources needed to keep going.  “We need your encouragement and your help to continue working,” Dr Nazli pleads.

Please, visit HDO website and send messages of support,  and if you can donations.