Modern day slavery is real, and India is the "slave capital" of the world.
India is home to over 18.3 million of the world's 45.8 million slaves. That means 1.4% of India's population is enslaved. India has more children than any other nation and one of the highest numbers of young girls in forced sexual slavery. Every 3 minutes a girl is sold into the sex trade, where she faces daily rape and abuse. The average age of these girls is only 12 years old, with many as young as 6!
Only 15 trafficked girls will ever be rescued. This is why we must be on Red Alert!
Cannings region of West Bengal is known to be highly traffic prone and our Implementing Partner (Here on called IP) there had conducted the "Safe Village Program". Safe Village Program is an awareness program by Operation Red Alert of My Choices Foundation to combat sex trafficking. The program is implemented by various "Implementing Partners" in the respective areas.
It was 3:00 pm on August 27th, 2016. IP's social worker, Saraswati (name changed) , was conducting her fieldwork, meeting people in the village and talking to them, as a part of follow up after the Safe Village Program.
She happened to notice Kashmira (names changed to protect the identity), who was around 12 years old, walking off with an older lady, carrying a bag. Months of training communities on Safe Village Programs helped her to realize instantly that something was amiss - the girl and the lady didn’t seem related. She enquired women around her and was told that Kashmira got an opportunity to work in the city and are heading towards Canning Railway station to start their journey to the city.
Saraswati followed her set protocol by Operation Red Alert, called and alerted her supervisor at 3:30 pm. Two people from Implementing Partner's team then instantly swung into action and rushed to the Canning Railway Station to check on the girl. They saw the girl with the lady and took photographs to serve as proof. They immediately lodged a complaint with the CID and sent them the photographs. Ms. Sarbari Bhattacharya, CID officer, assured them that the girl will be rescued by the time the train reaches Ballygunge station.
It was a very anxious time for the team, and everyone were worried whether the rescue would happen on time. At 5:30 pm, their phone rang and it was the call from CID office informing them that the operation was successful and the girl was rescued.
The lady was arrested and upon enquiry, it was found that she was involved in prostitution and was a trafficker.
The girl has been sent to Kolkata ChildLine since she was just 12-year-old, and later sent to her parents. The girl is a school dropout, had 4 siblings, and is from a very poor family. Family sent her with the lady presuming that she will go to the city, work as a domestic help, and earn some money.
This was one successful operation and a lucky girl, but there are millions and millions of girls who are not so lucky. Every 8 minutes (recent statistics suggest as low as every 3 minutes), a girl is being trafficked into sexual slavery in India and only 1% ever get rescued. These are the reported numbers and it’s highly likely that the unreported number is way higher.
The way to counter this growing social menace is to sensitize people on the issue, spread awareness, and prevent trafficking from happening in the first place. That is an assured way to create safe villages.
My Choices Foundation, by partnering with grassroot NGOs, conducts two-day ‘Safe Village Programs’ and till date have conducted more than programs in 500 villages.
Bhavani's story is one that helped catalyse the passion to start Operation Red Alert. Her story is sadly typical of how girls and their families are tricked into trafficking. Her parents organised her marriage when she was just 12 years old to a man from New Delhi that her aunt approved of. Little did her parents know that is this man was trafficker. Her nightmare began when she and her "husband" arrived in New Delhi, and he dropped her off at her new home. It was a brothel run by her aunty. Her "husband" had helped her aunty traffic 12 other girls before her, and within her first day her aunt sold her to a customer for Rs. 45,000. At first, Bhavani resisted, but after 7 days of starvation and beatings Bhavani gave up. 5 years, 5 abortions and numerous STDs later, Bhavani died of AIDS.
We have strategically positioned our work to meet one of the anti-trafficking movement's biggest gaps in India - PREVENTION!
Operation Red Alert is leading the prevention effort in India.
Our 3 Pillar Approach to prevent trafficking for sexual exploitation in India includes: India's first National Helpline addressing sex trafficking; our Safe Village, grassroots education and awareness program; and our national mass media campaign to educate the general Indian public about sex trafficking. We have built and worked through a coalition effort by training and resourcing other NGOs to ramp up their prevention efforts.
Our Impact So Far:
Since starting grassroots operations in October, 2015, we have educated nearly 634 villages with a total population of 3,502,429 in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Karnataka with our Safe Village Program and innovative comic books. During this time, we have received early stage tip offs on 1,812 cases, resulting in several preventative rescues. The Safe Village program is backed up by a national helpline, the only one of its kind in India and has benefited 5,17,587 people.
Find our more about our impact statistics and read our field stories in our latest Impact Report!
How is the money going to be utilized:
How we do this (3 pillar approach):
Prior to our helpline, there was no exclusive, national helpline for sex trafficking. With 95 million mobile phones in the country this is an opportunity to put the power to take action in the hands of those who need it most. The helpline is based on a coalition effort of Operation Red Alert’s partner NGOs, each providing different services to different geographic zones in India.
Mass Media Campaign
The number one barrier to ending human trafficking is awareness.The general Indian public is still largely unaware that trafficking exists, let alone that India has disproportionately more slaves than any other country in the world. We aim to see trafficking become something every Indian is committed to ending. If we are on #RedAlert, India’s daughters will be safe.
Preventing trafficking is impossible if we do not educate the families and villages that traffickers are targeting. In India, most families have no idea that their girls are being taken and sold into sexual exploitation. Most NGO’s efforts are spent in rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked girls. The Operation Red Alert Safe Village Toolkit is reaching at risk villages around India, teaching families how to keep their daughters safe.
About My Choices Foundation:
My Choices Foundation aims to give women, children and families choices to live lives free from violence, abuse and exploitation.
We aim to see the transformation of India into a safe, peaceful, and encouraging place for women and girls by empowering women and girls with the awareness, education, and support they need to become their own change agents