Spring 2014

Antidote to Human Trafficking

Reducing the dangers in vulnerable communities

by Sharon Mall

W We navigated our way through the dimly lit streets of a crowded central Kolkata bazaar, known for generations as a den of thieves, drunkards and drug dealers. This area is also home to 148 families living on the street.

Four beautiful, sparkling teenage girls led us through the alleys to the makeshift shelters they called their “homes”: boxlike structures of garbage bags and tarps thrown over a few sticks and leaning against other buildings. The girls told us about the lack of sanitation and having to pay two rupees each time they used the filthy public toilet.

Every night, trucks line the crowded streets as their drivers visit the red-light district. These trucks transport goods to every corner of India. It’s a fact that human trafficking follows transport routes—girls are often hidden among the goods in a truck and then sold into city brothels. So human trafficking is a serious risk in this bazaar.

Traffickers are deceivers, offering promises of a job or of marriage in a distant city. With little hope otherwise for a job or a future, the youth of this bazaar are vulnerable. If they accept the offers, they usually disappear and end up sold into slavery. Only a small percentage of trafficked victims are ever rescued, and the trauma inflicted leaves deep physical and emotional wounds.

Child sponsorship is a powerful way to reduce the vulnerability to trafficking. Here’s how it works:

GlobalFingerprints sponsors groups of children in vulnerable communities, in partnership with a local church. A child who is in school and checked on is less vulnerable to being trafficked. A child whose stomach is full is also less likely to be trafficked. A family receiving emotional and spiritual care from a child worker is less likely to expose their children to the schemes of the traffickers.

In addition, when children are sponsored in a community cluster, GlobalFingerprints is able to bring other benefits to that community, such as wells for clean water, schools and child-development centers, and medical care.

Even more important, when the gospel message penetrates one life, it brings hope to the community, and hope is another shield against the schemes of the traffickers. Although there is never a guarantee that any child will not be trafficked, child sponsorship brings health and hope, making children and communities significantly less vulnerable.

Walking through the crowded bazaar in central Kolkata that night, we were very aware that the teenage girls with us could easily be targets for traffickers. But we were also encouraged. These girls are no longer isolated. They have begun studying every evening in the safety of a nearby church. The sparkle in their eyes is a reflection of the hope for their future. The church is watching out for their health and education and visiting their families.

In Kolkata and other regions around the world, GlobalFingerprints is going to the root of the problem—helping to stop the insidious evil of human trafficking, one child and one community at a time.

Sharon Mall has served with ReachGlobal in Asia since 1995. In 2000, she opened her home as a sewing center and training room for women at risk of being trafficked. Then in 2008 she launched what is now known as Asia Justice Initiatives, whose primary work is to prevent trafficking through initiatives such as women’s training programs, business development for women, community development and child sponsorship.

  1. Washingtonpost.com, “A map of the world’s 30 million slaves,” Oct. 17, 2013.