Sep 302004
 
Authors: Meg Burd

The story of Maya, as told on the Web site of Free A Child, is a

sadly all too common story for the girls in economically struggling

areas in places such as Nepal.

“Maya, barely 10 years of age, is a child who has been sold into

sexual slavery. She is beaten, burned, tortured, and deprived of

food, light and movement,” states the Web site,

www.freeachild.org.

Shipped to India to work in a Bombay brothel, Maya is a

representation of all the Nepalese girls who are trafficked into

the sex industry, today a global multi-billion dollar industry that

trades in the lives of human beings.

As examined in Parts one and two of this series, situations such

as Maya’s are devastatingly real and troublingly numerous, with

organizations such as the UNICEF estimating that more than 1

million children are forced into the sex industry, a majority of

them in Asia. These numbers may likely increase if child

pornography and other abuses are likewise taken into

consideration.

While the UN and the U.S. State Department attempt to put

pressure on governments in places that have notoriously high levels

of human trafficking and child exploitation, as well as crack down

on Americans who participate in such “sex tourism,” there is also

work that is being done on a more grass roots level to stop this

global crime.

Kenlyn Kolleen, president of Free A Child, faced the question of

what might be done by a concerned citizen when she first read a

story detailing the magnitude of this crime. Returning from a trip

to India, she was moved to help stamp out this global crime,

volunteering with Free A Child.

“We present the light, the other end of it,” said Kolleen, of

the organization and others like it. “It’s just horrible, but it’s

good to hear about organizations that are doing things about

it.”

For Free A Child and other NGOs, working at a grassroots level

within a community is seen as a major way to stop the problem at

its roots. Partnering with a locally run organization in Nepal,

Kolleen stresses the importance of attacking the problem in the

area by first working to educate communities about this problem,

develop dialogue with the at-risk populations, and assist with

micro-economic projects designed to alleviate the poverty that

often serves as the push into slavery for many people.

In places such as Nepal where, Kolleen said, “women are a

burden, and to be born a girl is to be born, as many girls said,

cursed,” poverty may drive families to sell their girls into

slavery or else push women into the hands of traffickers as they

are promised well-paying jobs in India. To educate women and

families about the tragedies that await those who buy into the

false promises of the traffickers, Free A Child and its partner

organization GWP organizes street dramas in which local girls

communicate the horrors of trafficking to communities. Such groups

also serve to facilitate dialogue between the girls, who talk about

protecting each other from trafficking.

“What we’re hopefully doing is empowering these girls to talk to

each other, to tell their stories,” said Kolleen.

Similarly, investing in micro-economic projects designed by the

girls helps them become economically empowered, something Kolleen

sees as a central part to ending this crime.

Kolleen stresses that, while this problem is visibly rampant in

places such as Nepal, there is a growing situation of child sexual

slavery right here in America as well.

“We need to create a U.S. program – we don’t want to give the

impression that it’s just a third world problem,” Kolleen said.

Indeed, this problem is a devastatingly global one, and one that

is reaching into our own communities. As we see the problem of

child exploitation reaching into our own homes, we all hopefully

will be moved to do more to end this terrible crime. Besides

working with NGOs and other organizations such as Kolleen did, the

State Department offers tips for getting involved in battling this

crime. Such things include: increasing public awareness about

modern day slavery, asking our congressional and senatorial

representatives to pass anti-trafficking laws, and reporting

suspected trafficking cases, and of course supporting and assisting

groups that work to end human trafficking.

Putting a stop to child sexual slavery in both our country and

around the world is something we all must work towards. As Colin

Powell emphasized, “we have to work at it. It’s the worst kind of

human exploitation imaginable. How can we turn away?”

For a citizen action tip sheet on ending modern-day slavery,

please visit the U.S. State Department’s website at

http://www.state.gov/g/tip/

For more information on Free A Child, please visit

www.freeachild.org, email info@freeachild.org, or call

720-890-1457

Meg Burd is a graduate student studying anthropology. Her column

runs every Friday in the Collegian.

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