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,
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
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
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
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
For more information on Free A Child, please visit
www.freeachild.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call
Meg Burd is a graduate student studying anthropology. Her column
runs every Friday in the Collegian.