The coronavirus pandemic has left people living in poverty even more vulnerable to exploitation and human traffickers have taken advantage of the ongoing crisis. Tearfund’s local partner in Nepal has been working to prevent trafficking in some of the most at-risk communities. When four girls were recently taken from one of these villages, the community was quick to act.
Early one morning, a group of four young girls were spotted leaving a rural village with an older man. An eagle-eyed community member became suspicious, as she noticed they were carrying suitcases and recognised the signs of a potential trafficking situation.
Thanks to receiving training about staying safe when reporting crimes, she raised the alarm by contacting Tearfund’s local partner, who alerted the police. From the information provided by the villagers, the police intercepted the vehicle the girls were travelling in and set them free. The man was arrested on suspicion of human trafficking.
The girls – all under 15, with the youngest one being only eight – were tricked into believing he would get them work in a nearby city. Spotting the signs of trafficking is not easy in rural areas, so Tearfund's local partner in Nepal has focused its training in some of the most at-risk communities.
Preventing the problem
‘Our partners are working with communities, setting up community groups and raising awareness of the recruitment tactics of traffickers,’ says Shashi Ghalan, who leads our anti-trafficking work in Nepal. ‘They are also initiating group discussions on the harms of gender inequality, sexual abuse and forced marriage.’
It was thanks to these community groups that the villagers knew what suspicious behaviour to look out for and how to respond. If the community had not acted so quickly, the girls would most likely have been forced into a life of abuse and exploitation.
‘We’re so thankful these four young women were rescued before any harm came to them,’ shares Pranaya Chhetri, who oversees Tearfund’s work in Nepal. ‘This demonstrates the success of education in preventing human trafficking, and the power of communities coming together to support each other. It’s also a reminder that we must stay vigilant and continue to equip even more communities.’
Too late to escape
Human traffickers often target rural communities, encouraging young girls and women to take lucrative jobs in faraway cities to support their families. By the time they realise these jobs do not exist, it’s often too late to escape.
Young girls have become even more at risk during the pandemic. When schools shut due to lockdowns, some desperate families sent their daughters out to work, or forced them to marry for money. While communities and local authorities focused on the pandemic response, traffickers have had more opportunities to prey on vulnerable communities undetected.
The attempted abduction of the four girls was a turning point for the community. They saw how easy it was for traffickers to target their children and they are now better equipped to protect each other. The girls are now back in school, attending village community group sessions, and getting additional support from our local partner.
Breaking the cycle
Across Nepal and beyond, millions of people remain vulnerable to trafficking. One of the root causes of this vulnerability is poverty. Our work around the world is focused on equipping people with the resources and skills they need to become self-sufficient and less likely to become a target for traffickers.
Please join with us in praying for all those affected by human trafficking and for an end to the cycle of poverty that makes so many people vulnerable to exploitation.
We lift up everyone affected by human trafficking – especially those who are still being exploited. We ask you to give them opportunities to escape. Enable rescuers to find them and lead them to places where they can heal and recover.
We pray for people involved in anti-trafficking work, please protect them and give them strength to continue. And we pray for all those living in poverty who are vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation, especially during this pandemic. We pray that they will get the support and resources that they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.