Fighting Human Trafficking

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When Nurunnahar was 16, she left her home in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and went to Malaysia to begin a new life. Having previously fled an abusive marriage, her life in a Dhaka slum was marked by stigma, rejection by family and neighbors, and few opportunities for meaningful employment.

When a neighbor said he could get Nurunnahar a job as a maid with a family in Malaysia, she took the opportunity, wanting to start fresh.

When she arrived in Malaysia, however, she learned the job had never existed. Instead, she was kidnapped by men who engaged in human trafficking, held her against her will, and told they were going to sell her as a sex worker.

Nurunnahar escaped one night and found a Bangladeshi youth who took her in. Six months later she was able to return to Dhaka.

Human trafficking is a global problem. A recent UNICEF report estimated that 1.2 million children are abducted each year and sold into a life of bondage, slavery, and sexual exploitation. In Bangladesh alone, 400 women and children are victims of trafficking each month.

The Christian Re–formed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) together with its local partner, SATHI, undertook a survey and then an anti-trafficking program in Bangladesh this past year that reached more than 6,000 people. The survey showed there had been kidnappings, but community members weren’t aware of the magnitude of the problem and didn’t know where to turn for help.

Using a $2,000 justice grant, CRWRC and SATHI formed anti-trafficking committees in seven slum areas. Members of these committees were educated about human trafficking, including common routes traffickers use, steps for rescuing trafficked persons, and how to protect vulnerable groups. Nurunnahar also shared her story.

More than 100 committee members, in turn, went into their neighborhoods to lead workshops for adolescents, parents of young children, and others. SATHI also trained 50 theater groups to hold awareness-raising events.

When CRWRC and SATHI conducted a follow-up survey, many more people had been made aware of human trafficking and knew where to go for help. Also, respondents reported that 16 kidnapping attempts had been thwarted because of the training.

“We praise God that our relatively small intervention was able to have such a huge impact in these communities,” said Kohima Daring, CRWRC-Bangladesh staff member.

About the Author

Kristen deRoo VanderBerg was part of the World Renew Communications team from 1999-2016. She now serves as director of Communications & Marketing for the Christian Reformed Church.