Women of Strength



“I’m quickly learning that if I thought I knew about human trafficking before, I was in for a rude awakening about the depths and unfathomable truths of this modern day epidemic.”

Sometimes it’s not enough to read about these stories on the internet or in the news. Sometimes, as Suzanne discovered, you have to come face to face with a survivor to feel the full force of the torment they have suffered.

Suzanne Kim is a documentary maker working with STOP THE TRAFFIK and Amor Ministries on our Women of Strength programme. She heard the story of ‘Z’, an Indian woman who found refuge at Nirmal Bhavan, a home in a Mumbai slum for women who have escaped from the sex trade.

That’s the thing about human trafficking: Z’s story isn’t just her story, it’s the story of so many… mistreatment, slavery, no pay, electrocution to keep them awake at night, hormone injections given to girls to control their menstrual cycles, sexual, verbal and physical abuse… the list goes on.”

As Suzanne points out, Z’s story is not isolated. Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red light district, is Asia’s second-largest and attracts sex tourists from all over the world. As such, demand is high and opposition is low.

The abuses suffered by sex workers in Mumbai are often shocking – both from their “employers” and from their clients. Many are infected with HIV. Many turn to self-harm as a way of getting control of their bodies.

STOP THE TRAFFIK and Amor Ministries have partnered on Women of Strength, an opportunity for 21 women to go on a journey to witness and prevent human trafficking around the world. The focus of the trip will be to become STOP THE TRAFFIK advocates, learning about and contributing to the model of community action STOP THE TRAFFIK is developing to resource, equip and mobilise people to take action where they live.

Suzanne has just returned from Mumbai, having met with the key project partners. You can read her blog here: http://www.wosindia2013.blogspot.in/

There are limited places still available – for more details, costs and how to apply please visit https://www.amor.org/wos. Closing date is end of April. 


Women of the world UNITE!

Today is International Woman’s Day!

Today is the day we put our feet up and celebrate the very simple fact that we are and (in most cases) always will be women.

Wondering what to write, the women in our office tried to think of reasons why it is great to be a woman. Ourlist started with things like; we have soft skin, we are nurturing, we wear nice pants…  I was very quickly reminded how lucky I am being a woman in the UK.

Today, as I sit here with the sun streaming through the window, a friend I met at an anti-trafficking conference in Egypt is inspiring her fellow women to meet in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to use this day both a celebration and as a way of re-connecting with a political voice that was taken away and forgotten.

As I sit here, I know there are women and young girls working in a brothel I visited as part of a project run by Oasis India. I can see it perfectly; a narrow house in the middle of a district famous for its sex industry. Small sprawling rooms no bigger that a sauna but just as warm with at least 8-10 young women and girls in each, waiting for customers with a man guarding the door….. I think they would find my list insulting.

As I sit here with my Masters Degree I think about the girls denied an education because they are girls or because there are no girl’s toilets in their school or because the school is too far away. Pretty grim isn’t it?

To stop me hurling myself out the window in despair, I think a little bit deeper….

Sally in Egypt has taken to the streets. She may be surrounded by hundreds of empowered women, she may be there yelling on her own, it doesn’t matter how many people are there – the movement has start somehow. Admirably she has the drive to get up and fight for what she believes in.

I can see women sat in Mumbai’s brothels but I can also see the tiny lady from Oasis India talking to them and holding my arm for support. They won’t stop fighting for India’s untouchables.

Then I read an email from 3 mums in Australia who are taking part in Freedom Ticket for Life and want to raise money to get vulnerable girls into school.

Life’s funny isn’t it?

We are women and women rock. We have a voice; we should always use it because one thing we are good at is shrieking.

An excited to be a woman Victoria Kuhr

Secret Diary of a STOP THE TRAFFIK worker

Good day to you, dear blog reader. 

There are two things to report this week. 

1.A few days ago I was offered a place in the British 10km run on Sunday 11th July (T  minus 10 days).  Now, I’ve always thought it’d be nice to do a run but I am not a runner (at all) and the idea of training for weeks and injecting protein supplements into my eye sockets has been enough to deter me (please don’t try that) . But loving a challenge, I said ‘sure thing. I’d love to’. 

I got up early this morning and ran for 20 minutes. On Saturday I will run / jog very very slowly for 25 minutes building up to an hour in 10 days (I am not going to dwell on the maths of my training plan). 

The point is, I am doing it. I am going to run.  The reason I tell you this is that if I can do it, so can you!  Try it, I dare you! Go outside and jog / walk / run / hobble / race on your wheels for 8 minutes. You’d be surprised. And when you get back feeling simultaneously energised, great and tired check out www.freedomticketforlife.org.    

 Wristbands out, lycra outfits on! 

 2. A number of people find our blog by typing things like ‘sexy girls Mumbai’ or ‘Kamathipura’ into search engines. So yesterday we posted something an unsuspecting internet user will get instead highlighting the reality of the situation there. Have a read here https://stopthetraffik.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/kamathipura-%e2%80%93-the-dirt-uncovered

Kamathipura – the dirt uncovered

Kamathipura in Mumbai, India, is Asia’s largest red-light district. It was set up 200 years ago for British troops who wanted some erotic “comforts” while they were away from home.

For centuries people have turned to Kamathipura for a cheap and easy way to fulfil their desires – but do they really know what they are encountering in the pursuit of pleasure?

Instead of finding a sexually mature consenting woman, those who visit are more likely to encounter a child, a modern-day slave, unpaid and abused.

It is not necessary to dig deep to uncover the truth about Kamathipura. Since the 19th century, a large proportion of the women who work there have been trafficked and exploited.

Nothing has changed. The women are still deceived or forced into abusive and dangerous situations, made to work far from home in the network of brothels commonly known to tourists as “the cages”.

 Take a look at these facts…. 

  • There are currently approximately 5000 sex workers in Kamathipura, the majority of which have been trafficked.
  • Up to 90% have a sexually transmitted infection.
  • Approximately 70% are HIV positive.
  • The average age of entry into Kamathipura is 12 (but its often as young as 7).

 “Every vile desire a man could dream of was for sale and child virgins were the region’s most noted delicacy.” These are the words of the maker of documentary The Day My God Died. The traffickers barely bother to try and hide the exploitation – it is obvious.

 Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1beOGLfqxA for a short but interesting clip about the subject.

My question is this…..  If the exploitation is SO obvious (which it is – think young, really young girls…..), why do people keep going? How is it allowed to continue?

 Any thoughts?  

Info from “Gender-based violence among female sex workers of Kamathipura, Mumbai, India: A contextual analysis”. Sharvari Karadikar, 2010-06-30

Slumdog Millionaire

This weekend, I went to see Slumdog Millionaire. What a film. I was both impressed and astonished by what I saw, and not only because Slumdog Millionaire is not, repeat not, the ‘feel-good film’ that the posters say it is. Instead of the humorous, cheesy movie I was expecting, with perhaps a good song or two thrown in for good measure, I sat up to the terrifying issues that Slumdog raised about slum life in an urban metropolis. Harried on all sides by thugs and criminals, Jamal’s struggle to live freely turns into a fierce fight for survival.

There are some who worry that the film portrays Mumbai poorly. In particular, the issue of the kidnapping racket at the beginning of the film has caused a real stir. But the shocking reality is that Mumbai currently is one of the biggest destination cities for trafficked women and children in the world. Women and children are trafficked into Mumbai in a number of ways, for a number of reasons. Highest among these ranks the sex industry and forced domestic or factory labour. Mumbai’s slum population is teeming with migrants from rural parts of India. Poor, illiterate, and desperate to earn a living that will support dependant relatives at home, the empty promises of traffickers can lure the unsuspecting into enslaved conditions just the way we see Jamal and his brother tempted by Coca Cola into the hands of their kidnappers.

It isn’t easy to consider these terrible realities – which certainly do exist – in a criminal underworld in which the poorest of the poor are trapped. But to its credit, Slumdog Millionaire has created the opportunity for vital conversation and discussion about the invisible crime of human trafficking. Awareness is the first step towards action. So please tell us what you thought about the film!nt to see