The 25th of November marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Created by the UN, it aims to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls around the world, calling for global action to increase awareness, promote advocacy and create opportunities for discussion on challenges and solutions. Nearly 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced some form of violence and alarmingly, the prevalence of violence against women increased during the lockdowns and isolation across the world brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Violence against women takes many forms from physical and sexual abuse to emotional and psychological abuse from an intimate partner to cyber abuse, child marriage and trafficking to name a few. This day is marked not just to highlight the grave problems but to encourage us that change can be made by all of us. Real change takes time, but amazing organisations like A21 work to eradicate human trafficking through awareness, prevention, intervention and aftercare.
Mary’s story is one of many whose life has been transformed through A21’s tireless work.
Mary grew up in a rural community in South-East Asia. Her family was poor, and her parents accumulated a growing debt to maintain their farm. Mary worked to help her family, and therefore, never had the opportunity to go to school.
But just like any young girl, she longed for a better life. When she was a pre-teen, she was offered a job as a cleaner in the city. Mary and her family knew she could make more money with this job and agreed for her to go.
Her journey took her through illegal borders with a group of other girls her age. At one point, Mary was separated from the group and put in a vehicle with a man. When she arrived at the destination, she couldn’t speak the native language. She was taken to a house and introduced to a man who claimed to be her new husband.
When Mary refused and demanded to be taken back, she was physically beaten and exploited for sex. Locked inside a room and unable to contact her family, Mary felt trapped. She was lured away from the safety of her home by a false job and never received the money she was promised.
But one day, Mary bravely escaped. A bystander assisted her in getting to the embassy, where she was identified as a victim of human trafficking and repatriated to her home country. Upon arrival, she was referred to A21’s Aftercare program.
With the support of A21’s team, Mary was reunited with her family and reintegrated back into her community. She receives ongoing counselling and medical support throughout her restoration journey. One day, she dreams of opening a hair salon, and A21 has helped her develop a plan to achieve this goal.
In addition, Mary courageously testified in court, taking a stand for freedom and breaking the cycle of human trafficking for others.
We are proud to partner with A21 to ensure that slavery is abolished everywhere, forever.
Thank you for making freedom and restoration possible for survivors like Mary.
*Name of the survivor has been changed to protect her identity.