Anti-Trafficking Centre, Kolkata, West Bengal
By Ryan Koeniger, Associate Director
A scenario describing the growing problem:
Imagine you are a teenaged Indian girl, growing up in a family of six, in a village outside Calcutta. Your father died in a farming accident, leaving you, your three younger sisters, and your only brother to help your mother cultivate the fields surrounding your house. Several years have passed since the tragedy. As the oldest child living at home you know your family is struggling to make enough money to survive, and debts are growing. When a neighbor's cousin shows up in your village offering girls cash and a promising job opportunity in Calcutta, your ears perk up. Your heart leaps at the possibility of making things better for your family.
This simple story is one of too many like it happening every day, beyond Calcutta, all across South Asia. Poor and destitute families are offered "irresistible" prospects and inevitably they find themselves the victims of a terrible scam, often lost to their loved ones forever.
This problem is also known as Human Trafficking. It is becoming an epidemic here. The number of traffickers far outweighs those who are working to stop it, so it is critical that resources, information and ideas are shared by groups to make the greatest impact for change. But moving beyond simply creating awareness of the issue into preventing it from happening is not easy. Coordination of different organization's efforts is a struggle that requires a person of vision. On a recent project design near Calcutta, we served a remarkable person with a vibrant history and roots in India. Though there are days when the circumstances & obstacles cause them to think otherwise, the dream is not crazy.
A dream describing the needed remedy:
Imagine a place where people can meet to talk about what can be done to prevent Human Trafficking. It would become a Hub where groups & organizations who want to be part of the remedy can gather for training, prevention initiatives and recovery programs in addition to sharing their knowledge and resources. Not many years pass before the opposition to human trafficking is better organized, better networked, better resourced, and more proactive than the traffickers.
Still when I was working with our team on the design for this dream, this anti-trafficking Hub, I remember this person of vision saying on more than one occasion, "I sometimes wonder if I'm crazy, trying to do this." There is so much they come up against both directly and indirectly by trying to create such a center to oppose those entrenched in trafficking. I was encouraged by the vision and steadfast perseverance in the face of the many challenges with getting these ideas to take off. I believe one day the stories of the lives of rescued and restored women will serve as a clear confirmation that indeed this is not crazy.