A FAMILY FAMILIAR WITH THE PAIN OF TRAFFICKING
In the mountains of Nepal, access to education and employment is limited due to the region’s remote location. Unfortunately, this makes the area a prime target for human traffickers. Imagine growing up in a town where, as a young girl, you are more likely to be trafficked into slavery than attend school. Next, imagine being from the indigenous Tamang tribe, which has some of the highest rates of girls being trafficked in all of Nepal. For Ananya, this nightmare quickly became a reality.
When Ananya was younger, she experienced the devastating trauma of trafficking firsthand. Trafficking first came to Ananya’s home when her oldest sister fell victim to an individual posed as a job agent – an individual who lured her into slavery. After Ananya’s older sister was taken, the girls’ mother became ill due to the stress and worry of missing her daughter. Because the family was desperately poor and unable to afford medical care, Ananya’s mother, tragically, did not live. Ananya’s father was often absent from the family and showed little concern for his children. He soon remarried and did not protect his daughters as a father should. When Ananya came to live with him, her life was filled with daily harassment and physical abuse from both her new stepmother and her father
A KIND STRANGER
One day, Ananya heard there would be a festival in a nearby town. Here, she could meet up with friends and even take a small break from her abusive home life. While at the festival, she was introduced to a handsome stranger through some of her friends. Often for girls in Nepal, marriage is highly sought after. For many girls who have not had the opportunity to attend school, or do not have any additional skills, marriage is the primary goal. While it may seem strange to us, it was not out of the norm for an abrupt proposal like this to occur, and the man knew all the right things to say to Ananya. He painted her a picture of prosperity, a picture where she would live a charmed life and be cared for well. He seemed so kind, and his words and promises swayed Ananya to accept his proposal. A short time later, he took her to Kathmandu where they were married. It was here that Ananya became excited to start the beautiful life she had imagined.
MARRIED ON FALSE PROMISES
To Ananya’s horror, married life was not anything like what she had expected or been told. Her new husband moved them from place to place every two weeks, locking Ananya in the rooms they rented and feeding her very little. One evening, he told her to gather up her belongings because they were going to India. When they arrived at the border, he smuggled her past the guards in Nepal and, just like that, they were in India. Once there, they traveled to a hotel where Ananya’s husband — the same husband who had promised her a beautiful life — sold her to a hotel to be used as a sex slave. This would be the last interaction they would share as husband and wife. Ananya could not believe this was her life. Still, she had a forgiving heart and wanted to believe that her husband would return for her one day. Unfortunately, that was not the case. One day ticked into the next, and Ananya can remember being held at the hotel for a total of four springs. She knows that from the ages of 15-19 she was forced, as a sex slave, to do anything the men who paid for her wanted. If she had refused, or given her traffickers any trouble, Ananya would have been tortured and starved until she complied. For four years, Ananya endured this terrible treatment every day.
A MIRACULOUS RESCUE
The reputation of Free for Life’s border monitoring station was well known in the area of Krishnanagar for helping girls victimized by human trafficking. Because of this, it was no surprise that word of Ananya’s situation was reported to our staff members. They immediately took action, and through the cooperation of local police, as well as an anti-trafficking organization in India, Ananya was rescued from the hotel!
Once rescued, Ananya spent some time at the nearby Krishnanagar temporary shelter but was quickly transferred to a shelter in Kathmandu to receive the services and help she needed. Initially, all she could think of was returning home; Ananya did not want to stay at a shelter filled with strangers. The staff offered her a safe place to heal from the trauma she endured, but sadly she declined the offer. Ananaya insisted that she must return home and did not want to stay at the shelter. The staff never holds any girl that wishes to leave, but they do make it clear the door is always open for those who want to return. Additionally, the staff wanted Ananya to stay as long as possible because they had a suspicion that someone in her family was involved in her trafficking. Before leaving, Ananya was taken to see a doctor to have a complete medical exam. Like all girls who are rescued through this program, her case was documented with the local authorities as a trafficking case
Following this, Ananya chose to make the long journey back to her home village. She soon learned, however, that things were not as she had hoped. She spent years believing that her family had been stressed and worried following her departure, that they would be overwhelmingly happy to have her home and that they would shower her with love upon her arrival. This is not what she came home to. Within five days of being home, Ananya tragically learned that her own family was involved in her trafficking. Without her family to turn to, we are so grateful she made the choice to return to the shelter – a place where she has found safety and love ever since.
A STORY OF LOVE AND RESTORATION
When Ananya came to live at the safe home, she was completely illiterate and could not even write her own name. Ananya’s trauma had been so severe that in addition to being scared, hurt and broken, she also did not want to communicate with anyone. Initially, it was a shock to see Ananya open up to other girls and staff members about anything personal. The staff, however, did not give up. They continued to work closely with Ananya through group and peer therapy sessions, showing her daily she was loved, safe and with people she could trust. Through the commitment and love of our international partner, Ananya began to slowly open herself up and trust the people around her. As she made friends and talked with the staff, Ananya was given the opportunity to be educated and to learn how to read and write. It was not easy but Ananya accepted the challenge and has since become fully literate.
Ananya has now been at the shelter for over two years. As she became stronger, and saw more girls who were rescued from the life she once knew, a passion was sparked in her to help other victims of sex trafficking. After many years of healing and recovery, Ananya decided she wanted to pursue a life working with other victims. This led Ananya to approach our partner staff with the hopes that she could assist through a job opportunity.
A NEW FUTURE
Currently, Ananya works at a border monitoring station as a staff member. She was trained in data entry and now inputs all of the information about girls who are interviewed, repatriated and rescued. Additionally, due to Ananya’s unique experience and deep recovery, she is now one of the first points of communication for girls who have been victimized and are rescued. In this role, she helped Sita, a young girl sold by her sister into trafficking. Ananya served as the first contact for Sita following her rescue, was responsible for writing the police report, and was even present when Sita’s sister was found and brought to justice. We are excited to announce that because of Ananya’s help with the police report, Sita’s sister was arrested!
Ananya excels at these tasks because she knows the victims’ pain and all they have suffered. Her story of strength, as well as her perpetually warm spirit, bring comfort to those who are experiencing the shock and trauma of living within the world of modern slavery.
Ananya went from being abused, broken, hurt and scared to being a strong, passionate and brave woman helping other victims who have been devastated through situations similar to her own.
Moreover, we just received news in September 2015 that Ananya’s trafficker was sentenced to 20 years in prison! We are so excited that, after many years, we were finally able to bring justice to Ananya!
Stories like Ananya’s are what inspire us to continue rescuing and rehabilitating these girls. Free for Life seeks long term care, recovery and justice for all victims of sex trafficking. Free for Life, along with our partners, wants to bring deep restoration, healing, strength and skills to each and every one of the girls we rescue. Ananya is doing so well and we are so excited to see what’s next!
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