The recently released movie that's taken the world by storm, the "Sound of Freedom" has raked in an astounding $50 million to date. The movie has definitely brought a lot of attention to the issue of human trafficking and awareness too.
Though I myself haven't seen it, not being released in India yet, I’d like to share a gist of the story as seen in trailers and reviews. Without spoiling the story, let me give you the basics. Tim Ballard who once worked for Homeland Security left it to join an organisation called Operation Underground Railroad that travels to other countries and does rescues of children caught in sex trafficking.
However, like most movies, the film romanticizes the issue. Mainstream media often distorts or sensationalises the issue. It's an American (white) hero saving the day by rescuing innocent children from distant countries, dirty and sweaty or filthy rich, and children caught in sex trafficking as young as four and five.
I would like to highlight some points that do not come out in the movie (any movie can only address some of the issues and this movie definitely has brought a lot of awareness on the issue) but are realities of human trafficking.
All trafficked children are not trafficked at 5 or 6 but most of them are in their teens. (According to Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2022 by UN) median age is 16 and the average is 15. Other, earlier, reports have shown Human Trafficking at ages 9-13).
All sex buyers are not paedophiles or dirty, sweaty and overweight but many also live in our neighbourhoods as decent ordinary people. They are people in legitimate jobs like Bankers, Lawyers, Police, Pastors/Priests and so many more. The reality is that customers often hide in plain sight, in legitimate jobs and occupy everyday positions of trust.
The majority of those working on Anti-Human Trafficking are women. They risk their lives and work on various critical aspects of Rescue, Rehabilitation and Reintegration. And yet they are not celebrated but macho men are celebrated as heroes. That's because women don't necessarily control the narrative that is fed out there in social media or in the movies.
The real heroes are the survivors who have gone through such terrible ordeals, survived hell and are now choosing to make a change in their lives. They need to be celebrated and movies need to be made about them.
Rescue alone won't change the situation. We can rescue all the children in the world but until we put in place policies, change the paradigm of systems and structures in source areas of trafficking and work on reducing the demand for sex of minors
Human Trafficking is complex. While Tim Ballard's heroics are commendable (hats off to those who risk their lives and rescue vulnerable children from trafficking situations including staff at Purnata), the reality of human trafficking is, unfortunately, more complex and requires more complex solutions.
So have you heard the Sound of Freedom?
You hear it every time...
Trafficking victims take the courage to choose the path to healing
You take time to volunteer with organisations like Purnata
You take time to support the cause of anti-human trafficking by supporting organisations like Purnata
When Governments commit themselves to ensuring the implementation of existing laws and strengthening policies to ensure no trafficker gets away with their exploitation with impunity.
And the list could go on...
Let's hear the snippets of the Sounds of Freedom at Purnata
Aashrya - Women:
Our partner NGO Yuva Parivartan staff has come and shared about various job opportunities & skills training for the women of the area & children. They are providing job placement in the hotel industry, Mehandi classes & banking-related job opportunities. They are willing to come to our centre and take the training program for our beneficiaries.
The literacy class is going on a regular basis. It's a joy to see that the ladies who are coming for the literacy class are now able to read and write. We have four ladies who are regularly coming for the literacy class.
We have almost 10 women and a man who is a regular part of our motivation session.
Deeksha’s daughter (Pranu) is studying first-year B.A. She is interested in studying Nursing. Her mother is seeking help from Purnata for her daughter and we are trying to find out how we can help her pursue her desire to study nursing.
Arohi, Senora, Karen, Tanu and Rashmi show a desire to move for a better life. Our team is focussing on them and motivating them to move on to a life of dignity.
Last week, on Monday morning the Crime Branch Police raided the area and six ladies were arrested. Out of these six, five ladies, each paid 35,000 - 40,000 bail and came back to the area.
Aashrya - Children, Teens & Youth:
Our education support program is going on regularly and we have around 25 children who are part of this program.
We were able to help two children get admission in the school - Suresh and Tarun admitted to Mohammadia English Medium School.
Jeevan Asha Children, Teens & Youth:
We are placing Neeraj (12 years old), Immu (9 years old) and Ajit (6 years old) in a hostel as their mother is unable to care for them.
Rehabilitation & Reintegration (Purnata Bhavan & Unnati Training centre):
All the beneficiaries had a trip to Lonavala Bushi Dam which they enjoyed and shared that they had never experienced such love and care in their lives.
We were facing challenges in terms of staffing as both our Training Coordinator (Sneha) and our Rehab and reintegration Manager (Evonce) have left for personal reasons. Thankfully, we have Ruth Roy interning with us for the next two months, managing the Unnati Training Center. She is pursuing her Masters in social work through IGNOU and is a great blessing to Purnata, being creative and with a good sense of how to be a blessing to the girls.
Last week's Life skill session was a Series on Building a Strong Woman, knowing who they are, how to treat each other and knowing that each season has a purpose for their life.
Activities conducted helped affirm each other by complementing each other, making friendship bands and playing games.
Prevention & Rescue:
Our Social worker Ms Bharti has been getting threatening calls from one guardian related to one of our minor sexual abuse case. She was able to meet the I.O. of that case and was able to address the issues.
In the case of a minor, rescued from sexual abuse and exploitation recently, the survivor was able to give her 164 statements in court and the judge appreciated the work of Purnata.
Akash & Nisha have had a cough & cold and still have a little infection. They are under medication.
Karan and Abhishek's education are going well and both are becoming studious. Their handwriting has improved, and they are doing their homework and cooperating with each other.
Zayan’ is showing very good behaviour, doing well in his studies too. His health has been good, helping others in their studies.
We are working on getting an Aadhar Card for Amar, Karan & Nisha
Amar, Nisha & Zayan’ need to get admission to the school. Pray for the school fees and other requirements for their school admission.
Independence Day celebration:
We celebrated our 77th Independence Day at Aashray Centre. It was a great joy to see 20 ladies and 47 children & youth present at the event. Children presented 3 dances on patriotic songs. The Independence speech was given by one of the youth, our Aashray staff team sang one patriotic song. Aarti took a quiz competition which was fun and it was good to see children and ladies taking part in that. Aaboo Varghese, Purnata Founder shared what real freedom meant and encouraged youth & women of the area to live a life of freedom. Finally, when we gave the snacks and tea, Aaboo was able to spend time with the youth. He helped them share their dreams, explained what the implications of that were and how pursuing education and learning English would get them far in their career and life.
Let's continue to work to bring an end to human trafficking
Yours for a traffick-free world