A group of former trafficked and prostituted women gather to pray at the Salvation Army centre
As you may have read our July – September newsletter or ePrayer articles over the past few weeks, we are focusing on human trafficking issues this quarter. We have shared about how CEDAR and our partners fight against human trafficking particularly in Asia. Through Rescue, Prosecution, Rehabilitation and Prevention, we serve trafficking victims as well as high-risk groups.
Among them, rehabilitation is a long journey that requires persistent and devotion. Many sex trafficked women often fall back into the industry after they quit the job for a short period of time, because they lack the vocational skills to change job and they are the main breadwinner of their families. Field colleagues explain that these women could earn a stable and better income by trading their bodies, so, a sudden change of income will affect their families and they feel unconfident in securing a job in another industry. On the road of rehabilitation, sex trafficking victims need significant support as they receive both vocational training and post-trauma counselling.
In Bangladesh, CEDAR partners with the local Salvation Army to provide rehabilitation support for prostituted, trafficked and vulnerable women. Our partner empowers women who wish to leave the industry through a 2-year vocational training programme at the Salvation Army centre, teaching them handicraft skills that will help them become self-reliant. They will also be engaged in literacy class, counselling sessions, and a Bible study group that meets once a week to help restore their confidence and self-worth.
After the programme, they will be able to sustain their families by making handicrafts for sale at the Salvation Army store. Our partner also encourages them and other women in the slum to form Self-help Groups as a support network and for their re-integration into the community. In the group, funds are set up for loan if members would like to start small businesses.
25-year-old Rita (obscured) had been staying with her aunt since she was 10 years old because her parents were unable to take care of her. However, her aunt did not take good care of her and sent her to the streets for begging. An 11-year-old girl was extremely vulnerable on the streets. Rita was rapped and left in a dustbin unconsciously. After her aunt knew what had happened, she rejected Rita and drove her away. Rita had nowhere but to stay at the boat terminal and started sex business for a living. She was once sold to somewhere and later returned. She got married twice. She has a daughter and a son. Her current husband was a gambler. Rita met the Salvation Army centre staff and was encouraged to join the programme in 2015. At the centre, she learned how to read, write, tailor, and make handicrafts. Meanwhile, her husband has also changed after counselling. Rita has quit her previous work and now planning to join the garment industry. Because of the devoted care and support of the centre staff, the lives of Rita and her family have transformed and become hopeful.
Our partner told us that after women like Rita came to the centre for a period of time, they began to lead a different lifestyle that influence other women engaged in sex work to consider changes too. Although rehabilitation is a long process with bumps along the way, we and our partner believe the Lord is a powerful yet loving God who intervenes and transforms lives like Rita’s.
Verses for reflection:
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and
have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.”
When we heard stories of Rita and other exploited and trafficked women, we may think God seems to have forsaken and forgotten about them. But these verses from the Bible remind us that God has not forgotten about them, in fact, God has promised His everlasting love to us. Let us pray for these sisters, even those who are still in the sex industry, and let’s not forsake them.
Pray for CEDAR and Salvation Army Bangladesh:
- Pray for women at the centre that they will be determined to leave their old lives; pray also for their families to support them
- May these women experience the Lord and His transformative power during their rehabilitation
- Pray that our partner can establish partnership with more businesses, so that there are various channels for these women to sell their products and earn stable incomes
- May our God grant the centre staff endless strength, faith and love from Him to serve these women and become their blessings and companion on this rehabilitation journey