Hla Hla’s story begins like many women in her region. She grew up in a poor area, her parents had a significant amount of debt, and her family struggled to make ends meet.
What Hla Hla wanted, was a coveted factory job. They were secure, the work hours were consistent, and the pay was more than she could make in her area. Even though a factory job could take her away from her family, it was the price she and many like her were willing to pay to earn more and get out of debt.
Just when things seemed hopeless, her family were visited by a middle-woman. Middlemen and women are job brokers commonly used to secure factory jobs. While some can be legitimate, many traffickers pretend to be brokers and trick families.
The woman who came to them on this day said she had a job opportunity at an ice factory in a neighbouring country.
Hla Hla wasn’t thrilled with the location, but the broker offered to pay her first three months salary up front. The family was in desperate need for money to pay rent, so they agreed. Hla Hla packed, said goodbye to her family, and left for her new job.
Hope turned to horror as Hla Hla crossed the border and discovered this broker was, in fact, a trafficker, and that she had sold her as a bride to a very cruel family. This once young and vibrant woman had become a prisoner in a nightmare she couldn’t have imagined. She was stuck in a foreign country, completely isolated, beaten daily, and held in a home in an unfamiliar place.
But Hla Hla was smart and strong and determined to escape, and she told herself she would get away one day. Over the next five months, she plotted her escape. She began gathering clothing to make a rope and planned on lowering herself to the ground and running away.
Planning her escape gave her hope and helped her endure the cruelty and abuse she faced on a daily basis.
When an opportunity finally arose, she ran up to the roof, tied the clothes rope to a metal rod, lowered herself to the ground below, and began running. When her captors discovered she had escaped they sent dogs after her. She knew she couldn’t outrun them, so she hid in a ditch and prayed that the dogs wouldn’t find her.
By a miracle, the dogs ran straight past her, and she hid there until early morning when she went to the local town and reported her situation to the police. Unfortunately, what happened next is all too common a problem for young girls and women like Hla Hla. As there is no law in the country against bride trafficking, she was arrested for an immigration violation and taken to prison. She spent two months under very harsh conditions before being deported back to her homeland.
Once in her home country, Hla Hla was referred to Eden by The Department of Social Welfare.
This brave young woman has faced so many difficulties in her young life. She was sold, abused, raped, beaten, and exploited. Since coming to Eden, she has started her journey toward healing and restoration. After several trauma counselling sessions and cafe training, Hla Hla feels like her life has new meaning and purpose.
With each day, she is learning new things, which are increasing her self-confidence and giving her great joy. She is highly involved in the church dance group and choir. She knows that this was the God that saved her on that terrible night when she cried out in the ditch and that He led her to come to Eden.
Today we celebrate Hla Hla’s freedom and bravery. Her courage is an inspiration to all of us!
Thank you for your interest in Hla Hla’s story. You can find the collection inspired by her and others like her here.