Rural Young Girls Face Increased Vulnerability to Trafficking in Asia
Khine Phyu* studied her mother’s face as she lay sleeping, half slumped in the chair of their small rural hut. She wondered when she had grown so old. Her skin, once smooth and supple, was marked with wrinkles and lines that held stories of hardship, worry, bone-tiring work, and poverty.
Khine Phyu was 13, and as the eldest child, it was her responsibility to care of her younger siblings while their mother worked. She played cook to hungry bellies, nurse to boo-boos, and imaginary characters to playmates.
Since Khine Phyu’s father left, life had grown more difficult for her mother. Work was scarce, and the sheer weight of being the sole income earner for their family was taking a physical toll on her. Khine Phyu hated to see her mother struggle and worried about her health.
Khine Phyu would be 14, and she knew the time was coming to leave for the big city in search of work.
A few weeks later Khine Phyu kissed her mother and siblings goodbye and boarded a bus with all the money her mother could spare, a phone number for a distant relative, and her lunch.
Upon arriving at the chaotic bus terminal in Yangon, a 'trishaw driver' (bike taxi) approached her and offered her a ride for a reasonable price. He told her all about the city and some exciting employment opportunities for a girl like her. Khine Phyu couldn't believe her fortune and was eager to see what jobs he could find her.
Sadly, the man took her to a brothel instead. She was sold for $100 and turned over to a pimp. Her hopes of finding work and helping her mother and siblings crumbled as she was forced to spend her days and nights as a sex slave. Her burden- paying back the $100 she was sold for. Her life, her innocence, her dreams, shattered as she lay in a filthy bed with nothing but plastic sheets between her and the other captives.
Khine Phyu's story is not unique. Over the last year, we have seen an alarming increase in underage girls like Khine Phyu during our outreach and coming in to our shelters.
It may be difficult to imagine, but when a child reaches the age of 14, they are considered grown enough to leave home and work. Due to economic desperation and a lack of resources, girls as young as 13 and 14 migrate into big cities in search of work. Most of them are unaware of the dangers posed by traffickers, and many fall prey to these predators.
At Eden, we are committed to changing lives and setting captives free. We not only work to meet the needs of the young girls in our program but are the first organization on the ground to focus on providing young girls with trauma counseling, training, employment and family support.
We take a multi-levelled approach. We reach out to rural communities with education and prevention programs, partner with local law enforcement and trafficking police to better identify and rescue trafficking victims; and we are actively developing programs to train, teach, rehabilitate and empower the young girls in our program.
Our work is endless, but with each rescue and life restored, we grow more determined to set every person free!
If you haven't joined us in this fight, but want to help girls like Khine Phyu, we've made it as simple as buying a beautiful handmade piece of jewellery. You can see the designs, read the stories behind them, and learn about other ways to help Eden right here on our website.
*name changed for victims protection