A personal story from the field

“Why didn’t you come sooner?”


Last week we spent some time with Anita Kanaiya, who heads The Freedom Project India, while she was in Sydney.

Anita, who was only in town for a few days, was asking after our supporters in Australia. She and her team are immensely grateful for the contributions of our Australian partners. This support truly is helping to end slavery one life at a time.

16-year-old Zoya is just one of them.

Zoya was born into a particularly impoverished village in South India, renowned for its Devadasi system: where girls as young as 8 years old are trafficked into sex work under the guise of temple dedication. Her father died some years back as a result of HIV, and her mother Amara is now in very poor health, also due to HIV.  

After her husband’s death, Amara had taken a job as a cook in a hostel, but she was quickly trafficked into sex work. Tragically, when Zoya was just 14, her mother also sent her to work through one of her pimps.  

Terrified, but out of respect for her mother, Zoya obeyed and spent the next few months enslaved in a life of prostitution. Physically, emotionally and spiritually battered…day after day.

It was when Zoya realised that she was being trafficked to Mumbai’s red-light district that she worked up the courage to flee. With the help of a kind local, known as Aunty Martha, she made her way to Bangalore where she would stay for some time with Aunty Martha’s sister.

Zoya’s road to healing began in earnest when she was taken into the sanctuary of the Freedom Project’s Safe House in July last year. Anita tells us that Zoya has settled in well and is pursuing her school studies, along with tailoring classes.

But Zoya has a long way to go on the road to restoration.

Zoya is almost devoid of emotions,” Anita says, with sadness.  “She has just seen too much evil in her young life, and it will take time to heal – but with the help of kind strangers who support the work of The Freedom Project, we will help Zoya to heal and build a good life.”

The Freedom Project is helping young women like Zoya escape the bonds of slavery and build a positive new life.  But there are many more like her who are desperate for your help.

Anita told me a story the other day that keeps playing on my mind.  She was recalling a conversation she had with a frightened young girl who had been rescued from a local sex work establishment by her team, in cooperation with local authorities.  While shocked and grateful that she had been liberated, this young woman turned to her rescuers with tears in her eyes:

Why didn’t you come sooner?”  Those words have impacted me, as I know they will impact you.

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