Project India: Hands of Hope

Rural areas present special problems

By Brooke Hines
Chart Reporter

Rural woman working
When rural women come to the city for
jobs without an education, they are
more vulnerable to trafficking or
becoming part of the sex industry.

It is an image that haunts every parent: the thought their child could be taken away from them and forced into unimaginable circumstances.

Scenes from recent movies have been a warning for parents to hold onto their children tightly and be weary of everyone. In rural regions of India and Nepal, the circumstances differ.

The Vulnerable Countryside

Durgesh Kumar Yogi, a specialist in girls trafficking in Nepal, explains how desperation plays a hand in the problem.

“Some communities are so deprived that they sell their daughter,” he said.

He described a situation where a family has trouble feeding its own children and a convincing offer is made. If the family believes that the children have the opportunity to be better cared for by someone else, the offer is hard to refuse. Further, if the child is vulnerable to starvation in her home village, any offer of sustenance for the child would be enticing.

Once the children are in the custody of the traffickers, there is little chance for salvation. Parents in rural areas have less access to technology, so future contact with the child is not always expected. The plan is usually woven carefully so that the child is too scared or ashamed to reach out for help.

“Most girls come from rural areas,” Yogi said. “Because they are a deprived people, it is necessary to raise the bargain.”

In rural areas, families are more dependent on supporting families with land resources and poverty is more widespread. Also, children are less likely to be educated and more naïve to perverse intentions.

One of the most tragic parts of the human trafficking issue is the way in which victims are coerced. Sometimes force is used, but most commonly, the victims are lied to and manipulated.

The Ideal Situation

However, there are situations that offer hope for these vulnerable families.

In the Uttaranchal region of India, there is a family that seems to be in the ideal situation. Ramesh, a high-caste business owner, and his wife are raising a boy from a lower-caste family along and their 12-year-old daughter. Every morning, the boy helps make breakfast with the family, then is driven to school. He helps Ramesh with his business and labor around the house, but otherwise is a normal pre-teen boy who enjoys watching Bollywood films and blasting music from his home region.

“We treat him as a part of our family,” Ramesh said. “He is our son.”

Everyone in this situation seems to be reaping benefits — The boy is protected, his family does not have to worry about his lack of nourishment, and Ramesh’s family has an extra helping hand.

The Beacon of Hope

In less-ideal cases, traffickers approach desperate families who dream of giving their children the opportunity of an education. Because education is the beacon of hope to laboring parents who want less hardship for their children, an agreement is often made. It is most common that the child never receives this education and is used for their labor or services, instead.

“I don’t think we can stop it, but I think we can minimize the trafficking through education,” Yogi said. He works in his rural home community to encourage families to educate their children, so they can avoid becoming a trafficked child.