A group of trafficking survivors have formed a network to protect women and girls from being sold off and to help rehabilitate those who have managed to return but face ostracisation in their own community.
Twenty women, most of them in their 20s, formed the “collective” to reach out to others like them, help them open up and understand their problems.
Utthan was formed in May 2016 when the trafficking survivors came together to make themselves heard, and find an identity exclusive of what they had gone through.
Members of Utthan, who mostly work in North 24-Parganas, were felicitated at the Women of Worth Conclave at Sister Nivedita University to mark International Women’s Day on Friday.
“Even after we returned home, we were stigmatised, humiliated and ostracised. We wanted to create a forum where our voices would be heard and we would not be looked down upon just because we had been trafficked,” said Lilufa Bibi, 25.
Utthan focuses on rehabilitating trafficked victims and raising awareness in government schools against child marriage and how girls can be lured into the trade with false promises.
The members of Utthan stressed the need for counselling as most women who have been trafficked are emotionally battered.
“Having been abused physically, these girls lose their mental strength as well. Many of them come from remote villages where there is no scope for psychiatric help. They are mentally unstable and we take them to psychiatrists so that they can be treated. We also follow up with them to ensure they take their medicines and help them return to normal life,” said Firoza Khatoon, 22. “We know what they have been through. It helps them open up to us, something they cannot do even with family members.” Utthan has also helped prevent child marriage. “There have been occasions when I have got information about a girl being trafficked and we have sought the NGO’s support to help the family file a police complaint or seek the support of local administrators,” Firoza said.
Utthan is supported by NGO Sanjog and is also a part of Partners for Anti-Trafficking, a consortium of eight community-based organisations and a survivor to build a movement across the country against trafficking.
Also felicitated on the occasion were Puja Das, who is HIV positive and was ostracised in her community but managed to complete graduation and now works as a superviser of a home for HIV positive children, and Juhi Panja who wrote her Madhyamik examinations with a foot because she cannot use her hands. “I feel grateful to host Wo- men of Worth and am looking forward to hearing their stories of struggle, courage and success. It would be a great motivation for our students. Women’s Day is not a day’s celebration but a celebration of womanhood in its entirety,” said Satyam Roychowdhury, the chancellor of the university.
Sujata Sen, the CEO of Future Hope, described power as a “fallacy”. “Today you are in power, tomorrow you are not. When you are in a chair of power… you are actually occupying a piece of furniture and the piece of furniture is perhaps more important than you when you are in that room… sometimes you forget that power is very temporary,” she said .
The chief guest on the occasion, US consul general in Calcutta Patricia L. Hoffman said, women today are in “positions of power, in fields traditionally considered male domains”..
Source: Telegraph India