Thursday, 26 May 2022
Currently there are more people in slavery today than at any other time in history¹. These men, women and children are forced to work with little or no pay. The majority of those who are victims of slavery are women and girls and, 1 in 4 are children. Trafficking is estimated to yield over $150 billion dollars annually for traffickers and sadly, the industry is growing. As Christ‘s followers, we have a biblical mandate to respond and protect those who are vulnerable. This is a key expression of loving our neighbour and caring for the vulnerable.
In Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, there is a large population of homeless mothers and children. It is difficult for these impoverished mothers to find safe employment. They are in extreme need and are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and trafficking.
Children’s Uplift Program (CUP), part of SIMaid’s Girls off the Streets Fund, seeks to protect and bring freedom to these women and children on the streets of Dhaka. The project offers holistic care to these families in high-risk situations by inviting the mothers to join a 1-year training program.
In this program, the women are taught vocational skills so they can find secure employment once they finish the training. Some of the skills they learn include jewellery-making, sewing and lessons in using industrial sewing machines. The training program also includes literacy courses so the mothers can learn basic reading, writing and numeracy. The women are also taught lessons on life-skills, including values teaching, health class and parenting class.
Each woman receives an allowance, food and medicine while at CUP so they can meet the basic needs of their family while in the program. A night shelter is available to women who are homeless or live in an unsafe environment. While the mothers are in the training program, their children are looked after in day care.
Motivated by the love of Christ, CUP’s heart is to bring freedom to vulnerable families and protect them from the risk of exploitation and trafficking. CUP desires to see families transformed so the mothers can break the cycle of poverty and create a new path for themselves and their children. Sonali is one student at CUP whose life was transformed after she came to the project.
When Sonali* was 10 days old, her mother passed away. Her father, a poor farmer, remarried and started a new family so Sonali’s she went to live with her grandmother when she was a baby. Sonali loved her grandmother and was grateful that she had taken her in at a young age. Sadly, her grandmother passed away when Sonali was 14 and life became difficult for her.
She left school and started housework to earn money. She was forced into an arranged marriage when she was 18, relocating to a new village to live with her husband’s parents. Her husband was away often working in the city at a garment factory. Sonali gave birth to their son Jash* but her in-laws were abusive and hostile towards her and the baby. Her husband was even more violent than his parents were, so she ran away to the city.
Sonali arrived in the streets of Dhaka with her baby, overwhelmed with fear and hunger. She was homeless and had no money to take care of her son. Noticing that Sonali was a young girl in distress, a woman came over to her and told her about CUP’s services.
After a primary assessment by the CUP team, Sonali and her son were admitted to the night shelter CUP provides to women and their children. Sonali started CUP’s training program and while she was learning, Jash was cared for in the day care.
Sonali’s life has been transformed since she joined CUP. She has gained vocational skills and learnt how to independently look after herself and her son.
CUP worker Carmen shared, “This young mother is just finishing her learning time with us and after the lockdown in Dhaka city is over, she will be officially employed by our business partner. CUP will continue to offer day care for Jash, so he will be safe during his mother’s working hours.”
Reflecting on her experience at CUP, Sonali said, “I feel happy that my skills were developed especially my parenting skills. CUP has allowed me to get a job and earn for myself and my son. I feel that my future is secure now that I am working.”
Now, Sonali is hopeful and confident in her family’s future.
*Names changed to protect identity
¹ Source: 2018, Global Slavery Index
Do you want to see women like Sonali empowered to break the cycle of poverty? You can give a tax-deductible gift to CUP by visiting sim.org.au/cup
Pray for the women and children at CUP that they would thrive in program and encounter true hope!
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