Monira Begum, 27, could barely thought of ending up in a brothel when she was offered a job of a construction worker in India. She was in a dire need of a livelihood that she had not been able to sense the grim even living in Satkhira, a district sharing border with India in the south of Bangladesh and well-known for the high rate of cross border human trafficking. Her frantic effort to secure a dignified job landed her – what she says – in the ‘living hell’. She fall victim of human trafficking and sexual abuse in no time, even before she could realize it.
“Survival for a divorced and single mother is very difficult in our society. In 2012, I got divorced and moved back in with parents. My two young daughters were also with me. But, how much my parents could do for me when they already live on hands to mouth! Feeding three extra mouths was beyond their capacity. I was desperate and started looking for anything to earn,” Monira says retracing when and how it all started.
In time of Monira’s despair, Nurul Islam, a man from her neighboring area came into aid. He promised her a job of an assistant of a construction worker in India and also all the support she would need to reach the country. “It was the only hope for me then. I had no other option except accepting the offer. I crossed the border with the guy to take up the promised job in Bosirhat of Calcutta. I wish I would’ve known what was awaiting there for me,” Monira mutters further sharing her steps to the ‘living hell’.
In no time after her arrival in India, Monira realized that she had been a victim of human trafficking. To her horror, she saw herself being sold for sex labor and captivated in a brothel. She was forcefully engaged in sex work and physically abused there. “It was 10th of December, 2013, the day I could flee the hell, after seven months of brutal torture and exploitation. It was worth risking my life. Some locals of Bosirhat helped me to return Bangladesh,” Monira’s eyes become blurry as she talks about the dreadful experience she had in exchange of a promised job.
Coming back at home, physically injured and mentally traumatized, Monira ostracized herself. “My daughter couldn’t sleep for months. She stopped taking food, she became mum. Her physical injuries, mentally agony was severe. I’m such an ill-fated father that I couldn’t manage medical treatment for her. She had to start working as a day labor in poor health,” Jiad Ali, Monira’s father, shares how much difficult it was for her daughter to recover from the tragedy.
At her time of need, she received support from the Community Coordination Team (CCT) – comprised of local community leaders – formed under the project ‘Strengthening the Integration of Quality and Comprehensive Health Services into Government Health Care System for Survivors of Human Trafficking and Abuse in six Upazilas of Jessore and Satkhira Districts in Bangladesh’. The project is implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Bangladesh, in partnership with partner NGO Rupantar, with funding from Anesvad Foundation, a Spanish Development NGO.
The project aims to provide primary counselling with referral for health services to human trafficking survivors. It also extends social support to survivors who are in most need to promote their psycho-social wellbeing. The support includes skills training and/or in-kind grant for generating sustainable livelihoods opportunities for the survivors.
“CCT member Rabiul Islam supported me getting a referral health card from the team. It helped me to receive necessary medical care easily from the local health complex. I started recovering gradually. Not only that, CCT also provided me with a 15-day skill development training on tailoring. These supports turned my life around,” Monira gets excited describing the story of her come back.
The skills training encouraged her to take a loan from a local micro credit institution to purchase a sewing machine. She started home-based tailoring business with the machine and had been able to return the loan with the income. “The business earnings have increased in course of time. I’ve now got a sustainable living that I always wanted to survive in life. I’m now enabled to raise my children with dignity. I’ve defeated the setback, recovered socially and economically. I would’ve gone long before but tailoring altered my ruined life,” Monira speaks confidently as she expresses her gratitude to CCT for rebuilding her life.