Sex trafficking survivors become academic achievers

Dreaded exam nerves are a rite of passage for all pupils as they journey through their education. This year was no different in Mumbai as young students put their pens down and awaited their summer results with anticipation and hoped for reason to celebrate. What was different though, is that the team at IJM Mumbai joined their partner shelter homes in celebrating the successful results of twelve such students.

When IJM Mumbai helps the local police to rescue victims of commercial sexual exploitation the majority of girls have not completed their higher secondary State education, some of the girls are illiterate and a few have never been to school at all. The twelve students who celebrated this year are survivors of commercial sexual exploitation who overcame extraordinary odds and excelled in their academic examinations.

Kahini is one of these survivors. Rescued in 2009, she could not read or write, and had been forced into commercial sexual exploitation whilst training to become a beautician at the age of 14. This summer she completed a Bachelor of Arts degree, having graduated with 67% she is now pursuing an MBA.

Kahini is the second survivor IJM Mumbai has enabled to complete a bachelor’s degree. Just last year, Megala completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and is now enrolled in a three-year Master’s of Social Work program. Megala who was rescued at the age of 10 from having her virginity sold by her stepfather hopes to help other vulnerable girls like she was helped. She dreams of working with IJM in the future.

The pursuit for academic growth has been seen at the high school level as well. Parvana was 17 years old when she was rescued in 2013. She had only been able to study to 7th standard before she was forced to drop out of school to support her family. Whilst working in a factory Parvana was offered a better paid job and was tricked and deceived into commercial sexual exploitation. Since her rescue Parvana has gone from strength to strength in her rehabilitation and this year passed her 10th standard board examinations.

Like Parvana, Kriti too was rescued in 2013 from commercial sexual exploitation in a private residence. Kriti conscientiously attended the classes offered at the shelter home she was placed in. Kriti’s diligence enabled her to enroll for classes and clear the class 10 board exams with 45%.

In 2015 Abha and Lara were rescued from commercial sexual exploitation, both of them were only 15. At the time Abha was unable to read or write. Abha had been sexually abused as a child by her stepfather and then coerced into commercial sexual exploitation as a teenager. This year Abha and Lara also passed the class 10 board examinations. Abha aspires to become an air hostess once she completes her education. Lara achieved a commendable 65% in her results.

On their way to similar success are Divya, Rohini, Raji, Neha, Pushpa and Pankti who have cleared their middle school examinations. Each of them are enrolled into regular school, Pushpa even topped her class and like her peers is a bold example of what determination can achieve in the face of trauma.

In the case of each of these girls education has not only empowered them, but also given them a sense of achievement. Education will dramatically change the trajectory of their lives. When each of these young women were rescued from sex trafficking they had experienced profound trauma. They have overcome the hardships of their pasts and are creating opportunities for their futures. These survivors have become achievers.