In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Day (Today!) and Freedom Fridays, I am excited to share the amazing group: Sari Bari with you! Sarah is the director of Sari Bari and has graciously taken time out to share the Sari Bari story. Pull up a chair and your cup of coffee and settle in. She’s a mover and shaker. You will not be disappointed!
What was the tipping point to you get involved in advocating against human trafficking?
Pinky stood at the entrance to the narrow, crowded main lane of Sonagacchi, the largest red light district in Kolkata, India. She was waiting among other young girls standing the line. (In India, working in the sex trade is often referred to as “standing the line,” because the women literally line up along the street waiting for customers.) Pinky’s hair was cropped close and her eyes glassy with unshed tears. The raw look of shame and fear spoke of her vulnerability and drew me to her. I asked her where she was from and how long she had been in Sonagacchi. She told me the story of losing her mother and how her father was now also very sick and she needed to support her younger brothers. With tears, she said she had only been on the line for ten days. Unlike many of the girls I had met previously, Pinky had not been trafficked; instead, she was offering her body as a solution to desperate poverty.
I walked away from Pinky carrying her desperation as my own. Crying out to God, I lamented Pinky’s situation and voiced my anger that no place existed for a girl like this to find a job and support her family without selling her 16-year-old body. I found myself feeling hopeless, paralyzed, wondering how in a place of such deep and profound bondage there could be freedom. I asked God for a vision, for radical hope with tangible actions that would give fair job choices to girls like Pinky and a safe place where life could be made new.
Relate a story that has gripped your heart the most from those you work alongside?
Sari Bari began doing Leadership School, a once a month opportunity, for women who have worked for us two years or longer to engage in a setting intended specifically for their development as leaders and as whole healthy human beings. At the Leadership School in September, we talked about Women, Culture and God. The women were deeply impacted by the discussions and an empowered understanding of their value as women in the eyes of God. One of the women passionately exclaimed, “I wish someone had told me before that my life had value, I wish someone had told my family, then maybe I would have not ended up here (red light area.)” This women’s passion for her freedom constantly inspires and encourages me. I see a tremendous amount of potential in her and limitless passion for justice and things to be called by their right names.
What are some ways that you would recommend for others to be involved in ending human trafficking from here in the US?