Fair trade pioneer Traidcraft is fighting to raise awareness of the thousands of women that go missing every year in Nepal, many of whom are trafficked into the sex trade.
To mark International Day of the Girl Child (11 October), Traidcraft is highlighting how around 40 young women and girls are trafficked every day in Nepal, a figure which equates to almost 15,000 women a year, with most never seen again.
Shockingly, despite the scale of the problem, the huge numbers of missing women receive little attention in Nepal as many of the victims are sold on to traffickers by their desperately poor families.
As part of its Show You Care campaign, Traidcraft is highlighting how partner organisations such as Nepal’s Get Paper Industry (GPI), which produces environmentally friendly handmade paper and felt products, not only pays a fair wage but also offers vital protection for the country’s vulnerable women and girls.
As well as employing more than 500 women who might otherwise struggle to find work and be at risk of trafficking, GPI’s charity arm GWP works to create a safety network for the women. The organisation has founded support groups educating girls and young women on the dangers of human trafficking and the warning signs of what to look out for.
Mahesh Bhattarai, founder of GWP, said: “Our aim is to reach the girls before the traffickers. We are trying to build a safety net, bringing together the young girls into a group and giving a message to them that there is a way out. The women we work with understand that there are many people around them who will help protect them.”
Prerana, who is one of the few to escape and has been supported by GWP, was sold by her family and trafficked at the age of nine. She was first forced to work in a travelling circus in India then later sold to a brothel, suffering years of abuse before finally escaping.
She said: “The main problem here is poverty. The traffickers look for vulnerable people as it’s easier to groom them. That’s why lots of traffickers come to our villages. They tell parents how much they can get for their children and convince them that children won’t suffer or have problems finding food, clothing or shelter.”
Meanwhile Shrijana Rai was lucky to escape from traffickers, who approached her at a young age. She said: “They were local people from the village. They said educated people can get good jobs but they didn’t specify the work.”
Luckily Shrijana refused and with the help and support of GWP was able to arrange a loan to set up a beauty salon with her sister, which has become an escape route to a better future for themselves and their families.
Larry Bush, Marketing Director at Traidcraft, said: “It’s shocking to think that the trafficking of young women happens every day in Nepal and largely goes ignored. It is stories such as Prerana’s and Shrijana’s that highlight exactly why our work with companies such as GPI is so vitally important.
“Many people think that fair trade simply equates to a fair wage. While ensuring a fair wage for producers is a hugely important part of what we do, the benefits of buying fair trade reach so much further, providing support and protection of the world’s most vulnerable people.
“That’s why we’re calling on the people of the UK to ‘Show You Care’ this International Day of the Girl Child, buying with thought and love to help us change the lives of women and girls for the better in Nepal and around the world.”