Bangladesh: A beacon of hope for survivors of human trafficking   

Siddika*, hoping for a better life, arrived in Saudi Arabia with the promise of employment in a madrasa - a college for Islamic education. She was however taken to a house and employed as a domestic servant.  Soon she was told that she also had to perform sexual favors for her employer. Siddika realized that she had been trafficked and was now desperate to return to her village in Bangladesh. 

Trafficking of men, women and children is on the rise in South Asia. They are trafficked for sexual exploitation, bonded labor, forced marriage, organ transplant etc. The victims are not only trafficked within their own countries - from small villages to big cities, but they are also trafficked internationally. Like in Siddika's case, she was introduced to a middle man who arranged her travel to Saudi Arabia. 

Staff at the TMSS shelter home offer medical services to Siddika

Siddika, the youngest of four sisters had to discontinue her education after three years of school. Poverty forced her into marriage at the age of 12. A few years later her husband committed suicide. Siddika was left to her own resources to take care of herself and her two children. It was during this vulnerable phase in her life that Siddika was approached by a trafficker. The trafficker, playing on her vulnerabilities, lured her to Saudi Arabia with the promise of a well paying and respectable job. After much consideration, Siddika sold her piece of land in the village, left her children with her mother and flew to Saudi Arabia.

When in Saudi Arabia, Siddika was fearful of her employer. Fear left her with sleepless nights and she lost her appetite.  She finally gathered the courage to confront her employer and threatened to commit suicide, if he didn't let her return home.  Panicked and fearing legal implications, the employer facilitated her return to Bangladesh.

However, with neither an educational backing nor an occupational skill, Siddika found it next to impossible to support her family in Bangladesh.   

Siddika is granted a loan to set up her store.

When field staff from TMSS, a local NGO, heard about Siddika's plight, they contacted her. Under a UNODC led project in Bangladesh, TMSS offers survivors of human trafficking shelter home services, medical treatment, psycho-social counseling and life skill development. After the completion of her life skill training, Siddika was given money on loan to start her own shop.  She now makes a monthly profit of Tk. 6200 ($80) and currently her shop stocks goods worth Tk. 75,000 ($964).  She supports her mother, widowed sister and children. Owning her own business not only aided Siddika financially, but also helped her reintegrate into community life.  Now, she is also working with young girls and women, educating them about human trafficking, its forms and prevention strategies.

The UNODC led initiative in Bangladesh assists the Government in strengthening responses to human trafficking.  Under this initiative, UNODC is supporting three NGOs in Bangladesh, including TMSS to provide outreach services to survivors of human trafficking.

Siddika's business earns her approximately $80 a month

The UNODC led project in Bangladesh: Technical Assistance to the Government of Bangladesh in Strengthening the Responses to Human Trafficking is financially supported by the United States State Department.

* Name changed to protect the identity of the survivor