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Rescue stories make our hearts flutter. Skip a beat. But what happens after the resuce happens? What happens when a survivor must return home after such an ordeal? 

For some women, their freedom only lasts a moment, before they are pulled back into captivity.

Here’s an all too common scenario…

When Adya* was 10, she was trafficked into Kolkata from a poor village, and was forced into the sex trade. Six years later she is offered a glimmer of hope. She’s rescued and sent to an aftercare program.

But at 18, she’s told she must now leave the shelter home, and is taken back to her village. With little training up her sleeve, but still surrounded by the same conditions – poverty, limited job opportunities and pressure to provide for her family – she must somehow find an income that will stop her returning to the life from which she was rescued.

Inevitably, it’s just too hard. She’s marginalized in her community because of her history, and no one is willing to give her a job because of lack of skills and opportunity within her village. Within two months, Adya is trafficked back into a life she had escaped.

This is ‘re-trafficking’ – when a woman has been trafficked on one occasion, has exited that trafficking situation, but has then later been trafficked again[1].  

In Kolkata, when underage girls are rescued from the sex trade, they often enter the aftercare system where they usually have some access to educational or vocational training. But when the women reach 18, most are forced to exit the system. Once again, re-exposed to the same risk factors that led to their trafficking in the first place.

Sera Han, one of Sari Bari’s social workers, says there’s a critical gap in the system for these young women after they age out of aftercare.

“We celebrate the rescue stories, and we should, but once they are sent back home (which is often the goal), what happens to them?” Sera says.

“They face all the same vulnerabilities and risky situations again. And often the shame they carry, and the shame that is projected onto their families, is so heavy. They’s a certain stigma around working in the trade that they must carry back with them.

“We here at Sari Bari know re-trafficking is happening. We’ve heard the stories and we know women are vulnerable to it. And we want to do something about it by offering employment specifically to this group of young women,” Sera says.

Sari Bari is launching a new project to help stop the cycle of re-trafficking! We want to buy and refurbish a new facility that will create space for up to 38 more women, with 25 spaces reserved for women exiting the aftercare system. As well as giving these ladies a sustainable income, they’ll also have access to trauma recovery support through social support programs.

“Sari Bari’s work is all about restoration and prevention – either holistic restoration for those coming out of the trade or prevention for those who are vulnerable to being forced into the trade,” Sera says. “So expanding our focus into the re-trafficking area means we’re deepening and broadening what we’re already doing.”

YOU can help stop re-trafficking too! In fact, we need YOUR help! We have a mammoth target… to raise $250,000 by December 31. It’s a target that’s totally achievable if passionate people, like you, get on board too! Help us get this project up and running.

Click here to give!

Click here for more information about re-trafficking.


Written by Nicole Peck

[1] International Organization for Migration (2010). The causes and consequences of re-trafficking: Evidence from the IOM human trafficking database.

* this is a representative story only