Missing girls - economic empowerment for women and girls in rural villages in West Bengal

September 15 2017 | Blog
I recently visited the MISSING team to see the work they are doing in rural villages around Calcutta. This region is one of the highest trafficking areas in India and it's where we are helping with their first Livelihood Programme.
Watch this space for some beautiful blankets, scarves and sarongs that we have designed and are being made by the girls, You'll be able to buy them exclusively here and 100% of the profits will go back to the women and girls.
MISSING's work in rural Bengal benefits both survivors of trafficking as well as vulnerable girls in high-trafficking areas. They are currently mentoring girls for tailoring, using computer programs and in videography as well. They hope that they can, in their own right, become investigative journalists and take the call for End Demand and End Slavery to a new level, by showing us the real trials a girl encounters, in face of the violent world of trafficking.
The Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development has reported that in 2016, 19,223 women and children were trafficked in India constituting a rise of almost 25% from the previous year. Further it is estimated that West Bengal accounts for about 42% of all trafficking cases given its geographic location near the borders of Nepal and Bangladesh. Within Bengal, South 24 Parganas features among the top five districts in terms of trafficking. Most of the girls who are trafficked are lured from their homes with the false promise of an opportunity for employment. Even when girls are rescued and brought back, the biggest obstacle they face is lack of gainful occupation. This is why MISSING and we believe that to root out trafficking, it is crucial to provide livelihood opportunities in high trafficking areas.
MISSING with the help of the German Consulate have opened a center for training 40 girls who are either survivors of trafficking, child marriage, rape, domestic violence or are highly vulnerable to trafficking due to their poor economic situation. These livelihood centers in impoverished areas help to create long-lasting change, as those are the areas that are most vulnerable to the issue of sex trafficking.
In rural Bengal, most of the trafficked survivors, are accepted back into their families, the generic “stigma” of the girl not being considered pure anymore, is not as prevalent. This is perhaps because the girl child is treated with affection once brought into the family and is often a victim of trafficking by being lured away from home and not with consent of her family. We see cases of girls being abandoned more towards the North of the country. Thus, there is a great need in the villages of Kultali block in Bengal to provide livelihood and income generating opportunities.
MISSING plan to train over 100 girls in the span of a year and a half.
During this program, the girls will not only get training and artisan skills but they will also be learning life skills; how to set up a bank account, the importance of an Adhaar Card and so on. These are very important too, as many of these girls are easily robbed of all their earnings due to a lack in understanding the workings of a bank.

The idea behind this initiative is to transform the area by empowering the women and keep them safe from trafficking and exploitation. In the future they hope to expand this line and take the program further by providing employment to many more women in this region.
Such a beautiful place, such beautiful people, I am so honoured to be a part of it all!
Love Louise x
Images all my own.

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