Slavery was abolished in the United Kingdom in 1833 and in the U.S. in 1865, yet the number of slaves in the world today ranges from 12 million to 27 million, and a large number of these are in South Asia.
Recently, I was able to take a trip to Rupandehi, a district in Nepal. It’s on the Terai, a belt of marshy land at the foot of the mountains, and close to India’s northeastern border.
Due to its proximity to India, human trafficking is a large problem in Nepal all across the border.
While we were here, there was a bandh (strike) called, and so movement in vehicles was not possible. We had to cancel our plans and think of something else we could do.
This meant that we were able to visit a women’s group that United Mission to Nepal (UMN) had helped to establish in the area.
It was within a short walk of our hotel so the strike didn’t affect us. In fact, because of the strike it meant that there were more of the women meeting today, and some young girls, too.
While we were meeting with and interviewing them, they were making some incense sticks to raise much needed money for the small village. Then we heard a story that made us proud to have been there.
Just 10 days earlier, two young girls associated with the group were kidnapped by traffickers and were going to be taken to India to work in a sweatshop.
The women of the group, feeling empowered by being unified, were able to find the men responsible and rescue the two girls. They then set about getting the men arrested; the men are currently in jail awaiting a trial.
UMN does some work in helping prevent the trafficking of young girls and women, but this was a story of how the impact of doing something as small as setting up a women’s group led to those women having the courage to stand up and do something.
This is what we’re here for and just being there to hear the story (and then pass it on) was a real privilege.
The following day we were able to travel further out with a vehicle. We visited another women’s group (on International Women’s Day), where we were told the sad news that the daughter of one of the members had, just that evening, been murdered by her husband.
He had accused her of using her mobile phone to try and attract other men to her.
It was very hard to be with this group, but again, the women felt unified and powerful and were determined to go and put pressure on the officials to bring charges against this man.
As shocking as it might seem to us, because the man was from the army, there was a chance that he would be let off.
I was proud to meet all these women who were trying to make something of themselves in a country that doesn’t widely recognize women as being important to society.
Phil Rawlings is a BMS World Mission midterm worker in Nepal assisting with communications work for BMS partners UMN (United Mission to Nepal). A version of this column first appeared on the BMS World Mission site and is used with permission.