CVC Strengthening Makes a Difference
A core mission of our SVPs is to strengthen the local CVC so that it can play its part in preventing trafficking. This story shows how it’s happening!
*Radhika is just 14 years old, but she fell in love with 19 year old *Hamad from the neighboring village. They would see each other occasionally when Hamad came to Radhika’s village to visit his uncle. Assuming that their parents would never be for their marriage, the two decided to elope and ran away together.
Radhika’s village is in the North 24 Parganas of West Bengal. Nearly a year before Radhika went missing, Operation Red Alert had conducted a Safe Village Program in her village. One of the core missions of each SVP is to establish a Community Vigilance Committee (CVC) or strengthen an existing CVC. CVCs exist in villages across the country, having been put together by government programs, but are rarely equipped with up to date training and resources that help them serve their village. However, these Committees have great potential to promote awareness, monitor safety, monitor local police action, and engage NGO services for their communities. Our training equips them with awareness of a range of issues, most importantly trafficking, and the mechanisms through which they can be redressed. In Radhika’s village, Operation Red Alert Implementing Partner ASHA founded the CVC in the village. It is made up of government appointed people who are often over burdened with government schemes. If a village does not have a CVC, we establish a committee which consists socially-driven people who are passionate to help keep their village safe.
When Radhika went missing, her parents were distraught. Her father is a wage laborer, and her family very poor. Daily survival is already a stress for them, and Radhika’s disappearance was more than they could bear on their own. They turned to the CVC for help.
The CVC informed Implementing Partner ASHA about the case, and jointly worked towards compiling the facts of the case. Because both Radhika and Hamad are below the legal age of marriage according to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, they immediately took the case to the police to file an FIR (first information report). However, the police hesitated to take action, despite the legal requirements for an FIR to be filed, and that all efforts to find the youngsters had been unsuccessful. The police are over burdened with cases, and when they assume that a girl has run away with a known person rather than being taken, they do not file the FIR. The CVC insisted that this case be treated with urgency according to the law because it involves a minor, and the police finally filed the FIR.
Information of the filing of the FIR spread throughout the villages, and through word of mouth Hamad’s parents found out. They knew that their son would be in trouble if Radhika wasn’t returned safely home. Hamad’s family were able to inform him of the FIR and encourage him to bring Radhika home.
On November 6th, withing 24 hours of going missing, Radhika and Hamad were returned to their homes, and appeared before the court of the Magistrate at on November 8th to give their testimonies. Radhika gave her statement that she left with Hamad of her own will, having not been coerced or hurt. On the basis of her statement, neither the parents or Hamad were accused of a crime.
Radhika is now safely back home, and her local CVC is keeping an eye on her to make sure she stays in school. The CVC is also looking out for other girls like Radhika, who might be at risk of child marriage and trafficking. While Radhika was returned home unhurt, the reality is usually a lot darker for girls who leave with men promising love and marriage. It is the most common trick traffickers use to lure girls. 47% of all brides in India are minors. Girls who get married below 18 are at extreme risk of domestic abuse as well as health risks associated with child bearing. Every 10 minutes a girl is trafficked in sexual slavery.
The horrors of child marriage and sexual trafficking can be stopped by local CVCs who are by definition “vigilant” for their own communities safety. In Radhika’s village, the CVC was able to hold the local police to the standard of the law because of the training of they received in the SVP program conducted by ASHA.
We could not be more proud of the work our Implementing Partner ASHA is doing in West Bengal, and of the CVC who helped rescue Radhika so that she can stay in school and get married when she is physically and legally ready.
*All names have been changed to protect the privacy and anonymity of the minors and their families.