My Choices Foundation, in partnership with the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) and SEEFAR, has launched ‘Surokhito Gram Karyakrom’ (Safe Village Program in Bengali) to empower children, their families and their communities to end child trafficking (CT) and commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in three districts – Birbhum, Bankura and Bardhaman – of West Bengal, India.
The GFEMS-study revealed gaps in knowledge and risk perception on the child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children are among some of the key drivers for continued exploitation in the state. The study found that individual factors such as chronic poverty, unemployment and the lure of a better life make children more vulnerable to child marriage, child labour and unsafe migration that could lead to CT and CSEC. Additionally, COVID-19 has fueled cases of child marriage and school dropouts, triggered by financial pressures and increased harmful online practices, as children spend more time on the Internet.
If knowledge and risk perception gaps among children, families and the wider community are addressed, CT and CSEC can be prevented. My Choices Foundation and Seefar have utilised findings from the report to inform their integrated campaign ‘Surokhito Gram Karyakrom’, launched in three districts of West Bengal in February 2021. The campaign aims to promote the role that children, families and the wider community, including teachers, health workers, police and Panchayat leaders, can play in ending CT and CSEC.
Surokhito Gram Karyakrom, which means Safe Village Programme in Bengali, adopts a holistic approach and focuses on sensitising at-risk community members about child trafficking, its causes, risk factors, creating awareness about ways to prevent child trafficking and sustaining the awareness through a spectrum of activities, such as school-based events, community-based events and one-to-one counselling. It aims to mobilise communities to keep their children safe from trafficking. With knowledge and collective action, we believe that we can prevent child trafficking together.