Anoyara Khatun, 19, from West Bengal, hasn’t had an ideal start to life. At age 5, her father died, forcing her mother to go to extreme lengths to keep the family alive. Not long after, at the age of 12, Anoyara was sold into a trafficking system that saw her shipped to Delhi as a domestic worker, with a promise to supply a monthly salary to her family.
After a year, Anoyara managed to escape from her captors and make her way back to her village. Following on from her harrowing experience, Anoyara noticed how rampant the threat of child-trafficking, both for labour and marriage, had become in her village.
“Trafficking of young girls and child marriages were rampant in the villages here. Poverty and lack of awareness and education provided the ideal conditions for traffickers to operate here,” Anoyara told local news.
Now, Anoyara is leading a brigade of like-minded individuals to eradicate trafficking, child marriage and child labour, one campaign at a time.
She has set up various institutions and outreach facilities that have helped gather information about trafficked children, traced traffickers and mobilised support from adults with the aim of reuniting children with their families.
So far, her campaigns have helped save hundreds of trafficked children and returned them to their families. She has also prevented nearly 50 cases of early marriage, 85 trafficking attempts and returned over 200 girls back to school.
Last year she was named a “True Girl Hero” by the Malala Fund and nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2012.
Along with Save The Children and the Dhagagia Social Welfare Society, Anoyara has worked hard to set up as many as 80 children’s groups across 55 villages in Sandeshkhali, all of which are working towards educating parents about the threat of trafficking, and giving children the resources to avoid the traps of abduction.
“I had decided very early on that I shall not just remain an activist. I wanted to take up a leadership position.
Now, if someone approaches the villagers with the proposal to take a girl to Delhi or anywhere else for work, that person is sure to be handed over to the police by us.”