Of green hopes and uneasy lives

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Earlier, I was like short grass
Little children would tear me apart
Now I am like those tall grasses
Among which anyone can get lost.
I am green like dreams,
With thin hands
And legs like sticks
I offer shelter to all
So that mud touches no one when they sit on me
When rain falls on me,
It seems that diamond pieces are dropping.
Then I fill thick earth into my green dream.

- Thoughts expressed in verses (Grass) by 14-year-old Pooja Majhi.

Pooja, unlike many of the privileged Indian teenagers of her age, could have never hoped of her thoughts finding way into print, but it happened. Her poem is now part of a book ‘Poetic Spaces’ brought out by a reputed publication though she belongs to one of those marginalized groups whose green dreams are forever invaded by the whims of uncharitable destiny.

Thanks to some support from an international NGO called Daywalka Foundation, Pooja, forever at risk from the prying eyes of predators, can actually hope to stand up like the tall grasses of her poem.

You walk up the neat stairway of an elegant three-storied old south Kolkata building that houses Daywalka Foundation and step into a spotless red-floored room to meet Pooja, Saraswati and Reshma, all of them harbouring green dreams despite living on the margins of the society.

The small wooden board that greets your in the room reads “Kalam” (meaning pen or pencil in Bengali, Hindi, Urdu and many other languages). The room is no less than a dream come true for many girls who want to touch the sky.

Here they find the first glimpse of that piece of sky. Here they make friends with men, from the same margins of the society, but for a change the eyes offering the comfort of pure friendship and hands extended for camaraderie. Under the guidance of their young teacher, the young souls ink their limitless thoughts into verses.

Cut back to the day in the life of Geeta who was sold to a brothel in Mumbai when she was nine.

According to a CNN report, she started servicing countless men since that age after her family- of farmers- was duped in Nepal and she was brought to India and sold to a brothel.

India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children, especially minor girls, subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.

Consider these hard facts and statistics on trafficking compiled by the NGO Apne Aap.

According to India’s federal investigating agency CBI, there are 1.2 million prostituted children in the country now (2009). Girls form the majority of 1.2 million prostituted children in India, the agency says.

A shocking 45.6% of the trafficked victims were below 16 yrs of age when first raped, according the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

NHRC says at any given time in India, 20,000 girls are being transported from one part of the country to another.

The anti-trafficking law (ITPA) punishes victims with jail but has very light fines against buyers of prostituted sex and profiteers.

According to the Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 – India, by the US government, the Indian government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking despite making significant efforts to do so, particularly with regard to the law enforcement response to sex trafficking.

The report says: “Despite these efforts, the Indian government has not demonstrated sufficient progress in its law enforcement, protection, or prevention efforts to address labor trafficking, particularly bonded labor; therefore India is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the seventh consecutive year.”

While countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards is placed on Tier 1, those not fully complying with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards are under Tier 2.

According to recent media reports, the trafficking of girls is on the rise in India.

"Trafficking is a $32 billion business worldwide, especially of women forced into prostitution. Of this about $12 to $14 billion is a turnover from child trafficking," says Kailash Satyarthi, chairperson of Global March Against Child Labour and founder of the BBA (Bachpan Bachao Andolan), which organizes the South Asian March Against Child Trafficking.

According to those working in the field, the causes of trafficking in women are many.

“The root causes of migration and trafficking greatly overlap. The lack of rights afforded to women serves as the primary causative factor at the root of both women’s migrations and trafficking in women...By failure to protect and promote women’s civil, political, economic and social rights, governments create situations in which trafficking flourishes,” says Radhika Coomaraswamy, former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women.

Activists say trafficking in women results both form social inequality and susceptibility to exploitation.

According to a report in the online magazine Prativad, the most commonly identified push factor driving the trafficking process is poverty, lack of human and social capital, gender discrimination, social exclusion, lack of governance, deprivation, marginalization and vulnerability.

Macro factors such as impact of globalization, unemployment, migration policy conflicts and natural disasters can set into circumstances that increase vulnerabilities.

Activists say greater social awareness through sustained campaign in the rural areas and guarantee of local employment can help prevent the menace.

So while a few like Pooja can dream of standing up like a tall grass to take on the society, millions remain vulnerable and defenceless.

To empower girls fight and stand up against such a menace we need to empower credible social organizations that give them their deserved voice. Samhita has launched the Hari Chopra Social Awards 2010 to provide grants to such organizations. We will be happy to get your views and feedback on this and all other social issues.

: : By Sujoy Dhar : :


Post a Comment