Cows for a future
The gift of cattle helps Amrita and her family sustain a living
“She’s here!” Amrita* cried excitedly, running through the cluster of mud and brick huts in her village
in West Bengal “Come and see!”
Soon friends and neighbours gathered around Amrita’s hut to catch a glimpse of the unlikely guests of honour, a docile brown cow trailing a skittish calf. Everyone congratulated the family and posed for pictures. The celebration began to take on the air of a village fair.
Two years ago, when Amrita and her cousin didn’t return from a festival her father Gopal, a rickshaw puller, did everything in his power to find her. He filed a Missing Persons Complaint and sold his livestock and everything he could to bribe the village elders to look for his daughter. But he heard nothing.
Determined to see his daughter again, Gopal contacted our partner organisation and for help.
Using information that our partner organisation gave us, the police and our team were able to rescue Amrita from a brothel in Pune. She had been drugged and abducted from the festival and had woken up in a brothel 1500 km away.
Amrita and her parents were thrilled to be reunited. But the 17-year-old girl carried a heavy burden of guilt. Her family had given up everything to get her back. They had sold their cows – a back up source of income when her father was too ill to run his rickshaw. We decided to help through a Livelihood Initiative.
We were able to buy Amrita not only the cow and a calf, but we could also arrange for insurance , pay for a medical examination and inoculation and open a bank account in Amrita’s name. The cow produces eight litres of milk a day, which the family can sell in the village. In a year’s time, the calf will also start producing milk and her income will grow. And when Amrita gets married, she will take the cows with her to her new home. She is overjoyed. “Now every time I see our cows, I feel that the good times we had lost have come back to us,” she said.
* All names of victims of trafficking have been changed to protect them.
What is a livelihood initiative?
Crushing poverty and the lure of good jobs often causes a victim to fall into a trafficker’s trap. Many of those who are rescued find themselves back at square one, with no job and even more difficulties at home than before they were trafficked. This puts these victims at high risk of being re-trafficked.
According to a 2010 study* “victims of trafficking (…) are frequently re- trafficked within two years or less of having exited a trafficking situation.”
A study in India found rates of re-trafficking to be as high as 25.8 per cent among women trafficked for sexual exploitation.**
At Justice and Care we strive not only to rescue, but to help rebuild lives. “After a rescue, when a girl is ready, we work together with her to come up with a livelihood initiative. Each girl has different needs, possibilities and interests, so likewise each initiative is different,” says a member of the Care and intervention team. “For some, it means an investment in education or skills training, for others it may mean some capital to start a business with.”
Our Care and intervention team works very closely on each livelihood initiative through the initial stages and remains in background even later to offer help and advice when needed so that every girl gets the most of the investment.
* Study done by the international organisation for Migration (IOM)
** Sen and Nair, 2004. NHRC Report on Trafficking in Women and Children in India 2002-2003.