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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Young woman Sex Trafficked in Swaziland = another unwanted baby

Last week I got a very disturbing call from the police.  They had a young woman sitting in front of them who needed help and they weren’t sure how to help her.  They asked if I would go to town to meet her.  I did.

This is a part of her story. 

I will call the young woman Betty.  Betty comes from a poor rural Swazi homestead.  She always struggled to get work and a “friend” came to her a few months ago and told her there was a job for her in South Africa.  Betty was very excited and left her 4-year old baby girl with her very old parents to go off to the job and promised to send money home for the baby.  When she arrived at their destination in South Africa she was locked in a tiny room and was told that she was a sex worker. She screamed and tried to escape, but the door was locked from the outside and was only opened when a man was to enter.  The same man entered four days in a row. He would gag her mouth with cloth and tie her up so that she couldn’t fight.  On the fifth day she managed to get past the man in the door and escaped from the area. Slowly she made her way back to Swaziland and back to her old life, shaken, afraid and ashamed.

In yesterday's newspaper.
Several months later she realized that she was pregnant.  She had found a job as a “house girl” in Manzini, again, with the hopes of sending money home to her parents to help provide for her daughter.  The people she works for have her up at 4:30AM and she cleans the house until 6:30AM.  After that she goes and opens up their shop where she works all day and through the evening (I know this because she was working at the shop when I called her on the phone).  She is 7-months pregnant and is exhausted.  She has only worked for this family since the beginning of the year, but so far, they have not paid her the R500 ($50 US) monthly salary that they promised. They keep telling her they have no money and will pay her next month.  What is she to do?

In a desperate attempt for help she went to the police to ask for counseling and help.  She was directed to the Sex Trafficking/Child Protection department where she shared her story and begged for help.  That is when I got a call. Could we help this young woman?  She does not want the baby and has no means to provide even for herself.

A few days later it was arranged that I meet the young woman at the police station. We were escorted through the station to the back exit and then taken in to a private room called the “Child Abuse and Domestic Violence room” complete with “Paediatric Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit” on the desk. I sat and listened to the young woman’s story, which was spoken so softly that at times her voice just disappeared to silence.  I asked many questions, questioned many answers, and in the end, directed her to the Social Welfare Department to report the situation and ask that the El Roi Baby Home be allowed to take the child when she he/she is born. I am thankful to be able to work with the Police and Social Welfare as they are able to help sort through the stories and try to determine some semblance of truth, which can be a challenge here.  While we don't want to just agree to take the newborn, we don't want to wait until the baby has been dumped in a pit latrine or abandoned to die in a plastic bag.   I counseled her to get prenatal care, including vitamins and an ultrasound so we know when the baby is coming.  We went our separate ways.

Since that day we have communicated almost every day by texting. She has still not been paid, but did go to the clinic and has started on prenatal vitamins (provided by the local clinic).   She has no money to go and get an ultrasound so I will meet her at the hospital early next week and happily pay for that out of my Compassion Purse. 

Human trafficking is a popular topic around the world these days. I admire and salute those people like Gary Haugen and the team the International Justice Mission and so many others who are taking it seriously and moving mountains to bring it to an end, maybe even in our life time.  I always thought the problem was somewhere else though, far away from where I live, but now I know it is right here in our front yard, and a result of it, a newborn baby will soon be living here on Project Canaan. 

I will end this blog with a few quotes that I ask you to ponder today and in the days ahead:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing”.   
Edmund Burke

“Learn to do right, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”  Isaiah 1:17

The reason that injustice is difficult to confront is that those who perpetrate it almost always lie about it.  Most of us are not very comfortable entering into a world where we have to deal with people do not tell the truth, but if we are going to enter the struggle for justice in the world, we must get used to the idea that we are entering a world where people lie – a lot.”   
Gary Haugen, Good News About Injustice

Live from Swaziland … where it is 95F ... Go Team Canada! (Yes, I had to say that.)


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