"Rescue alone is not the solution, the solution is to intervene at the source."
My Visit to STOP
By Susan Heinrich, a Denver-based writer and Shadhika volunteer
January 18, 2019
The pungent smell of spice fills the air as a young woman named Resha* sets lunch on a large table. Since I am a visitor, Resha takes time to explain the Indian dishes she has prepared; there are spicy mixed vegetables, fried eggplant, lentils and rice. Several STOP staff members join us and we enjoy the flavorful food and share an interesting conversation. It feels more like a home than a workplace.
I am spending the day at Shadhika’s grantee, STOP India, in Delhi. STOP, which stands for Stop Trafficking and Oppression of Children and Women, is like a family for the staff and the girls they serve.
Resha is as much a part of the STOP family as anyone. Now 24, she came here at age eight after her parents died. She is a graduate of STOP’s Thousand Dreams program, an initiative started by Shadhika, in which she learned decorative hand stitching and became excellent at cutting and sewing clothing. She tells me that she even made uniforms for hotel staff. Now, Resha is pursuing a new dream. She is studying social work at a university in Delhi and close to earning her degree. I ask what gave her the confidence to go to university and she doesn’t hesitate. She says she was inspired by STOP’s founder, Roma Debabrata, who was also a social worker.
In 1990 Roma agreed to help one girl. Hamida was trafficked into India from Bangladesh when she was 10 years old. After her rescue, the judiciary asked Roma if she could translate for Hamida. She agreed and was forever changed. She started STOP to help girls like Hamida and more than 2,500 girls have been rescued and rehabilitated. STOP offers programs, which give the girls skills to build a new life.
Downstairs, several staff members have gathered around a young woman named Liha who is visiting today. She wears a bright pink scarf, which matches her rosy cheeks and bright mood. Liha was rescued by STOP and a grantee of a Shadhika-funded program. Under the Shadhika grant Liha took training in export production, advanced tailoring, knitting, embroidery and jewelry making. After she graduated she returned to Nepal. She is now married, by her choice, and expecting her first baby. Shadhika’s financial support of STOP enables many more young women to get the rehabilitation and training needed to change their lives as Liha has.
While the STOP mission remains to end human trafficking and oppression, it now takes a multi-pronged approach to support at-risk women and children. Smritikana Ghosh, a program manager at STOP says, “Rescue alone is not the solution, the solution is to intervene at the source. We are focusing much more on prevention and educating the communities, so they know of trafficking and the risks.”
After lunch, I talk some more with Resha and learn how hard she is working to achieve her dream of becoming a social worker. She takes the Metro two hours each way on Saturday and Sunday to get to university. Resha is also improving her English and cultivating her administrative skills by working on record keeping in the STOP office. For now, the record keeping is done in a notebook. But she tells me of another dream she has; one day she will work on her very own laptop.
*name changed for safety reasonsRead more