Breaking the cycle of exploitation for good
My mother said, ‘The world needs to know what happened to me so that it does not happen to anyone else.’
In the community where I was born, the majority of families struggle to meet their daily needs of food, education, and medical care. Our family was no different. So, my mother, a talented seamstress, took a job in the Middle East that promised her good pay. Once there, her treatment and pay were far from what she was promised. Her identity papers were taken by her employer. She was abused, exploited and eventually thrown in jail.
My mother was trafficked.
My sister and I grew up without our mother—sometimes staying with our dad, sometimes with family or friends while our dad looked for work in other places. We experienced many hardships. I’ve heard people say that children are resilient. Maybe that’s true, but I also think children bear the scars of trauma they endure. I know I do.
Through her ingenuity and God’s miraculous grace, my mom returned home when I was a teenager. She, too, bore the scars of trauma.
I am incredibly grateful for the time my sister and I had with her. She was smart, funny, loved to sing, and was an exceptional seamstress. She was my mother, my teacher, and my friend.
It was hard for her to talk about what happened to her, but over time she opened up. She told my sister and I, “The world needs to know what happened to me so that it does not happen to anyone else.”
My mother is the inspiration behind House of Diamonds (HoD), the Freedom Business that my sister and I started to provide training and employment to women who are vulnerable to exploitation. We don’t want other women to face mistreatment and abuse, or children to grow up without their mother, simply for lack of steady, safe employment.
When HoD first started, nearly all the women who approached us for work were from the community where I was born. At first I resisted them, because the community held many sad and traumatic memories. But I also saw their great need and felt deep compassion. Little by little, as women from my childhood neighbourhood joined our team, healing began in my heart and soul.
Through the years we have seen: When you empower a woman, she invests in her family, prioritizing education and the health of her children. When you empower multiple women from the same community, they invest not only in their families but in the community where they live. Transformation happens in their homes and also in their neighborhood.
The community where most of our employees live is transforming. It looks different than it did seven years ago, with gardens and colourful walls. And it feels different. Our employees are leading the way in creating a community where hope lives.
As for me, I have experienced the slow, bumpy road to healing through leading House of Diamonds, and entering the community of my childhood now brings me joy.
“I am liberated from the trade, so I want all women trapped in the brothels to be liberated as well. I used to be afraid of people but now I am afraid of no one. All women should have the opportunity to do fine work, to live with dignity and respect, and be able to realize their own value.”
It takes a network to traffic a human being. It takes a network to prevent trafficking and restore its survivors.
Because of Purnaa, I have become self-dependent and confident enough to leave the shelter home and live in my own place. Before, I was dependent on others to look after my children. Now I have valuable work skills, can take care of my children, and can live with hope.