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Enslaved But Not Broken: How Girls of Human Trafficking Overcome Adversity

Culture

One of the young girls shared with me her dream of becoming a lawyer so that she can fight for women like her. Another young girl wants to work in the shelter to help other trafficked girls. When I hear their hopes for the future, I am motivated to do more to help change the lives of these incredible girls. They have come from nothing, endured such hardships and they will not be squashed. It is such a stark comparison to the world I live in, where we have everything, yet many people feel unhappy and are continually searching for more.


It's hard to believe that human trafficking is still a global problem in the 21st century. However, today, millions of young girls across the globe are being stripped of their rights on a daily basis. Human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar industry, is the third largest form of illegal trade. This is an industry where people are the commodity.

I was introduced to the topic of human trafficking during my post-grad in International Development, and I was immediately consumed by the topic. Up until my post-grad I was blissfully unaware that human trafficking even existed. It was, and has remained, a hugely under-represented issue. I guess it's hard to talk about, or even comprehend, so people stay oblivious. I recall being at a music festival in Australia where I persisted in talking about human trafficking to anyone who would listen. Most of the people I spoke to (friends included) said things like "it only happens in poor countries" or "it has nothing to do with us", "slavery doesn't still exist, they must choose to do it" and "I can't think about things like that, it's too hard." While that last comment may be true, our ignorance allows it to persist. During my post-grad, I made a vow to myself that I would commit to raising awareness of human trafficking and fight for this injustice because I believe that people are not commodities and that we should have freedom over our bodies.

A number of years later, I was inspired to see Tiffany Cruikshank, a respected and influential leader in the yoga community set up the Yoga Medicine® Seva Foundation to shed light on the issue and raise much needed funds to change the lives of trafficked girls in India. The foundation focuses on India as it has the highest proportion of people trafficked in the world: around 18 million, out of 40 million worldwide. They fight for young girls of human trafficking and other social injustices by funding rescue missions, rehabilitation programs, education and vocational programs, shining a light on the problem.

This year, I joined Yoga Medicine® Seva Foundation's bi-annual trip to India to meet the girls and to see how the money raised is spent. The trip was both inspiring and emotionally tough. I left feeling happy that we had made an impact on these girls lives, but fully aware that there were so many girls still suffering.

When I met the young girls from the shelters, they were shy, awkward and huddled in their group, feeling grateful for the support of their friends from the shelter. It was hard to believe that these young girls (now around 17 years old) were forced to service a minimum of 20 men-per-day when they were much younger and lived in overcrowded, dirty accommodations with hundreds of other girls.

As a female living in the West, I feel both privileged and grateful to have access to high-quality education, freedom of movement and, as a result of this, infinite opportunities. The young girls I met were ripped away their childhood and stolen into the arms of their traffickers; the girls had their freedoms stripped away as they were placed into the hands of hundreds of men. The thought of this violation of human rights makes me sick to my core.

It is clear that education is a key aspect of the girls recovery. Education empowers them to dream big and to see that anything is possible. Through it they realize that they can choose a career and a future they want. I chatted with one of the girls who was very curious about me, about what I did, where I lived and what my life was like. During our conversation, I found out she wanted to become a beauty therapist. She told me how much she loved making people look pretty, it made her feel good. In the time we spent together, I could see she was funny, outgoing and playful, but there were moments of sadness in her eyes and I could see the depth of her trauma.

rescued from trafficking and other social injusticesSarah Annay Photography

It is easy to pretend that this is happening somewhere else, and to a degree it is. Yet anyone, primarily females, could potentially be at risk for trafficking. It is a global problem. The trafficking ring is highly organized and coordinated. The traffickers weave stories and choose victims that are most vulnerable, targeting people from impoverished backgrounds, fleeing from civil unrest, war and human disaster, or, in the case of India, because of their class within the class system.

When we were in India, we learned that one of the young girls had been trafficked by her sister. Her sister had been trafficked a few years prior and she was now a recruiter. The young girl we talked to told us how she was trying to forgive her sister. Her sister (and other girls from the brothels) would be used as bait, dressed in the finest clothes and jewelry and sent to small rural villages to tell families how great their new "nanny" job is and how much money they are making. The families have no way to verify the story, and due to a lack of education and money, they unwittingly send their young daughters away, believing they have given them a better future.

In most cases, families send their daughters away willingly and the young girls very rarely try to escape. The girls are taken to a holding point and handed to another trafficker, then moved again, and again until they are in their final destination: a brothel where they are forced into marriage or domestic servitude. During that time, they are likely 'broken in' multiple times. Many end up in a part of India where they don't speak the language so even if they try to escape, they have no way of communicating their situation to anyone. Traffickers tell the girls that if they flee the work at the brothel, their family will be harmed or that their family will be disappointed as they are sending money home to their family (which is not the case, the families never see any money from the traffickers). Poverty fuels the human trafficking industry in India where two-thirds live in poverty living on less than $2 a day.

It is both heart-breaking and heart-warming spending time with these young girls. What they have endured is incomprehensible. It is heart-breaking to imagine what these beautiful young souls have been through, yet they still have so much light and beauty which made me feel blessed to spend time with them and left me inspired by their determination, and strength. I can't imagine what they have been through or how they feel.

While spending time with the girls, I assisted the healing arts workshop organized by Yoga Medicine® Seva Foundation's partner, Her Future Coalition. During this time we get to see their individual personalities shining through. Many of them crave a normal life, seeking things like marriage, children and a home. It surprised me that despite everything they have been through, these girls still refuse to be defined by their past. They have a strength deep inside them. It is palpable.

To make a real impact in India, education is vital, if the young girls can find a career that brings them out of the poverty line, their chances of being re-trafficked diminish greatly. Education is the key to empowering them, giving them a voice so they can create the future the deserve. This is why Yoga Medicine® Seva Foundation partners with two NGO's on the ground in India, Her Future Coalition and Rescue Foundation, to rescue, rehabilitate and provide education for the girls.

While the money raised in the last campaign had a huge impact on the lives of these young girls, many more still face human trafficking and sexual exploitation every day. The Yoga Medicine Seva® Foundation is continuing its fundraising efforts to combat the dire situation in India, and is aiming to raise $150,000 by 2021. I believe that as women we need to stand up for girls like those in India, giving them a voice and a chance at a real future. If women don't stand up for other women, who else will?

The problem is big, but together we can create lasting change.

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Women in Power: How to Get Better at Mentorship and Business Leadership

If you are reading this, then it is quite likely that you are a business leader and mentor already, and the very fact that you are looking to improve your skills beyond your current capacity means you are already ahead of the game.


In corporate sectors all around, a general trend has been observed which point towards the conclusion that talented women employees do thrive better under female mentorship. What this means is that women at the forefront of corporate leadership today must continue to improve in their ability to both lead and mentor the leaders of tomorrow. This is facilitated by the easy availability of ILM Level 7 Executive Coaching courses and training nowadays, which we are going to discuss in detail next.

Improving as a Mentor: Where Do You Start?

Given that improving on leadership and mentorship skills only concerns those that are already leading businesses and tutoring fresh talent under them, the very first requirement here concerns completing advanced ILM Level 7 Coaching programs.

However, in order to also include a more comprehensive educational curriculum and training to hone your mentorship skills to a point, it would be a good idea to go with a BCF Group program, which will help you to get that widely respected and vastly useful ILM Level 7 Certificate in Executive Coaching and Mentoring.

The BCF Group is one of the UK's most highly rated Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) Approved Centres for ILM Level 7 Executive Coaching Courses. To know more about what exactly to expect during and after completing your ILM Level 7 Qualifications in Executive Coaching and Mentoring from the centre, head over to the official site.

In the meantime, some of the advantages of their ILM Level 7 Coaching curriculums can be highlighted as follows:

  • Advanced understanding of high-level coaching and mentoring theories
  • Critical evaluation of one's own leadership mentoring and executive coaching practices
  • Knowing how to relate someone's personality and nature of business to her own mentoring practices
  • Personal growth: Effective learning and mentoring fellow coaches

Once you have the ILM Level 7 Coaching Certificate, you are finally ready to take on advanced responsibilities as a business leader and significantly improve on your ability to mentor the fresh, female executives and leaders that rely on you for guidance.

Without the necessary advanced education and training, progress would not be possible after a point, but once you do end up completing your certifications, it is time to build on that that knowledge and training by adding your own unique touches towards developing a mentoring procedure for your clients/executives.

Understanding the 3 Different Aspects of Mentorship which Hold the Most Value to Corporate Women

There are various different aspects of business coaching, but most women usually need more assistance and guidance in some particular areas over others. If you have a certificate in executive coaching and mentoring, you most likely possess the ability to cover at least two of them for your clients.

After going through the opinion of numerous business mentors who have had a great deal of experience in working with talented women across multiple fields, the primary mentoring needs of corporate women in particular seem to be divided into three broad categories:

  • Advisory mentorship
  • Strategic mentorship
  • Operational mentorship

Advisory Mentorship: Feedback

Most women working in a corporate environment agree that their managers are not as straightforward or guiding with their feedback to the female executives as they are usually with the male executives. The feedback is, of course, extremely important for growth, and in its absence, improvement and employee evolution is often stunted - even in those with potential.

The advisory role of the mentor is meant to fill this damaging gap by providing her with valuable feedback which she can then use to further her own progress. It is important for everyone, regardless of gender, to get a clear idea regarding what their weaknesses are that they need to work on, as well as getting feedback on their strengths, so that they know exactly what to rely on in times of urgency. The advisory role played by a coach and mentor involves doing both and much more.

Strategic Mentorship: Exposure

Exposure is another part of the industry where women employees and even female business owners are lagging behind, since managers, partners and other decision makers often end up highlighting the best performing men over the equally talented (if not more so) women.

The job of the strategic mentor is to make sure that her clients are not overshadowed by anyone. They work towards bringing the spotlight to talented leaders and executives, so that they too can form valuable partnerships, get promotions, and find more suited roles for their talents. It is to be noted that experienced and well-connected business coaches who have been in the field for a while make the best strategic mentors for obvious reasons.

Operational Mentorship: Advice

Operational mentorship goes beyond just the generic advice, but involves an actual process and step by step solution to overcoming obstacles in a female executive's path to success, be it for an immediate project or a long-term goal.

Just as experienced coaches and mentors are ideal for strategic mentorship, women need more industry specific guidance when it comes to operational mentors. They need to be women who have actually worked in the specific field concerned, or finding practical solutions and forming strategies to overcome specific obstacles will prove difficult, even if the mentor has her best interests in mind.

When you are a highly qualified, experienced and successful female business coach, know that you are not only helping your clients reach success, but you are at the same time being seen as a role model for women working in the corporate sector. Every time you succeed in making another woman reach her goals, you are inspiring more women to follow in your footsteps, as well as showing them how to walk that road to success by mentoring them.