This weekend saw more than 100 sisters dedicated to ending slavery come together in Bangalore, India, to share their successes and challenges, to learn from one another and receive further training at their annual conference.
The South Asian network of sisters working against trafficking, AMRAT, brings together trained social workers, counsellors, lawyers and many other professionals committed to confronting modern slavery. The meeting represents only a fraction of this large and powerful network which in India alone numbers more than 600.
Anti-slavery work in South Asia can be very difficult. India is reckoned to have the largest number of enslaved people in the world – more than 18 million according to the 2016 GSI. Religious intolerance within communities and even from the government means that sisters are often forced to operate at considerable personal risk or, at the very least, have all kinds of obstacles thrown in their way.
Still they persist, sharing their lives with the most marginalised, rescuing, sheltering and offering loving accompaniment for as long as it is needed.
Among many inspiring moments at the conference was the story of Sister Mary Elise from Bihar (pictured above). Her institution is close to the border of Nepal, which has a huge problem of child trafficking for labour exploitation. This remarkable woman was recently honoured for rescuing more than 300 children from forced labour.
Later, another sister was brought reluctantly to the stage who had been awarded an honour by the local Indian Government for a similar number of rescues. Their stories seem remarkable to us, but merely reflect the day-to-day operations of AMRAT which is responsible for many thousands of life-saving interventions every year.
We heard also from DC Chaten Singh of the local police (below).
DC Singh led the largest ever trafficking bust in India’s history, freeing more than 130 people in a single raid. This leading policeman spoke of the essential role of Sisters, who often accompany police operations in order to offer reliable witness testimony when the cases later come to court. Without them, he said, there would be far fewer prosecutions.
The phenomenal AMRAT network runs extremely economically. It is low profile, spending nothing on promoting itself. This means that the sisters can concentrate wholly on their core operations, but it also means that too few people know about them. With your support they can become even stronger. One lawyer sister told us that she could maintain an average of 5 human trafficking cases a month for just $90.
Arise is honoured to count AMRAT among its partners. Join our movement to find out how you can do more to help them.