The FBI announced on February 4 that they arrested 45 people and rescued 16 juveniles (ages 13 to 17) from sex trafficking in a two-week crackdown on prostitution in the New York-New Jersey area during the two weeks leading up to the 2014 Super Bowl. This sting was merely the tip of a huge iceberg, shedding light on an issue that impacts the economic health of nations worldwide.
According to the United Nations, 2.5 million people globally are victims of human trafficking, which includes not only (mostly) girls and women forced into prostitution – but also people removed from their homes to serve as domestic bondservants. Some of the girls rescued during the Super Bowl sting were runaways, according to the FBI. In many developing countries, girls end up in the same situation simply because they are girls.
In fact, in most of the countries where Food for the Hungry (FH) works, girls are considered women at the age of 12. They typically marry and have children by the time they’re 15. With their bodies not ready, many die in childbirth. With their emotional and intellectual development not complete, they are locked into a lifetime of poverty. They often end up selling their bodies as a way to support their families, opening them up to HIV infection as well as violence. Some even end up selling their oldest children as domestic servants or prostitutes in order to feed the younger siblings.
And the cycle repeats for generations.
Girls and Women are Key to Ending Poverty
Leaders of the Group of Eight (G8 – a forum for the governments of eight of the world’s largest national economies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) recently named food security for girls and women key to ending poverty. The process of providing this security must include factors that affect women’s ability to produce, process and prepare food for their families.
The G8 declared that women living without violence are more likely to earn an income and focus on caring for their children, thus reducing poverty and malnutrition.
FH programs focus on providing healthy environments in which children can thrive.
- Care groups help women secure the skills necessary to raise healthy children.
- Income generation programs and savings groups help women start or expand businesses, so they can support their families.
- Because disaster situations put women and children into vulnerable situations, FH provides child friendly spaces that allow children to play and learn in safe environments.
- Counseling programs show men, women and children that, being made in God’s image, all people have value and deserve to be treated respectfully.
Erica Tejada in Peru was one woman whose life was transformed through FH programs. She grew up in a culture that undervalues women and girls. Both men and women believe it is acceptable for men to beat their wives and for parents to beat their children. As a result, her relationships with her family could only be described as rocky.
At age 36, Erica was living with her boyfriend, Armando Agurto, and their three children, ages 15, 12 and 7. Their difficult relationship caused Armando to take a six-month trip. While gone, he had an affair. Feeling betrayed, Erica decided to change herself in order to change the situation for her children.
She began attending workshops and lectures on marriage. She also received home visits from FH staff and the local pastor who taught some of the FH workshops. Soon, she became a leader mother in the community, teaching other women the valuable lessons that had transformed the lives of her and her family.
She became a Christian because of the FH teachings. The example of God’s forgiveness toward her prompted her to forgive, and later marry, Armando. She says she’s grateful for the new level of communication, understanding and love in her home. And because she’s helping others learn what she learned, she’s contributing to the social, spiritual, emotional and economic well-being of her entire community.
If you’d like to help end violence one person and community at a time through FH programs, please prayerfully consider a gift to FH’s general fund. Together, we can help bring peace, safety and prosperity to the world’s most vulnerable people.