Gita (not her real name) works as a producer with The Salvation Army's Sally Ann/Others, Trade for Hope initiative and is also a seller of fabrics in her community. She works hard but is very happy and says: 'Whatever money I am earning now, is clean'. Gita has adopted a young girl, and they live together peacefully. She has given permission for her story to be shared because she hopes that it will help other women and girls.

Gita's life was not always easy. At the age of 11 she fell in love with her cousin, who coerced her into going to Dhaka with him. He robbed and deserted her. Gita found shelter, but was soon thrown out by the owner of the house.  She was alone on the streets of Dhaka.

She befriended a girl who she thought she could trust, but her new friend also tricked her and sold her to a trafficker. Gita was then taken to Puna, India, and sold to a brothel. It was whilst she was in Puna that she met many Bangladeshi girls who had been trafficked. In the brothel the 'madam' tried to force her to work as a prostitute but she resisted. Her owners mentally and physically abused her, sometimes withheld food and gave her drugs. She often cried and tried to escape but it was all in vain until one day she pleaded with the owner to release her, and her request was granted. Gita managed to make her way back to Bangladesh.

Busy street outside The Salvation Army Centre Old Dhaka Busy street outside The Salvation Army Centre Old Dhaka where counselling and assistance is given to those in need.  Across the road is the location of the Kandiputti brothel

Arriving in Bangladesh, Gita did not feel she could return to her home village because many years had passed and she was afraid she would not be accepted. Remaining in Dhaka, she started making a living as a prostitute – the only occupation she knew. One day she met Marjina, who herself was a trafficking survivor. Marjina took Gita to The Salvation Army's Counselling and Development Centre where she learned to read, to write and do handicrafts. Today she continues to produce items for Sally Ann and, in addition, she has her own small business.

In an effort to give hope to women like Gita, The Salvation Army in Bangladesh operates its Counselling and Development Centre in a suburb known as Old Dhaka, opposite the Kandiputti brothel. Working with trafficked women and prostitutes has given the centre access to the brothels and women who live and work there. One of the centre's aims is to provide vocational training and to rehabilitate sex workers who are willing to change their profession. The Salvation Army has dedicated significant time, energy and resources to these women.

In Old Dhaka, women meet together in The Salvation Army Counselling and Development Centre.  Some are old, some middle-aged and others quite young – but all are facing the same challenge: how to develop the skills needed to live a normal life within their society. The centre is very important to these women because there they can come and talk openly and find rest. At the centre they are offered counselling, skills training in handicrafts, opportunities to establish friendships, and rejuvenation through the love, care and encouragement of the staff. It is at the centre that they experience true love and compassion – for some of them for the very first time – and it is there that their spirits are lifted and they learn to value and respect themselves.

Finding hope in the Centre  

As part of their rehabilitation, women take part in an eight-month reading and writing course which not only assists them with literacy, but also educates them about the rights of women and how to save money for their future. They learn skills such as tailoring and creating decorative ornaments, Christmas items, napkin rings, wire and bead items, handmade cards, handloom materials, back packs and other things.  These are then sold through The Salvation Army's Sally Ann/Others shops in Dhaka, Norway, Denmark and other countries. Many women have succeeded in leaving behind their life of prostitution and have found new jobs and a new way of living.

Some women have received small grants and have purchased their own sewing machines in order to make items to sell in their communities. Some have started small businesses such as selling vegetables, cosmetics or fabrics. Interestingly, many of them remain to serve the communities where they initially experienced commercial sexual exploitation. They are happy in their new lives. They may not be very wealthy, but as one woman said: 'A lot of money earned as a prostitute cannot give peace, but a little money earned in an honourable way can give peace.'


Mr. Victor Mondal

Project Manager for the HIV and Human Trafficking Project

Bangladesh Command

With printing permission from Commissioner Syliva Cox





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