For most of us, such cruelty is impossible to imagine. Selling a child into a living nightmare of torture, fear and sexual abuse. Shirisha’s* story is difficult to read, but it’s a story she wants to share in the hope that no other child will suffer the way she has.
It’s 4am. An 11-year-old girl is on her way from her small village in Nepal to the capital city of Kathmandu. On the bus, the girl meets a woman who listens to her story and shares her own. The 11-year-old trusts the woman, but what happens next will end her childhood, for good. This is her story, in her own words.
“…my soul died completely.”
“When I was growing up, I lived in the countryside – my childhood was nice, but the people of the community were really bad. They used to try and force young girls to marry, even eight-year-old girls.
That’s why I left home.
One night, I ran from my house when my parents were sleeping and took a bus to Kathmandu. I met a woman on the bus; she sat beside me and asked where I was going. I told her my whole story and she told me hers … She told me I could have a job looking after her baby and after three months doing that, I could go home with all my problems solved. I would have enough money to look after my family.
The lady took me straight to India … and I did look after her baby when she went out. Every night, she would come home with a bundle of money. I asked her many times where she got all that money and how she earned it. But she would just say, ‘when your time comes to work, you’ll find out where all this money comes from’.
“I had no idea that the money was earned doing such awful things.”
That’s exactly what she wanted, for me to insist so she could take me and keep me there. I had no idea that the money was earned doing such awful things.
Later, when I found out, my soul died completely.
After a few days, she took me to a place which was six hours away by taxi. On the way, she stopped and bought a suitcase of clothes for me. Those clothes were very short, something like a swimming costume. I’d never seen such clothes before. I didn’t even want to look at them, seeing them made me feel awful.
When I got there, it was a really narrow building, there were lots of tunnels, and darkness. There was no way to get out.
I was taken to a room; there was a group of four or five others there. Still, no one had told me what my job was going to be, but I thought I would just start the next day. The next morning, I started mopping the floor. The manager said, ‘that isn’t your job. Go upstairs, I’ll tell you what your job is’.
The manager came to my room with a really big man. He was about 45 years old. ‘Do you know why I chose you?’ he asked me. ‘Because you are a virgin.’ I was so young, I didn’t even know what that meant.
“I didn’t even know if it was day or night.”
I ran to the manager … I said, ‘I can’t do this work. I’m a child.’ I refused to go back to the room, so they brought me to a dark room and showed me a girl they had tortured. The girl was sitting in the corner of the room covered in blood from all the wounds she had suffered. She was half dead or crazy.
So, I went back to the room and the old man was waiting for me. I told him that I had been tricked and I wasn’t ready for this. He said that he wasn’t there to help me, but that if I didn’t want to do it, he wouldn’t force me.
They rang the woman who had brought me there and she told them what to do. When everyone was eating, they gave the other girls fish but gave me this vegetable broth. When I was eating, I went unconscious. I woke up the next morning and I was covered in blood. I had no idea what had happened to me and my body was so sore. I had no idea what had happened the previous night, who had done what to me, where so much blood had come from.
After that, the manager said because I wouldn’t do what he said like the other girls, they would keep drugging me.
I was half conscious in the brothel the whole time. I was never awake when they did it to me.
You couldn’t escape, there was no way out. Even the stairs were locked. There were no windows. I didn’t even know if it was day or night.
I spent three months in that place, nearly dying, surviving, nearly dying, surviving again.”
After three months, the brothel was raided by police and Shirisha was rescued. She was taken to a shelter run by Save the Children partner Shakti Samuha where she is trying to put the horrors she has been through behind her. But she remains haunted by what she has experienced: “Even if you want to forget it all, you can’t,” she says.
Save the Children works in Nepal to stop girls being trafficked. We work with parents, teachers, the police and community leaders to educate them about trafficking; why it happens, how to identify victims of trafficking and how to refer cases to NGOs. We teach children about trafficking, child protection and child rights – as well as what to do when the dangers become real.
Shirisha told us that before she dies, she wants to know that trafficking no longer exists, that not a single child will ever again be sold into a living hell.
*Name changed to protect identity