Studies have shown that 60% of the women in prostitution were trafficked as children. It also revealed that a majority of women who ‘willingly’ got into the trade were victims of sexual violence. Given this context, should redemptive action be justifying their current position and providing them safety in the now or giving them the opportunity of a new start. 

The first option is saying, “Well… they were brought in as slaves so now we have to make sure the government will take care of them in their old age, make sure they have healthcare and make sure no one physically abuses them, treats them poorly or stigmatises them.” This does not address the key issue of personal freedom, lost opportunities and above all Equality in society. There have been efforts to remove the stigma which is usually evident in the names we use to describe the crime, the victims and the perpetrators. However well intentioned, these efforts haven’t been able to remove the stigma attached to the victims of sex trafficking. They are still seen as party to the crime, are still looked down upon and even with an alias, are still connected to their past.

The second option brings us to the possibility of new opportunities and new beginnings. One that says the past is past, where the future looks bright, with a new identity and with equal footing. This can be achieved only through empowerment; education and employment being means to this empowerment. An empowered woman is just that, empowered. To call someone an empowered victim or survivor is quite the oxymoron. She is no longer a victim or a survivor but an empowered woman. She could take up any profession she desires and be known as an artisan, a cook, a supervisor, a teacher, lawyer, security personnel, anything at all. She will never be a rescued artisan, a rescued lawyer or a rescued teacher. Her present and future is not because of her past but despite it. Her past does shape her perspective and understanding but does not limit either.

Just like us. 

We, the educated mass of this country will soon celebrate Teachers Day and Global Literacy day this month. If education does not empower us to think different, act different, and be different, was it really an education? Or was it just an extended course in literacy?

 I am thankful for the teachers, principals, lecturers, professors who shaped my thinking and that of my colleagues and those who continue to shape lives in schools and colleges. Who, in this day and age, despite the blindness, hate, exclusion propagated, teach and encourage students to think, be and act differently. My hope is that the Generation Alpha seeks to be empowered and empower especially those who are disempowered.