Another ‘in person’ meeting, this time our regular monthly get together to discuss business and plan our projects. In aid of the UN International Literacy Day we had read the book ‘Sold’ by journalist and author Patricia McCormick. She had interviewed survivors of trafficking, young girls in Nepal, who had been sold into Prostitution in India and also those involved in rescuing these young girls who had believed they were to become maids in rich women’s homes.
The story that resulted from her research is fiction but very much based on the experiences of those who had been trafficked. it is believed that 12,000 young women from Nepal are sold into prostitution in India every year.
Written in free verse, which enabled such a harrowing story to be told in an effective way, this book really brought home the appalling situation that so many people across the world find themselves in. It is about what happens to Lakshmi, is a 13 yr old girl who lives with her family in a small hut in the mountains. Her family is desperately poor, even more so than most of the other villagers. But her life is full of simple pleasures. Her mother is amazing but her stepfather is not so kind? When the Monsoons wash away all that remains of her family’s crops, her stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family.
He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid working for a wealthy woman in the city. Glad to be able to help Lakshmi undertakes the long gruelling journey, most of which shows her a world that she never knew existed. Their families believe that they will receive regular income from arranging for their daughters to work in the cities but in fact most only receive a paltry sum after the initial negotiations and then have no further income. In the meantime, those involved in the trade who make the journey with the girls, hand them over to women who run brothels, and the brothel keepers themselves, make a fortune.
An old woman names Mumtaz rules the brothel, Happiness House, that Lakshmi is taken to, with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family’s debt – then cheats Lakshmi of her meagre earnings so that she can never leave.
Lakshmi’s life becomes a nightmare from which she will find it difficult to escape. Still, she lives by her mother’s words ‘Simply to endure is to triumph’. Gradually she forms friendships with the other girls that enables her to survive in this terrifying new world.
Then the day comes when she must make a decision – will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life.
Although written for teenage readers, it is one of those books that can and should cross-over into the adult market. We would highly recommend reading it.
We have made a donation to the Purple Community Foundation in the Philippines. an organisation we support, who help very poor families who cannot afford to pay for their children’s education. But that will be the only way out of poverty.