Courage Under Fire

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE. ACTRESS. ADVOCATE. WHAT DO THESE THREE HAVE IN COMMON?

Courage. This same courage was what enabled *Veena to escape from her abusive traffickers.

Born into a poor family, Veena started working to support her family when she was 11. Despite her young age, Veena was always putting the needs of her family and others’ before herself. Veena slogged for years to put food on the table and see her siblings through school.

Veena’s heart to empower young people did not end there. Seeing the injustices and state of poverty in her country, she was determined to improve the lives of her countrymen and ran as an electoral candidate for provincial president when she was older.

Unfortunately, competition was tough and she lost to a worthy opponent. But that did not hinder Veena’s advocate heart. A voice for the silenced, she would stand up against injustice and do her utmost to support the needy in her community.

Veena has two kids, she did all that she could to provide for them and to give them a good education. Albeit only earning a meagre amount, they were able to get by. Things took a turn of events when her husband choked up a huge sum of debt. Preying on her vulnerability, an employment agent approached Veena with a job opportunity to work in Singapore. Once a junior artiste who played small roles in movies, Veena was overjoyed to be presented this chance to lift her family out of poverty.

Veena was ready and excited for her new endeavour as a cultural dancer until she learnt that life in Singapore was not the glamour she had imagined. After arriving in Singapore, Veena realised she was deceived. Everything she was told about the artiste job was a lie and a ploy by the false agents to trick her to work in a club in Singapore. Veena was forced against her will; she had to be physically intimate with customers who patronised the dance club she was working at. She was under constant supervision. Furthermore, Veena could not speak a word of English and did not know where she could seek help from.

Veena suffered in silence. What could she have done in these entrapping circumstances?

Veena’s ordeal ended when she finally mustered enough courage to escape – she ran out of the dance club and never looked back. On the streets, she pleaded with a stranger to call the police for help. Seeing her desperate state though without understanding what happened, the stranger quickly called the police and help arrived soon after.

Following the authorities' investigations, Veena was referred to HAGAR where she received psychological support and recovery assistance as she stood in trial to testify against her traffickers. With the economic support and skills training she has received from HAGAR, Veena secured a job and has been able to support her family for the past 4 years.

“I am so thankful for the support HAGAR has shown me. They are like my mother, my sisters – everything. I hope to start a social service agency like HAGAR when I return back to India and serve my people just like how HAGAR has helped me.”

Veena has come a long way in her healing journey. While we are immensely grateful for her recovery, we hope no woman or girl shall be subjected to such pain and abuse. Help us reach out to vulnerable communities in the trafficking hotspots with this critical gift of prevention!

*HAGAR pursues the highest degree of care and protection for each of our clients. To protect the identity of our clients, names have been changed and pictures do not necessarily represent the individual profiled.