Soroptimists and Free A Girl

Free a Girl Movement has announced the opening of School for Justice, Mumbai, India, a school and education programme offering support, tuition and the mentoring required for girls to reach university level. The first project of the Free a Girl Movement, School for Justice is much more than just a physical school. Its forward-thinking programme educates girls that are rescued from child prostitution, training them to become lawyers and prosecutors, and in doing so, affording them the power to prosecute the criminals that once owned them.

Image courtesy of School for Justice

Opened on 6 April, 2017, Mumbai, School for Justice held a press conference featuring Free a Girl Movement, CEO Francis Gracias and legal expert Meenakshi Arora; Neela Satyanaryana (the first woman to be appointed as the State Election Commissioner of Maharashtra); Ambassador Abhay Mokashi, and spokesperson Tapoti Bhowmick.

Image courtesy of School for Justice

India has the most underage sex workers in the world with an estimated 1.2 million children working in brothels against their will. In 2015 only 55 cases led to convictions in the whole of India. The fact that the perpetrators are not punished is what allows – and will keep allowing – underage prostitution to happen. Source: School for Justice

The Free a Girl Movement, is a coalition initiated by Free a Girl, an international NGO, that fights against human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in India; firm in the belief that there is a need to change the conversation and mobilise society to act. The school was founded to break the cycle, so that child prostitution in India may become a problem of the past. The girls selected for the programme were freed from prostitution several years ago, and have gone through a process of trauma counselling, empowerment and education.

“I want to become a lawyer, because I want to fight against child traffickers.” Asha, student at the School for Justice

After winning the AFAS Challenge, a prize of EUR 50,000 was awarded by the AFAS Foundation to cover the costs of the first year of education for the twenty selected girls from 6 April. Supported by at least eight Soroptimist clubs in the Netherlands, efforts being made by Soroptimists will finance the education of at least twenty girls from 2018, with hopes for this to continue into 2019.

Following the successful Soroptimist/Unicef project, Syria ‘Back to School’, a new approach and structure was established by the Board of the Union of Soroptimist clubs in the Netherlands, Suriname and Curacao, in order to support and encourage larger projects such as this one. One element of this is a steering group, which consists of between 3 – 5 members from supporting clubs.

Led by Bianca Leemkuil (SI Alphen aan Rijn) and Rita Harmsen (SI Waterland), Programme Director Olenka van Ardenne, explains: “This project is about the empowerment of women and girls in its most pure form: we do not only help freed individual girls and women, but we also contribute to the creation of concrete tools for awareness, and respect for the rights of women and girls through education, in order that women and girls might reach positions in which they can make a difference. We as the Board of the Union of Soroptimist clubs in the Netherlands, Suriname and Curacao, are proud to cooperate with the vital partner Free a Girl, who realise impressive results in the field of awareness and action for girls and women captured in prostitution. We do hope that other Soroptimist clubs shall support this project so that we can spread this concept throughout the world”.

Image courtesy of School for Justice

Mallika Sherawat, actor and Ambassador says: “Underage girls forced into prostitution is a problem that we simply can’t ignore any longer. It’s the organised and systematic rape of young girls, happening on a mass scale, right here in Mumbai, Delhi and other cities in India. Girls, sometimes as young as 7 or 8, are forced into this life. By freeing the girls, we’re not changing the system that allows this crime to happen. To break this cycle, we will attack a key factor: the fact that the perpetrators are not being punished. Because they are not punished, they can continue with their crimes. I ask you to support the School for Justice to help the victims turn their anger at this injustice into a force for good – and a furious determination to put everyone involved in child prostitution behind bars.”

Further information:

View the Youtube video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfcMMAFzLh0

Find out more about the Free a Girl Movement here https://www.freeagirlmovement.org/

Find out more about the School for Justice here https://www.schoolforjustice.com/about

To find out more about the work of Soroptimists in the Netherlands please contact: programmacoordinator@soroptimist.nl

School for Justice schoolforjustice@gmail.com

To view the news story written by Soroptimist International of Europe please visit the SIE website at http://www.soroptimisteurope.org/dutch-soroptimists-contribute-to-educating-and-empowering-victims-of-child-prostitution-in-india/

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