‘Awareness is the road to action’ - Teenagers raise thousands to support victims of sex slavery

'YouCanFreeUs' helps victims of forced sex slavery access safe accomodation and training in Mumbai.

'YouCanFreeUs' helps victims of forced sex slavery access safe accomodation and training in Mumbai. Photo: YouCanFreeUs - Credit: YouCanFreeUs

A group of Norfolk teenagers have raised essential funds to help women and girls escape sex slavery.

Students at Norwich School organised a musical event to push Norwich St Edmund Rotary Club past its £19,500 target to help rehabilitate women and girls trapped in forced sex work in Mumbai, India.

Led by Rotary member and slavery activist Mark Little, the Norwich St Edmund Rotary Club was on a mission to raise the sum for international human rights charity YouCanFreeUs.

The organisation runs safe house accommodation for survivors of forced labour as well as a rehabilitation training centre in a different part of the city.

Five miles apart, transportation issues between accommodation and the centres had stunted the services YouCanFreeUs were able to offer.

Members at the club came up with a solution: a 26-seater bus to drive the women across the city.

By July 2018 the group were short of just under £1,000, so approached Norwich School's Amnesty group for support.

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Mr Little, who was born in Mumbai, said he was heartened by the students' incredible reaction to his presentation.

The teenagers organised a musical evening at the school which raised more than £1,000 and achieved the overall target.

Mr Little said: 'The pupils were very much affected by the stories. They can relate to the children so they're very receptive.

'Raising awareness is the road to action.'

There is an estimated 4.8 million victims of forced sexual exploitation worldwide, the highest proportion of whom are from India.

Poverty, low conviction rates and lack of rehabilitation resources are among the causes for the year-on-year rise of people trapped in India's illegal slave trade.

Mumbai is the most populous city in the country and also notorious for having the highest number of forced sex workers.

According to a study by independent anti-slavery organisation International Justice Mission, there are around 10,000 children and adults trapped in the city's illegal industry.

Following the successful fundraising mission, Mr Little will visit the NGO in early December to see the bus in action.