Sneha is 14 and was born in the red light area in Kolkata, where her mother works as a prostitute. When her mother could no longer afford Sneha’s school fees, she was forced to drop out of school. She fell into ‘bad company’ and starting using addictive substances. Some of her new friends started abusing her and she began to think about entering prostitution to support her drug habit.
One of ECPAT’s young partners, who was working on the ground in the area, struck up a friendship with Sneha. As a result of the friendship, Sneha joined one of ECPAT’s Peer Support Programmes and soon became a peer supporter herself. For the first time, she realised there were other options. Through the support of ECPAT’s expert youth partners, and her own new-found confidence, she stop abusing substances and was no longer considering entering prostitution as a way to support herself. The youth team gave her options and training, helped her build esteem and showed how she could, herself, help other at-risk young people.
ECPAT International works not only with children who are victims of sexual exploitation, but we also run innovative, grass-roots outreach programmes with children who are at risk of being exploited. We help children escape the cycle that forces them into exploitation, before it happens.
Through its vast network of organisations, ECPAT International has already protected hundreds and thousands of children. But there are still hundreds of thousands that receive no help. On Universal Children’s day, ECPAT International renews its call to the global community to do more to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation.