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Australia and Southern Pacific
Through their programmes and activities, the Women’s Fellowship for Christian Service (WFCS), part of the global Mothers’ Union family, is committed to working to address gender inequality in India.
In South India, there is a special outreach dealing with Dalit and Adivasi issues through the Thalithakumi programme and through the Church’s Fund for Child Rights, both of which the WFCS is very much involved in. The prevalence of girl child labour is high in some parts of the country where girls are forced to work in the fields. The Thalithakumi programme aims to provide them with new opportunities such as literacy classes which can be taken at night. The Church in South India is also active in advocacy around this issue and organises consultations, workshops and study groups on issues related to livelihood, cultural, economical, political and theological concerns of Dalits and Adivasis in India today.
Human trafficking is a serious problem in India with an estimated three million women each year falling prey to trafficking, 40 per cent of whom are minors (2009 Trafficking in Persons Report). WFCS in Mumbai responded to this problem by organising a training event to empower women to fight against trafficking. This event aimed to bring attention to the global issue of human and sex trafficking whilst highlighting the need for more action in India.
WFCS heard the story of Shenaz at the training. Shenaz is 13 years old and an orphan. She trusted a relative who promised to educate her but instead sold her to a brothel in Calcutta. She remembers the brothel keeper slashing her back with a knife, giving her a scar that she still bears. Thankfully, Shenaz is now enrolled in tailoring classes and trying to lead an independent life. Sadly Shenaz’s story is not an isolated case, many girls are just as vulnerable to trafficking. Educating the girls most vulnerable to trafficking is a crucial initiative that the WFCS have caught hold of, and they are now running an awareness programme to help girls to recognise the danger.
Information adapted from the Church of North India and Church of South India websites