Journal.

Committed: Thinzar's Story

Committed: Thinzar's Story

Committed is inspired by the difference connection can make. When you wear this necklace, you are connected to a woman trapped in exploitation who has been given the inside piece by our partners outreach. Handmade with hope by a rescued woman, your necklace carries her story of courage into the world. The inside pendant that fits your Committed necklace brings a message of hope into the red-light districts of Asia. As we enter the darkest brothels to identify and help trafficking victims, we give the women we meet delicate necklaces as a symbol that they are cherished and deserve love. As you think of the woman who shares your Committed necklace and tell this story to others, you are living a commitment to change the world one necklace at a time.

Two days after meeting Thinzar, the outreach phone rang. Her voice on the other side of the line asked where the taxi driver should take her… and thirty minutes later she arrived at our office door with the Committed necklace around her neck. The exit strategy we gave her and the message that she was loved was all she had needed to make this daring escape. Our partners would remain by her side as she began the long journey of recovery and restoration.

Thinzar met the outreach team two days previous in a filthy slum where the smell of human waste permeated the air. She was kept in a back alley brothel that was covered in mould and refuse of all kinds. As we climbed past the blood red streaks of betel nut in the stairwell, gaudy wallpaper and a line of 25 young girls came into view. Behind them lay a flimsy plywood hallway of 10 small cubicles with only a dirty pillow on the filthy linoleum floor.

When our partners go into a brothel, our goal is to identify trafficking victims and offer them rescue. Thinzar saw us provide the rapid HIV testing that gives us fifteen precious minutes alone which each woman. In those moments, we passed each one an easily concealed sticker with contact details and explained that we will remove the barriers that keep her trapped – we will offer her a place to go, pay her taxi fare, and help her dream again in a supportive, loving environment. We then gifted each woman in the brothel the inside heart pendant of the Committed necklace and shared its story of hope.

Thinzar found herself in this brothel in a story familiar to many trafficked women. She had fallen in love with a man who moved into her village. Disregarding her mother’s serious reservations about the man, Thinzar was convinced by him to elope. Upon returning to her village, her new husband became verbally abusive, calling her “a pig” and “worthless” over and over. He stopped working and his drinking worsened. The constant fighting and emotional manipulation escalated with the growing difficulty of surviving on Thinzar’s meager wages as a farmhand. The risk of leaving him felt too great after having gone against her mother’s wishes… and she still desperately desired his acceptance and love even when he was so cruel to her. The trauma of this relationship wrapped Thinzar up even tighter to her abusive husband.

One day, he told her that she had to leave for the city to work a new job he found her. It didn’t matter that she didn’t want to sleep with strangers. Only the money mattered to him. By now, she believed his abusive words towards her, so she went.

As she moved from one dark place to another even worse one, her husband collected her earnings each month. Eventually, she stopped begging him to release her and began to believe that this is where she deserved to be. It was in this week of her darkest despair that our partners visited her brothel and spoke of how she was valued and so, so loved. Their desire to invest in her future and the gift of a tiny golden heart with an invitation to dream again inspired her escape two days later. 

But even in the safe and loving environment where she now lived, Thinzar’s dreams could not keep her safe from her past life. Despite the abusive nature of their relationship, Thinzar was convinced that her husband did indeed love her. Although she was receiving therapy to heal from the trauma of her exploitation and her abusive marriage, she still maintained contact with him.

As New Year's celebrations came around, Thinzar passed the first month of her 3-month sewing course with flying colours. She opened a bank account to save up for her own sewing shop. But while at home for the holiday, she contacted her husband. When he learned that she had some money saved, he manipulated her into transferring a large portion of these savings to him. Upon returning to the shelter, she shared that her mother was sick. She needed to go back to her village and run the family farm until her mother was better. Our partners sprang into action and gave her mother some tools to help keep her daughter from being trafficked again. We kept in close contact with Thinzar and her mother during this time while praying for her safety.

When her mother’s health improved, Thinzar re-joined Eden’s sewing training, graduated with top marks, and was referred to a factory-sewing course. The factory would provide her with an intensive skills course on creating more complicated garments followed by a 4-month traineeship. Thinzar was very excited, but early in the training she had to ask her supervisor for a day off due to medical reasons. When questioned about needing time off, she explained that the HIV clinic was only open during work hours and she needed her next month’s medication. 

Due to the prejudice around HIV, the supervisor told her that if he had known she was HIV+ he never would not have hired her. Furthermore, he told her that the disease would keep her from having any sort of factory job in the city. 

Feeling her dreams crashing down, Thinzar believed his lies. She remembered all the insults her husband had flung at her. She ran back to where she thought she belonged… back to the red-light district.

For three weeks, the follow-up team tried unsuccessfully to reach Thinzar. Finally, Soe Soe, a young Eden graduate who had been rescued from trafficking herself, told us she has seen Thinzar working in a brothel area near where she now lived. Soe Soe, also HIV+ and with a limp from where her captor broke her hip, reached out to Thinzar and spoke truth to her. Soe Soe spoke about her innate worth, about how neither HIV nor a man could devalue her, and reminded her of her dreams.

Thinzar ran again… but this time she came back to the shelter. She handed us her SIM card and asked us to cut it up and break contact with her husband. She began her HIV treatment again.  We helped her find an alternative training course to learn how to measure clients and create patterns. Finally, we set up a new savings plan for her so that she can invest it alongside seed money from our partners to start her own sewing shop.

From hopeless darkness to hope restored, Thinzar now spends her days training full time to learn the advanced sewing skills she needs to open her own shop. The excitement and support becomes palpable when Thinzar visits for her weekly counseling session. She confidently shows them her latest designs, delivers dresses she completed for them in her spare time and takes down new orders from her excited friends. The future she painted for the Dream Wall is the one that Eden empowered her to create for herself. It all began with one tiny heart necklace and a commitment from you to end injustice and inspire hope.

 

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