| Young girls from the Dongharia Kondh ethnic group pose for a picture in Odisha, India.
Many tribal girls are specifically targeted by human traffickers.
Sr. Manjula Bars belongs to the Congregation of the Servants of Mary. The Sundargargh District has become a regular place for human trafficking. Tribal women and girls lured with promises of jobs end up sold as brides or on a human flesh market. “Our biggest challenge and task is to network with government, Church and society to solve this serious problem.” Sr. Manjula points out.
Sr. Manjula Bars is a member of the Servants of Mary (Servites) committed to humanitarian work in India. She diligently works to improve the condition of women in the eastern state of Odisha. “Christ’s love drives me to rescue tribal women from human trafficking,” she explained.
The trafficking of women in Odisha “is becoming a real serious threat,” she said. For this reason, “the diocese of Rourkela”, in which Sr. Manjula works, “has tackled the problem of tribal women; saving them and giving them back their freedom, for the past two years now.”
Sr. Manjula explains that tribal women are often “lured by human trafficking syndicates that bring them to big cities across India on the pretext of these easy to find jobs. Instead, some of the tribal girls and women are sold as brides to poor peasants, while others end up in the human flesh trade.”
The Sundargargh district, which is in the diocese of Rourkela, “has become, over the past few decades, a regular place for human trafficking. Hundreds of women are sold in cities and this puts the victims, their families and the whole of society in grave danger.”
The situation has prompted the diocese to feverishly look for ways to help the women especially at risk. Together with her group and the local police, the missionary nun saves women and girls before they are moved to other cities and disappear forever.
However, her task is not finished once these women are rescued. Sr. Manjula also provides psychological counseling as well as vocational training so that they can be motivated to go on leading a dignified life and earn a living all their own.
“Our biggest challenge and task,” she explains, “is to network with government agencies, civil society groups, Church authorities, ordinary Catholics, and all people of goodwill in order to raise awareness about human trafficking and propose steps to eliminate it altogether”.
According to the nun, “our apostolic religious vocation encourages us to work together to build a world of justice and love in response to the needs of the Church and society. Our priorities are the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.”