Look out for any girl in your neighbourhood or class who has not been seen for two or three days
Watch out if girls speak to strangers
Raise the alarm in case of any of the above
A group of teenage schoolgirls on Friday exchanged notes on how they have been “policing” their areas to prevent girls their age from being trafficked.
Their vigil in a pocket of South 24-Parganas has made a difference.
A 17-year-old girl from Daria village in Canning I, who has been selected for a bravery award, narrated how she helped rescue a neighbour and a classmate two years ago.
When she did not see the friend for a day, she enquired at her tuition class and found out she had left early the previous day. She then learnt from the girl’s parents that her friend had left for Burdwan with a man who had promised to find her a job.
“This was exactly the method to lure girls that I had learnt at a workshop. I could not contact any NGO. Instead, I asked for the man’s phone number and called him up. I requested him to find me a job too. When he agreed, I asked him to bring my friend when they came for me as she would be able to recognise me,” the girl told an audience that comprised members of adolescent girls’ groups from several villages on Friday.
The moment the girl saw her friend, she grabbed her hand and ran off. “My uncle and grandfather were watching over me but the man didn’t know that,” she said. Her friend had been trafficked to Bihar, it was later found out.
Another girl attending the convergence meeting organised by Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre (KMWSC), the social development wing of the Loreto Congregation in India, shared how she had provided vital information about a man who was taking her friend to Darjeeling and helped police rescue her from Siliguri.
Bengal tops the list of Indian states in human trafficking — as many as 3,579 cases were reported in 2016 — and the conviction rates are very low.
Sister Monica, director, KMSWC, said 52 girls have been rescued and eight underage marriages stalled with the help of the adolescent girls’ groups. The centre has been working to prevent human trafficking in Canning I block for the past four years and in Diamond Harbour for five months.
“This was our second convergence meeting but the first one attended by the vigilant girls meet. Around 30 of them came from 18 villages,” said Sister Monica, who was moved to tears when she heard the girls speak with confidence.
Members of several NGOs, the officer-in-charge of all-women police stations in Canning, members of local panchayats and Sudeshna Roy, member of the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights, were present at the meeting.