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Trafficked as Child, Teen Bride, Bengal Woman Fights Odds to Find Independence, Lands Job at AmazonPay

By: Damini Solanki

News18.com

Last Updated: September 01, 2022, 15:51 IST

New Delhi, India

Human trafficking survivors at Anudip's Building Entrepreneurs to Stop Trafficking (BEST) program.

Human trafficking survivors at Anudip's Building Entrepreneurs to Stop Trafficking (BEST) program.

Despite being abused, trafficked, and married off to a man twice her age, Kobita Mandal fought for her life. Today, she is independent and dreams of studying further and helping other girls who have been through similar experiences.

Kobita Mandal (name changed) was called inauspicious as a child, trafficked, abused, and married off in her teen to a man double her age. Now, as a 23-year-old young woman Mandal is independent, and takes care of herself and her maternal grandparents. An employee at Amazon Pay, she aims at studying further and climbing the corporate ladder. But to reach here, she had to undergo immense struggles.

Kobita hails from a low-income background where her father was the only breadwinner. She was born in Lalgola, West Bengal and her father used to sell cow dung cakes. The daily earnings of the family used to be around only Rs 25. Things, however, got worse when Kobita lost her father when she was just 12. Her paternal grandparents tortured her and her mother and called them inauspicious. The mother-daughter duo was held responsible for the patriarch’s untimely death.

“After a year of torture my mother took a big step and she left my grand parent’s house at midnight. We spent days at the railway station asking people for work, but people were suspicious and we had to beg for food to fill our stomachs," Kobita said.

After spending 7 to 8 months on the streets, the mother-daughter finally found someone who was ready to offer them work. They were taken to a hotel in Krishna Nagar in West Bengal and were offered clothes and food.

“After months of begging we were really grateful for the food and fresh clothes. However, it only lasted for four days, and then my mother was taken away from me. Two to three men used to cuddle me as a child and later they sexually abused me. I understood what my mother was also going through," she recalls.

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After being molested for more than a week, Kobita says she was taken to a hotel in Malda where she was sexually abused for another week until the Malda police raided the hotel. She claims to have found out later that it was her mother who complained to the police through some acquaintance.

Thanks to the intervention of the Police, Kobita was then admitted to a local child shelter where she stayed till she turned 18. During her stay at the shelter, she was given food, clothes, and education. She also passed her Madhyamik or class 10 board exams there.

“I could not meet my mother for 5-6 years and when I came out of the shelter I found that my mother was married to another man and she had a new family. She did not want to see me so I was taken to my maternal grandparents," Kobita said.

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Her maternal parents forcefully got her married to a much older man. Her husband, claims Kobita, turned out to be an alcoholic, and her in-laws after finding out about her past, ill-treated her. “I was 18 when I got married and my husband’s age was more than 30. He even used to beat me. Throughout the marriage, I was going through depression and I even had suicidal thoughts," she said.

After suffering for three years, Kobita left her husband’s house. She started living with her maternal grandparents again. It was during these years that she came across Anudip’s Building Entrepreneurs to Stop Trafficking (BEST) programme. She was at first very apprehensive about it, however, after research, and due diligence, she trusted another man.

“I got to know about the course in 2019 but took admission in 2020 as trusting another wrong man could have ruined my life again. I researched about the program for a few months before joining," she said.

The program lasted for 8-9 months where Kobita was provided with regular counseling, market-aligned skills training, and training in computer and IT. All of this made her confident. Now, she understands and speaks in English, works on computers, and has a job at AmazonPay. She even earns money through crowdsourced microtasking.

“The programme helped me gain back my confidence and respect. Now I can openly move outdoors. I have financially become independent. I earn around Rs 8,000 every month and take care of myself and my maternal grandparents. I’m satisfied with my life now."

When asked about Kobita’s future plans she said she wants to study further and climb the corporate ladder. It is Kobita’s dream to help other girls who have been through similar experiences to come out and stand on their own feet. She does not want any other girl to go through what she has gone through in life.

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first published:September 01, 2022, 11:37 IST
last updated:September 01, 2022, 15:51 IST
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