Abuse and trafficking survivor trains for a better future

At the age of just 27, Sima is a survivor of abuse and trafficking. However, thanks to skills training, she is creating a better future for herself and her daughter.

Sima using her sewing machine
Sima using her sewing machine.

Trapped in an abusive marriage, Sima’s husband regularly attacked her both mentally and physically. A drunk and a bully, his behaviour drove Sima to the edge of darkness, affecting her mental health to such an extent that she tried to kill herself to escape from the violence that her husband inflicted on her every day.

What saved her from giving up was her 5-year-old daughter. With emotion in her voice, Sima tells us: “Whenever I looked into the face of my innocent daughter, I found the strength and encouraged myself to live.”

From a traditional community in Banke district, Nepal, Sima says that her neighbours and family blamed her for her husband’s violent behaviour – often telling her that she was responsible for not being able to maintain peace in her marriage.

Nepal’s victim-blaming culture, which is deeply embedded in society, meant that Sima had no one to turn to for help, even her mother and father told her to keep silent to maintain the dignity and reputation of both the families in the community.

Girls and young women vulnerable to abuse

Eventually Sima decided that she could no longer live in fear of her husband’s violent rages and she found the strength to make a change. “I could not take the physical and mental abuse from my husband and his family anymore. I filed a case of domestic violence. My decision was firmly to divorce and live separately.”

Thankfully Sima was awarded custody of her young child. “I am relieved as I got my daughter’s custody and did not have to leave her with a family and father who are not worthy.”

The skills training has changed my life.

Having escaped her marriage, Sima now needed to find a way to support her daughter. With few skills and unable to find any work in her community, she decided to leave her daughter with her parents and migrate to India in hope of earning enough money to change the status of her and her daughter in their village.

Life in another country is not easy and Sima could not find any decent work so quickly returned home before anything bad could happen to her. “Being a woman, it’s very difficult to cope outside the country. You are exploited wherever you work.”

Back in her village, Sima’s situation came to the attention of Plan International who are working in Banke to provide vocational training to young people who are at risk of human trafficking which is a serious problem in Nepal, with women, men, and children often lured to India for various purposes including commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour.

Skills training offers hope of a better future

Plan International’s ProTEcT (Prevention, Tracking, Education and Transformation) project is working in Nepal to stop child and human trafficking by strengthening prevention mechanisms, improving the repatriation process and supporting survivors.

Since financial pressure is often linked to trafficking, the project provides training to trafficking survivors and at-risk young people to gain in-demand job skills and links them to potential employers.

As part of the project, Sima was enrolled on a 3-month training course to learn tailoring skills. Determined to make the most of the opportunity, she worked hard and quickly learnt how to use a sewing machine, cutting and designing techniques and how to make clothing for both men and women.

At the end of the training, Sima was supported with a start up kit which included a sewing machine and sewing materials. Through the project, a tailoring shop was set up in Sima’s community where she and other project participants now work making and selling clothes to people in their village.  

“Now I can fulfill my daughter’s needs and have enrolled her at a nearby private school. I understand the importance of education so I’m committed to providing my daughter with a good education with the money I am earning from the tailoring business.”

After many years of living in fear and silence, 27-year-old Sima says she is finally happy. Her parents are supportive of her aim to become self-sufficient and her job means she is gaining respect and from her neighbours and family members who once shunned her as divorce is not seen as acceptable in Nepal’s patriarchal society.

“The skills training has changed my life. People who used to mistreat me, now came to ask me to make their dresses,” she says proudly.

Protection from violence, Skills and work, Gender-based violence, Vocational training