We at Moeloco are proud to share the story of Olivia Rana and her novel, Elastic Girl, which brings attention to the tragedy of child trafficking. Preventing and ending human trafficking in all of its forms is a mission we are passionate about as part of our fight against poverty. We would like to thank JP, Moeloco’s specialist in this area, for introducing us.
It is estimated that there are 5.5 million child slaves globally. As a mother of two young children, that fact is barely comprehensible, but it is real, and with each of these 5.5 million children there is a story that we will probably never know.
Kumari Lama – Child Trafficking Survivor
Kumari Lama was one of those children. When she was only five years old, she was sold by her Nepali parents into a circus in India. Over eleven years she was traded between circuses, sexually abused and beaten unconscious with a rope. One day she lost her grip during a high-wire act and fell 30 foot to the ground. She couldn’t walk for three months, but the circus master forced her back into the ring as fast as they thought possible.
Thankfully, for Kumari it was a happy ending. Her circus was raided by the Esther Benjamins Trust (now known as Child Rescue Nepal) and she was rescued and rehabilitated. Philip Holmes, founder of the Esther Benjamins Trust, was interviewed about his work in Indian circuses over ten years ago and described situations like Kumari’s in graphic detail. When I heard him speaking I remember thinking: how could children end up being trafficked into such horrendous circumstances?
My Journey to Awareness and Action
I have been to India and have Indian in-laws, but still I didn’t know about this awful issue. Then, I began to educate myself on child trafficking. What I found is that trafficking is not confined to India alone. However, it is especially prominent in economically deprived areas, which is why it is abundant in countries like India and Nepal.
The trafficking of children from Nepal to India is extensive. It is estimated that approximately 10,000 women and children are trafficked between Nepal and India each year. Parents are often enticed by traffickers, promising a glamorous life in the circus plus the chance for the family to earn money. Children have been sold for as little as $13.
The American photographer Mary Ellen Mark spent years capturing images of child performers in Indian circuses. When I came across her poignant photographs they reminded me of Kumari’s story, and I felt compelled to do something.
‘Elastic Girl highlights the cruelties, indignities and injustice of child trafficking. An enlightening and gripping read.’ – Joanna Lumley
My debut novel Elastic Girl is the story of Muthu, a young girl sold to the Great Raman Circus of Chennai. In the beginning, like many trafficked children, she is full of hope and excitement about what lies ahead and the possibilities of a better life. Her dreams soon turn into a nightmare when she is subjected to a gruelling training schedule as a contortionist, cut off from her family and exploited in unimaginable ways.
While the Indian government has now brought in legislation making it illegal for any circus to employ children below the age of fourteen years old, trafficking between Nepal and India is still rife.
Child Rescue Nepal, like many anti-trafficking bodies, are doing marvellous work in prevention and support, and I have pledged 15% of the profits from Elastic Girl to their efforts.
In writing Elastic Girl I hope to raise awareness of child trafficking, and as responsible global citizens there is a moral imperative on us all to be proactive against the ugly business of trafficking.
We must educate ourselves on child trafficking so that we can recognise it, report suspicious activity, raise awareness of the problem and petition local authorities to improve anti-trafficking legislation.
Don’t be the one to turn your back and say ‘It’s not my problem’. Together, we can save many other children like Kumari.