Every year 2 million children are sexually exploited worldwide, but less than 1% of all perpetrators are convicted. Action is needed, now.
By Evelien Hölsken
I am raising my voice against injustice – and against impunity. Every year, over 2 million children – mainly girls – and some as young as seven years old – are sexually exploited. And less that 1% of the criminals involved ever get convicted. Mostly these children are trafficked or manipulated and are then put to work in illegal brothels under the most severe conditions you can imagine. I have seen these brothels in India, Thailand, Bangladesh and Nepal. And once you have seen the suffering with your own eyes – it’s not something that you can unsee. This is an industry that’s worth 150 billion Dollars a year, making it one of the most lucrative businesses in the world, after the drugs trade. And it’s all based on human suffering – the suffering of children – on an epic scale.
It’s hard to keep reading when you imagine this, as you probably feel there is nothing you can do about these terrible crimes. Well, that’s not the case. This is why we’re asking you – and other women all over the world – to raise your voice for justice and to join Free a Girl in the fight against sexual exploitation of children and impunity. We have launched the campaign #voiceforjustice to collect support for this cause.
Your voice can make a difference. We’re collecting voices to become the world’s first audio petition, using each voice instead of a signature. This mass petition will be used to encourage survivors to report their case and will be integrated into the lobby activities of Free a Girl in different countries.
I ask you to join the mass petition here www.freeagirl.com/voiceforjustice
Out of great suffering can come huge determination. That’s something we have learned working with the survivors of child survivors of sexual exploitation when helping them start a new life. That’s why we opened the first School for Justice in 2017 – a ground breaking program to offer the child survivors of sexual exploitation education. But not just any education. The School for Justice teaches girls to become lawyers, prosecutors, paralegals and journalists to help fight the injustice and impunity around the sexual exploitation of children. With the aim to help a whole generation of survivors change the legal system from within – and to ultimately put the criminals that once owned them behind bars. These are some of the most determined and ambitious students you could ever imagine.
Since 2017, with the help of people who donate money to our NGO, we have a second school in India, and we just officially opened one in Nepal. Now one of the students, Sinaj, has graduated in Law. Yet, she wants to go further – and ultimately become a judge.
It is hard to describe the feeling I have about my life’s work. Knowing that we have rescued almost 5000 girls and founded three schools (and counting). Numbers doesn’t do this justice, but the fact that each of these girls have been given the chance to start a new life and that makes me profoundly happy.
Please join me in helping more survivors start new lives by raising your voice for justice too.”
Evelien Hölsken is a freedom fighter, change maker and the CEO and co-founder of NGO Free a Girl – and a woman who has spent the last 12 years rescuing underage girls from sexual exploitation. She helped set up the non-profit from scratch with an ‘action-first’ attitude, which frequently sees Hölsken and team literally rescuing girls from illegal brothels. The non-profit now has offices in NYC, Mumbai and Haarlem, the Netherlands. Over the last 12 years almost 5000 girls worldwide have been freed from sexual exploitation and helped to start a new life. Free a Girl is the winner of the Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice, previously won by the Dalai Lama and Malala.