On Friday, September 25, 2015 an Indian teenager Anoyara Khatun joined hands with Melinda and Bill Gates to help women and children around the world. She sat beside Bill and Melinda Gates and called for an end to child trafficking.

From the Sunderbans of West Bengal, Anoyara had been forced to do domestic work for another family after her father died when she was five. “I want to advocate for children’s rights. The major problem is trafficking in the name of labour and marriage,” said the 18-year-old. “I myself have been trafficked and I know how painful it is.”

Anoyara Khatun

The young woman spoke out as officials from Every Woman, Every Child got set to unveil new global development targets directed at enhancing the lives of millions of young women and children.

In 2010, the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon took the reins of the Every Woman, Every Child programme enlisting the support of around 300 private and government partners. They had raised a staggering $60bn to address health challenges for young women, including maternal mortality, contraception and disease.

Recognition for Anoyara’s work came on March 8, 2017, when she a received ‘Nari Shakti Puraskhar’ (Women Power Award) from the President of India for stopping hundreds of other children from being forced into labour or married off.

The award is a prestigious Indian government prize for women who challenge the status quo and make a lasting contribution toward empowerment.

“This support from the government strengthens my resolve to continue my work to stop children from being exploited,” Khatun told the media.

At 21 years of age, Anoyara was the youngest of 33 women to receive the award for the year 2017.

Anoyara was trafficked to New Delhi when she was 12 and forced to work as a maid in a middle class home. She escaped after six months and returned to her village in North 24 Parganas district. Since then she has been working as a children’s rights advocate with Save the Children. The young adult set up a network of children’s groups in as many as 80 villages. The children are taught about their rights and join hands to abort cases of trafficking, child marriage and child labour in their villages and the neighbouring ones.

The children’s groups have met with a fair degree of success; they stopped 50 child marriages, rescued 80 child labourers from the clutches of their employers and prevented 200 children from being trafficked. Moreover, 400 children were enrolled in primary schools.

Completing her graduation in Arts, Anoyara continues with her mission to protect the rights of children not only in India but extending her movement across the globe.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has joined hands with her to help her succeed in her noble mission.

(Source: National and International media reports)