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Enslaved as a domestic servant at the age of 13, Chanhsy* is among the more than 5 million children trafficked annually for forced child labor and sexual exploitation.
“I was 13 when a broker came to our village looking for girls to work in Thailand,” Chanhsy* says. “It seemed like a way to help my family.”
“I worked from morning to midnight, cooking, washing clothes, cleaning, feeding the dogs. I couldn’t leave; they installed cameras to watch me. I was trapped inside the house,” Chanhsy says of her life as a slave.
She was never paid in the three years she worked as a domestic laborer, and though her employer told her money was going to her family, it was not.
One day, Chanhsy climbed over the wall while her employers slept. She received help from other Lao nationals and worked with the Thai police to be repatriated to Laos.
“Child labor is work that anyone under the age of 18 performs that robs them of their dignity, is harmful to their mental and physical development, and interferes with their schooling,” says Phouthaluck Phontsaona, a World Vision anti-trafficking expert in Laos.
Poverty, lack of education, and income inequality lead to children being forced into labor.
Child trafficking — which is modern-day slavery — occurs in every country in the world, including the United States. An estimated 5.5 million children are trafficked annually for forced child labor and sexual exploitation.
World Vision works to prevent the exploitation of children, protect the most vulnerable, and bring healing to children who have been exploited.
We seek to restore and reunite children with their families and communities when possible and appropriate. But we start by helping children who have been exploited to heal through medical, legal, and psychosocial services, providing life and livelihood skills and education. Often, this means providing a safe place for children to go, while offering counseling and recovery activities.
In addition to helping girls like Chanhsy recover from trafficking, World Vision works with the government of Laos, and other governments, to help communities improve opportunities for education and work so that children can avoid exploitation.
In many countries, we work alongside hospitals, schools, and law enforcement agencies to ensure that child protection is a priority by encouraging groups to raise awareness and advocate for child rights and protection.
*Name has been changed to protect her identity.