Over the weekend, Nhung and her two friends finally tasted freedom. And their first port of call was a police station.
Since their return from China two weeks ago, the young women have been in mandatory quarantine at a camp in the northern mountains of Vietnam. Nhung is 18, and her friends, Sen and Trang, are not much older. Each of them is heavily pregnant.
The friends were taken to China by traffickers who preyed on the extreme desperation that they were in. The young women are from an area of Nghe An province in north-central Vietnam where poverty, illiteracy, and human trafficking are rife, especially among the Kho Mu ethnic community they belong to.
Nhung, Sen and Trang feared the worst for their unborn children, and were in need of help. Nhung fell pregnant to her boyfriend, and their families rejected them. Trang’s husband died while she was in the early months of pregnancy. And the father of Sen’s child abandoned her as soon as he knew she was pregnant.
The traffickers knew they were in trouble, and convinced them that the best thing they could do was travel to China and give the babies up for adoption.
Of course, there was to be no adoption. The young women were to be kept in isolation and once their babies were born they would be sold to the highest bidder. What would happen to the women after that is anybody’s guess. It was a stroke of good fortune that they were found in time and Blue Dragon could help them return to Vietnam.
Nhung and her friends were manipulated and exploited, and in many ways they are lucky to be home. On Saturday, police took statements from the young women and are now looking for their traffickers, who are in hiding. Things could have been much worse.
At Blue Dragon we see this daily. Girls and young women tricked into following someone away from their home, only to be trapped and sold. Kids sleeping rough on the streets of the cities. Some days there seems to be no end to the hardships.
This problem of trafficking for surrogacy is particularly complex. Everybody wants to address it – police, welfare agencies, and organisations like Blue Dragon. Recent discussions on reforming Vietnam’s law on human trafficking have raised this issue in detail, and it’s likely that the revised law next year will make surrogacy trafficking easier to detect and prosecute.
Nhung, Sen and Trang are safe now, and home with their families. Blue Dragon will work with them so that they can have their babies and raise a family without fear of the future.
Our work over the years has shown again and again that even in the midst of the most terrible situations, there can still be hope.
And this gives us a great responsibility: because if change is possible, then we must work toward it. If we can make things better, then we must.
In the words of the legendary John Lewis: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”
We all want a better world: free from slavery, where children are safe, with a future we can believe in. But who will create that world? Whose job is it?
This is our responsibility – yours and mine. For young people like Nhung and her friends to live without extreme poverty, able to raise children without fear, we need to work towards a fairer, safer world.
And while that may seem an overwhelming burden, the good news is that it’s possible. Nhung and her friends are home now, and we can get them the care and assistance they need to stay safe.
Together, we can do it. It’s us, and it’s now.
Blue Dragon is asking for your help in this year’s Rescue Appeal. A donation today will be a lifeline to children and young adults in need of urgent help.