Leaders of our communities are integral to solving issues and moving forward. They become role models of children and set examples for other adults to follow. These individuals are vital in troubled places.
In Bangladesh, Bagerhat District is a prone area for internal and cross-border child trafficking where children are trapped through early and fake marriage. Mofijul Islam emerged as a community child rights defender and role model for his community by rescuing a teenaged trafficked girl and returned back to her family.
Mofijul Islam is a member of Mollahat Upazila Counter Trafficking Committee (CTC) and the secretary of Mollahat Press Club in Bagerhat. He took the opportunity to participate in different meetings, and awareness and dialogue sessions when INCIDIN Bangladesh (Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ partner organization) started implementation of the Prevention of Child Trafficking through Strengthening Community and Network (PCTSCN) project in 2017.
In Mofijul Islam’s community, a girl was married to an unknown businessman. After two days, the teenaged girl was trafficked by her so-called husband on 10 December 2019. She was then sold to a brothel in Mymensingh, 350 kilometers away from Bagerhat. Her parents immediately informed the local police station and asked them to take action. However, the police did not take up seriously.
With such a situation, Mofijul Islam responded quickly by taking advantage of his abilities as a journalist and having a good network. He was able to identify the girl at the brothel. With Mofijul’s involvement in this issue, the police became more proactive and helped with the rescue of the girl on 22 December 2019. Mofijul Islam brought her back to her family in Bagerhat. He said, “I realize that as a journalist, I have the ability to do a lot of things to address some of the pertinent issues related to the community and I am better placed than ordinary people to make a change. I was able to rescue the trafficked child because of my motivation, when police did not even take the complaint from the parents of the child victim.”
Mofijul Islam played a pivotal role in signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Mollahat Press Club and INCIDIN Bangladesh in 2019. Working as an activist, Mofijul eventually turned himself as a community voice against child trafficking and gender based violence (GBV) in his community.
In recent months, Mofijul Islam has taken vigorous initiative to create public awareness to stop child trafficking and GBV in other districts in his community. With support from INCIDIN Bangladesh, he has been conducting activities with the perspective that awareness and publicity are extremely needed to prevent child and human trafficking. As a member of Upazila CTC, he is also trying to rally institutional support for other vulnerable children and trafficked victims.
With the project’s support, he is currently working to create awareness in six secondary schools in his locality and mobilizing people through public gatherings. He also organized campaigns in three more secondary schools on his own.
INCIDIN Bangladesh and it’s Terre des Hommes funded project mobilizes civil society members to engage in anti-trafficking activities in the country such as educating communities, supporting counter-trafficking committees, eliminating child labour, and engaging with local government agencies. Members such as Mofijul Islam are taking a lead. He said, “Being involved with the project and getting sensitized on negative effects of child trafficking, I envision that not only Bagerhat but also Bangladesh to be free from child trafficking. I also like to educate communities on trafficking policies and its negative effects”.