Somewhere in a village near Thanlyin Township, there lives a 16-year-old girl, Ma Thet.
She lives with her family. But behind her beautiful face, one can’t help but notice pain, sufferings and all the struggles she went through despite her young age.
Even at this tender age, Ma Thet has experienced the worst of humanity.
Before that, she lived a peaceful life together with her parents and four siblings in North Dagon Township. Her father worked as a carpenter to support the family.
Then one misfortune after another struck. When Ma Thet was in the fourth grade, her father’s business began to fail, and the family’s income began to dwindle. At the same time, her mother became extremely ill.
Because it was very difficult for her father to continue supporting the family along with his sick wife when the business went bankrupt, Ma Thet was forced to quit school in her fourth grade. The family was also forced to move to Thanlyin Township.
When her mother got well, Ma Thet still had to help her in their shop where they sold meals and other street foods. This was mainly because she was the only one not married at that time.
Then one day, what sounded like a promise for a better tomorrow came calling. Ma Thet’s aunt promised her parents that she would help her niece find a job and took her to a woman named Kyi Kyi.
“I stayed with this woman for two days, even though I didn’t like to be here,” Ma Thet says. Then her aunt came back and took her to live with her daughter. Her aunt told her, they would work together with her cousin and send money back to her parents if she earned enough.
Since Ma Thet was very desperate to support her family, she did not think twice. She accepted the offer.
That was the start of the worst of ordeals.
She innocently followed her aunt, believing that she would be paid up to 50,000 Kyats (US$45) by working in a bakery shop in downtown. However, it turned out, she had to sell sex in exchange for money.
Ma Thet could not run away, she was scared of her aunt and so she continued to work as a sex worker, against her will.
“The money I earned through exchange for sex, half of it went to the shop owner, while the other half was to be mine,” Ma Thet explains. However, Ma Thet never received her share of the money to send back to her family because her aunt took what was left.
Even though she was under age, the shop owner gave her a fake identification document. Most of her clients were foreigners who were in short stay in nearby hotels that her aunt took her to.
For six months, her aunt exploited her innocence and forced Ma Thet into a dark world she describes as hell.
Then one day, a silver lining appeared for Ma Thet when a client listened to her story and reported the matter to the local police. Ma Thet told the police what had happened which led to the police arresting her aunt’s daughter who had been an accomplice in Ma Thet’s ordeal. The shop was closed down and owner arrested.
Her aunt’s family also threatened her that if she told the truth, she would face the consequences.
Ma Thet desperately needed rehabilitation and counseling. She found the support she needed at Nat Maut School where they specialise in life skills training for girls like Ma Thet.
Through the school’s support, Ma Thet had a lawyer who helped with her defense.
She also underwent HIV counselling and testing as part of the rehabilitation.
“I was really scared out of the outcome. I thought, what would happen if my test turned out positive, I wasn’t prepared for that, but I took the risk”. “The test turned out negative and I was very relieved, it was the best feeling ever in my life.”
When World Vision heard about Ma Thet’s story, the organisation set out to establish what her needs were. It turns out that, during her life skills training, Ma Thet had learnt how to sew clothes.
World Vision supported her with a sewing machine and textiles to kick start her sewing business. The organisation also supported with the repair of their house, as it did not feel very safe for them. World Vision also supported her mother to open a grocery store just outside their house.
“I never thought I would get this kind of support for me and my family. I am very happy that my parents are doing okay with the grocery store and that I am happy too. “I am very grateful to World Vision and all those who have supported me to get to this happy place,” a visibly happy Ma Thet says.
Ma Thet’s family will soon be opening a small restaurant from the profits they made from the grocery store. Ma Thet is also saving 20,000 Kyats every month.
As for the perpetrators of Ma Thet’s child trafficking for sex case, they were sentenced on 9th February 2017.