What does it mean to live boldly?
Perhaps it’s staying put when the urge to run is strongest. Or choosing to push forward despite the fear and obstacles ahead. Having a difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding. Speaking your mind when you prefer to stay silent. Choosing forgiveness. Regardless of how each of us individually works it out, we can live boldly when we know God goes before us.
Over the course of my time with International Justice Mission Canada, there have been many stories that light the fire in my heart to continue this work. These stories often sadden me immensely because of the hurt and pain endured by victims of sex trafficking around the world. But often they inspire me because of the survivor’s immense courage to undergo healing and pursue restoration. I’d like to share with you Sani’s story. Despite the abuse and trials she faced, I believe Sani embodies what it means to “live boldly”.
She was a bright 14-year-old student living in South Asia. She had great ambitions to become a nurse, until her mother fell ill and she had to leave school to help support her family. She met a man who offered her a good job in another part of the country—but instead he drugged her, transported her to another state, and passed her off to a dangerous brothel.
She was told that she was required to service the men who frequented the brothel. At first Sani refused to meet customers, but she was beaten mercilessly and locked in a room for seven days. Exhausted and broken, she gave in and was raped for the first time. After that, Sani was passed from one brothel to another. This became her life. On average, she was forced to service 25 men a day.
Devastatingly, Sani’s experience is all too common. Red-light districts, like the one where Sani was trapped, can house tens of thousands of sex workers and victims of trafficking. On average, a trafficker in South Asia can make anywhere from $9,500 to $66,500 CAD a year—from one single girl. It’s a thriving criminal enterprise, and one determined to stay in business.
But this was not the end for Sani: After three years of daily exploitation, a rescue operation led by local police and supported by International Justice Mission freed her from the place where she was being held. Immediately, she and several other girls were provided a safe home, and given access to trauma counselling and education.
Despite significant challenges, Sani enrolled in a nursing program within one year of her rescue and completed it—ranking 3rd in her class. She has done very well in her career and currently manages a hospital’s dialysis unit.
Sani has also bravely testified in the legal case against the traffickers who abused her. In 2016, the judge issued a 10-year conviction.
But most astounding was Sani’s courage shortly after her own rescue. She gained permission from a magistrate to take part in a rescue operation in the same red-light district where she had been trapped. Sani wanted to help save other girls who were being exploited. She led police and IJM to the brothel and knew every hiding place where the brothel keepers hid girls. In total, 9 girls were rescued that day – and the operators of the brothel were arrested. Sani went from being the rescued to the rescuer!
Sani chose to live boldly despite considerable odds. Because of her courage, nine other girls are living in freedom today.
Sani’s story is an extraordinary example of choosing to live boldly.
What is one step you can take today to live boldly in your own life?
If you’re looking for a great Christmas gift idea and you’ve been inspired by Sani’s story, would you consider shopping our Holiday Gift Catalogue? Your gifts will transform the lives of victims of slavery, sex trafficking, and other forms of violence.
PS – Several months ago, my colleague Kelly Cameron shared Cassie’s story with you. I’m happy to share that, in a precedent-setting case, her abuser has been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
As Director of Marketing and Public Relations for IJM Canada, Petra Kooman manages the organization’s communications initiatives, including media, public and government relations.