Founder Arjan Erkel: ‘Being kidnapped and taken hostage is horrific. I know that because I have experienced it myself. But unlike the children, I was an adult and was not abused or trafficked in any way. I can’t imagine how afraid they must be. I feel it is my privilege and duty to help free as many children as possible.’
Rescuing children is our top priority, and we have made many successful rescues. To carry out these rescues, Free a Girl supports local partner organizations and rescue teams. These teams gather evidence and conduct undercover investigations in places of exploitation. When the case is solid, they notify the police and conduct a rescue at the brothel, massage parlor or bar in question. We always try to work with local police and law enforcement. By continuing to push and gather new evidence, we make enforcement agencies aware of the extent of the problem.
We have rescued 6,500 children to date, and 2,000 perpetrators have been accused.
Mina (17) lives in Nepal. As she comes from a poor family and her mother passed away, she started working in a hotel to support her grandmother. The hotel owner exploited her, and she had to work day and night. One day, a customer said he would find her a better job. He trafficked her and held her in a flat with four other girls. They were sexually exploited for more than six months. Our rescue team was able to rescue all the girls from the flat. Her eyes welling with tears, Mina told us: “I was raped every day, even when I was menstruating. I had many problems and infections.” All the girls receive support from Free a Girl, such as healthcare, trauma counseling, shelter and legal aid.
Alina found work in a bar when she was 16 years old. She wanted to pay for her studies and support her parents. But her employer told her she would only get her salary if she had sex with his clients. She had to work in the bar for six months before she was rescued by our local rescue team. Alina: ‘I still have the scars all over my body. I was in a hotel in a big Indian city with my first client. I cried when he touched me, but I couldn’t go back.’ Alina receives support from Free a Girl, such as healthcare, trauma counseling, shelter and legal aid.
A trafficking gang targeted Gina’s family and sent a pimp to pose as a sweet boyfriend. The pimp convinced her to accompany him to meet some of his friends in the city. Gina was taken hostage in a house there, and sexually exploited by multiple customers for about six weeks. Free a Girl’s rescue partners obtained information about this brothel. During the rescue mission, they found a hidden box in the brothel that was used to hide minor victims. They found Gina there and a couple of other girls, as well as a woman. They were rescued and all the perpetrators were arrested. Gina and the girls receive support from Free a Girl such as healthcare, trauma counseling, shelter and legal aid.
Smart Rescue Program
Perpetrators are increasingly using the Internet to groom children for sexual exploitation. Since the pandemic began, children have spent more time than ever online and poverty is rising. With our Smart Rescue program, Free a Girl investigates how supply and demand for minors online is combined with sexual exploitation offline.
Online scraping program
The Smart Rescue project complements the work of Free a Girl and is adapted to the new methods and technologies used by exploiters. Free a Girl’s trademark approach – working flexibly and always focusing on action – comes into its own here. We collect and process data using our online ‘scraping program’. The data are analyzed and converted into intelligence that can be used for further offline research. Free a Girl’s partners are trained to share and analyze the information. We use a dashboard to make all the information available to various stakeholders, and local partner organizations can access our software and training. The information is used to set up rescue operations with local police to rescue minors.
Blockshare is a technology in which the blockchain is used to share sensitive data with various parties, by means of so-called smart contracts. Free a Girl USA wants to invest in this technology and make it available to organizations around the world. Information can be exchanged globally using the blockchain. This makes all parties fighting child exploitation and trafficking more efficient and more effective.