I love the day after Thanksgiving—for me it marks the beginning of the Christmas season and a reminder of the coming of our Savior. Of course, we also know this day as Black Friday, representing the start of a mad rush of buying and selling.
I think most of us are disturbed on some level by the commercialization of Christmas. But after getting back from Bangladesh, I can’t help but think of something much worse: the commercialization of human beings.
Earlier this month, my wife Reneé and I met Reshma (not her real name), who will be bought and sold a dozen times on Black Friday. Reshma is a sex worker in Jessore, Bangladesh. In her 30s now, she came to the brothel on Hat Khola street (meaning ‘marketplace’ in Bengali) when she was only 10. For 25 years, she has been paid to have sex all day, every day.
“I loved a boy who brought me here,” Reshma told Reneé and me. The boy, Mustafa, left Reshma at the brothel. After she was initiated into the trade by greedy madams who prey on young girls, she couldn’t go home. Her mother had died of a stroke and she was ashamed to go back to her father.
Since Reshma is aging, she doesn’t make as much money as the younger sex workers at the brothel. She earns $2.50 per sex act while the younger girls command $6.50. Reshma is paying off a debt she owes to the brothel—60,000 Taka, about $800, money she borrowed for three surgeries, including appendicitis and kidney stones. She tries to save $10 a week to put toward the debt. She will be paying off this loan for many years.
Reshma’s life is full of darkness.
Two bright spots in Reshma’s life are her daughters: Sonali, which means golden, and Rupali, which means silver. The beautiful little girls are 7 and 3. Sonali is aptly named. She has a golden countenance. The little girl seems to glimmer with life and hope.
Sonali attends World Vision’s Child Friendly Space across the street from the brothel where her mother works. She is at the top of her class and Reshma is hoping to see her pride and joy go into a formal school setting. Reshma has hopes and dreams for herself as well. She would like to open a little market, a small grocery story that she can keep neat and tidy, stocked full of things that people would like to buy—rice, soap, even sweets for children. Not exactly Black Friday fare, but somehow, much more meaningful than the latest iPhone.
Reshma is tired of this life. She told us: “When I lie down on the pillow I think, I lost my mom. Now I have children myself. What will I do to care for them?”
In this season of Thanksgiving, amid the revelry and the preparation for Christmas, I hope that each of us will think about women like Reshma who are bought and sold every day. Consider how World Vision works in Bangladesh and other countries to ensure that their children, like Sonali and Rupali, do not follow in their mothers’ footsteps.
I urge you to say a Black Friday prayer today for the countless women and children whom Reshma represents, that our almighty God will deliver them from despair and set them upon a new path to experience a life in all its fullness.
Our prayers have such power. There’s no better gift.
Photo ©2014 World Vision, Jon Warren
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