Rehana’s Story: From Sex Slave To Small Business Owner
Rehana Bibi’s world changed forever when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. As a family of eight, enduring the pains of extreme poverty of Pakistan, they knew that seeking medical treatment was going to be nearly impossible financially. To receive any degree of medical care, Rehana and her husband took a large loan from the local brick factory owner where Rehana’s husband worked as a bonded laborer. A year later after multiple hospital stays, doctor appointments, and prescriptions Rehana’s husband passed away.
Now widowed, Rehana faced a daunting task of not only providing for her six young children, but she was left with the burden of repaying the large debt owed the factory owner.
Unable to repay the loan, Rehana along with her children were forced into an indentured type working arrangement, paramount to modern-day slavery, working in the brick yards and factory from 5:00 AM to 6:00 PM with no breaks, no wages, horrid living conditions, and little food. Along with long hours of physical labor Rehana was forced into sexual slavery while her young daughters faced continual threats of sexual abuse and exploitation.
Rehana’s painful nightmare came to an end thanks to Crossroads Project Light which stepped in and paid Rehana’s outstanding debt purchasing the release of Rehana and her six children. Today they live as free individuals, no longer fearing the daily threats of sexual abuse, exploitation, and being trafficked.
After securing proper housing for Rehana and her family Crossroads began working with her to create a small business opportunity funded by the Crossroads Micro-lending initiative. Rehana was given a micro-loan and opened the Canteen Cafe, a small snack shack kiosk located in a local high school. The Canteen Cafe sells coffees, teas, and snacks to students, faculty, and staff of the school. To help expand her business opportunities the Canteen Cafe offered faculty and staff Canteen memberships at a small monthly fee. In turn, these memberships provide faculty and staff teas, coffee, and snacks throughout the day. The Canteen Cafe is proving successful, providing Rehana with the monthly income needed to provide for her family’s well-being.
But Rehana hasn’t stopped here.
Each month Rehana invests a small portion of her profits back into the Crossroads Project Light initiative. In doing so, Rehana hopes to play a key role in launching future micro-businesses helping women to be set free from the exploitive nightmare she endured for so long.