Achara has faced significant obstacles in her life. Both of her parents passed away when she was nine years old, and she is stateless. Without citizenship, she is not eligible for a government scholarship or loan, has limited access to healthcare, restrictions, and is more at risk of being trafficked and experiencing exploitation. All throughout her childhood, Achara and her sister worked to help support themselves, spending their weekends at odd jobs so that they could save money for their education.
When she entered university, Achara applied for a scholarship with The Freedom Story and was accepted. She is a tireless and dedicated student. While she studies, she holds a part-time job and is also a nanny for younger children.
HOW SHE WAS EXPLOITED
Achara’s parents had left a small plot of land in the mountains to her and her sister when they passed away. They were too poor to own the land themselves, but the Thai government had gifted them the land because they were members of an ethnic minority group living in a national park. A village elder had agreed to be their legal guardian when their parents passed away. However, instead of taking care of them and looking after them, he tried to take the land for his own profit. He had used Achara and her sister’s land since she was 9, planting trees and selling the fruit, while keeping the profits.
Moreover, as members of a ethnic minority group based in a national park, Achara and her sister were eligible to 500 THB each ($16) per month from the government. The elder had been collecting the money but had not told the sisters. He had given them 200 THB ($6) each per month, claiming it was his way of taking care of them. Achara did not know her legal rights, and because she is stateless, Achara’s options for legal recourse were limited. Another person in the village told her that she was being cheated. But Achara was shy, and lacked confidence and the ability to confront the elder.
“When I was a child, I had believed this elder was a good person and was taking care of us because he’d give us money, and he said he would protect us. When I found out what he was doing, I was so angry and disappointed,” Achara explains.
WHAT SHE DID NEXT
Achara came to counseling with Khae, The Freedom Story’s on staff counselor for advice and suggestions for what to do. Khae told her that she had the right to keep the land that had been left to her, and helped her practice standing up for and defending her rights. She and her sister approached the elder and explained their rights and advocated for themselves.
They pulled up all the trees and agricultural products that were on the land. Then Achara and her sister worked incredibly hard and built a house on their land where her sister lives now. The last time she went home to visit her sister, the elder came and tried to make her feel guilty, saying he’d always taken care of the girls. She replied confidently, “You didn’t take care of us. We took care of ourselves.” The man has since left them alone and is no longer trying to use their land.
HOW SHE BECAME POWERFUL
Counseling has provided Achara with the chance to develop confidence to stand up for her rights and against abuse. “At first, Achara didn’t have [the] confidence…to defend her rights. Counseling has helped her have more self confidence and to be braver to speak out about the things she wants or thinks,” Khae explained.
Counseling and mentorship is a process. It helps students advocate for themselves and can increase their resilience for the future. Without knowledge of their rights, people become vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and trafficking. With your support we can continue to offer counseling, mentorship and human rights programming to students like Achara.
*Name has been changed and photo is not representative of the story subject to protect identity.
If you want to help vulnerable children like Achara become empowered, all you have to do is invest in our prevention programs–a powerful tool for you to help Achara and her peers with the best chance they have to protect themselves from exploitation. Donate through One Day’s Wages and help us reach our goal of $50,000, which goes straight to helping kids like Achara live a life free from trafficking and exploitation!