In 2009, all that a young 13-year-old Nasima Gain cared about was getting dressed up, eating good food, and enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

However, all of that came to an unprecedented halt when she and her friend were trafficked and sold to a stranger in Bihar by a family friend.

“My brain could not register what was happening. The people told us that we can never go back home now and that we had been sold,” she shares.

“I remember getting trained to be a dancer, and if we failed to comply, they would beat us up. Violence, torture and starvation become a daily routine for us; we were starting to lose hope,” adds Nasima.

Things started to change for the better when the girls were taken to be made housemaids at a professor’s house in Bihar.

“One day, gathering all the courage I had left in me, I tried to tell him how I was sold and wanted to go back home. While I was expecting to be beaten up, the man asked if we had any contact number of our parents,” she informs.

While Nasima did not remember her parents’ number, her friend did and they were able to contact the parents, who involved the panchayat and the Bihar police.

After tracking the girls for several weeks, Nasima and her friend were finally rescued after 10 months of being trafficked.

Months of being tortured and the public shame that followed made Nasima stronger and more determined to bring an end to human trafficking.

“It took me all that I had — call it courage, hope or fate — to pick myself up and try to build a life. Then I, along with some more survivors, started Utthan Collective in 2016, an organisation that would provide training, counselling, and support to more victims and survivors,” she says.

Three years later, Nasima, along with other human trafficking collectives from across the country, founded a forum called ILFAT. It currently has a total membership of over 4,500 survivors, spread across nine states.

ILFAT and Utthan Collective have supported over 4,000 survivors in rebuilding their lives by providing mental health assistance, compensation, and necessary training for upskilling.

“With my organisation, what I want to do is to create a safe ecosystem for survivors, deliver justice to the perpetrators, and rehabilitate the survivors,” she says.