Tilly* hopped on her motorbike and revved the engine. A gift from her proud, older sisters, it was a sign of love and support. She rode towards hope and opportunity. She was going to university.
The possibility of university had once been so remote for Tilly that it had never crossed her mind. Tilly is from a region in northern Thailand notorious for human trafficking. The women and children in this area are prey to traffickers who take advantage of their marginalized status, poverty, and divided families. At seven years old, Tilly was poor, separated from her immediate family by death and remarriage, and stateless. She was a prime target for human traffickers.
After learning about her case, ADRA invited Tilly to live at its shelter for high-risk girls through the Keep Girls Safe project. Begun in 2004, the project in collaboration with government agencies, local non-government organizations, community groups, and youth clubs raises awareness and reduces the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual exploitation and human trafficking. The project also provides education opportunities and shelter for high-risk girls and became Tilly’s home for 11 years.
At first, Tilly did not like being at the shelter. But after a few months, she came to feel that the shelter was her natural home. She realized that she has the opportunity to get an education and have a better life.
In addition to protection and education, ADRA, through the shelter, helped Tilly to obtain her Thai citizenship. Though born in Thailand and therefore a legitimate Thai citizen, Tilly had no proof. She lacked a birth certificate or any other form of official identification. This effectively barred her from the services and privileges enjoyed by citizens. ADRA and the shelter staff worked together with Tilly through the complicated bureaucracy to apply for a birth certificate, obtain proof of citizenship, and apply for a passport.
Now, thanks to her diligent work as a student and a sponsorship from an ADRA Connections group, Tilly is attending university. She will be the only member of her family to have a university degree. Tilly dreams of finishing university and securing a good-paying job as an accountant. In short, she is now dreaming of a life she never thought was possible to have.
Tilly thinks she would likely have been married by now, with children, if not for the shelter. Her life would have mirrored that of her mother and aunt, working in the fields. Instead, she has her citizenship, is working towards a university degree, and looking forward to a more secure life.
Tilly hopes that the Keep Girls Safe project can continue to give other girls the opportunities she has been given.
“Thank you to everyone who has given to the Keep Girls Safe project,” she says. “We are girls, but here girls can do anything.”