“I came home from work and my daughter was gone.”
So begins the testimony of Jovita Bardales, describing the terrifying tale of her daughter being trafficked into the commercial sex industry.
Jovita was born and raised in an indigenous community in the Amazonia region of Peru. The indigenous people mostly live in squalor and struggle from a lack of basic human rights that the majority of Peruvian citizens enjoy.
Due to the near absence of an economic platform for income, some native people migrate to Puerto Maldonado, the nearest port city, to find work. They work long hours for little pay.
Being a single mother, Jovita hated leaving her children at home while she was at work.
But she felt she had no other choice.
Her daughter was 16 years old, so Jovita thought she was relatively safe. That was until she returned to an empty house when she returned from work at 7pm one night.
She found a note on the kitchen table left by her daughter saying that she had gone to Lima to take up a job.
Jovita immediately knew that this was not true, and she called the police authorities.
The police offered little help. Fortunately, Jovita has extended family living in various parts of Peru. One of her uncles lives in Lima, and through a network of friends and families was able to track down her daughter.
She was being held in a house with 20 other young girls, already dressed in the skirt of a street sex worker. Through a daring intervention, Jovita and her uncle rescued the daughter and got the trafficker arrested and put in prison.
Today Jovita is a true “rebbl.” She educates other indigenous families the dangers of human trafficking and how to keep their children safe.
She also serves as one of the key organizers enabling her community harvest the native herb cat’s claw for commercial sale.
With the help of Not For Sale, Jovita and her community were able to secure important certification that the cat’s claw they harvest is of native origin, of the highest quality standard, and is harvested with “fair trade.” At the moment, Not For Sale is arranging with the Peruvian supplier that provides cat’s claw concentrate to REBBL and Not For Sale Ale how to source the cat’s claw directly from Jovita’s community. The supply chain logistics are complex, but the struggle to figure it out is well worth it.
Jovita’s daughter is unfortunately not a singular case. Many teenage children of the indigenous communities of the Peruvian Amazon have been trafficked. To stop the sale of the indigenous people, we need to create a sustainable economic platform that provides a dignified livelihood and inoculates them from trafficking and other forms of exploitation.