There is poverty in the US, but we don’t know it as deeply as perhaps those in other countries do. When we hear the stories of a mother in another country selling her child for a bag of rice to feed the rest of her family, we find it to be horrific and say, “I can’t understand how a mother could do that to her own child.” We get angry at them without seeing the whole picture. We get angry without walking in the shoes of the mother who may be crying herself to sleep each night.
It is time that we have an understanding of what life may be like for someone who sells their child.
This week in the news, Roma gypsies from Bulgaria were caught going into Greece to sell their babies. In reading the article, one might at first also question, “How could a mother hand her baby to a stranger to raise?” The answer is more complicated than one could imagine. Let’s start to imagine together.
The Romani people originated in India and migrated through the Balkans about 900 years ago. For centuries the Romani were enslaved throughout Europe and received tortures beyond description. They were even among the first targeted by the Nazi party during WWII, where 1-2 million were killed in concentration camps due to experimentation and gas deaths.
Many of these people travel from place to place hoping to survive in general. Roma poverty rates are up to 10 times higher than those of the majority population where they live, while their lifespan is 10 or 15 years lower. They are known to sell their daughters to men as brides while they are still in development. Many societies look down on them, refusing to hire them for jobs and refusing to educate their children at schools. Many times they are even refused medical help. Some are even refused housing. There have even been those who destroy their houses or the camps in which they live in, causing them to have to find another place to live all over again. No one wants them. No one cares for them.
Only 2-3% of Romani people can read and write. That is incredibly low. If you were a mother and may worry if you will have food for your child for the day let alone the week and if they were already the outcasts of society, perhaps you’d do whatever you could to try to bring hope for your child’s life. You may fear death for your child and hope that someone could provide meals and an education or a warm place for your child to sleep as they grow. Roma mothers may think they are doing the best thing for their child, not knowing that perhaps in selling them they can be endangering their child’s life more. They may have no idea that their child will be sold into sexual slavery or forced into child labor. They can’t read and have little access to the media, so they don’t know about what is going on outside of their Roma communities.
At Justice Network, we want to show compassion to such women and help them understand that there is hope for them. We want to see restoration given to those who suffer. We recently reached out to Daughters of Bulgaria, an organizations that helps women who are enslaved in Bulgaria, many originated from the Roma gypsy community. They are making a difference in these women’s lives so that their is hope for them and their children.