Child trafficking is a crime – and represents the tragic end of childhood.

Child trafficking refers to the exploitation of girls and boys, primarily for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Children account for 27% of all the human trafficking victims worldwide, and two out of every three child victims are girls[i].

Sometimes sold by a family member or an acquaintance, sometimes lured by false promises of education and a "better" life — the reality is that these trafficked and exploited children are held in slave-like conditions without enough food, shelter or clothing, and are often severely abused and cut off from all contact with their families.

Children are often trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation or for labor, such as domestic servitude, agricultural work, factory work and mining, or they’re forced to fight in conflicts. The most vulnerable children, particularly refugees and migrants, are often preyed upon and their hopes for an education, a better job or a better life in a new country.[ii]

Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, and as a result, children are forced to drop out of school, risk their lives and are deprived of what every child deserves – a future.

How Girls Are Affected By Trafficking

Tragically, both girls and boys are vulnerable to child trafficking. However, girls are disproportionally targeted and must deal with the life-long effects of gender inequality and gender-based violence.

Often, girls around the world are forced to drop out of school or denied access to income-generating opportunities. This resulting social exclusion can trap girls in a cycle of extreme poverty, as well as increased vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation.

  • Girls are 2x likelier to be reported as trafficking victims
  • Girls tend to be trafficked for forced marriages and sexual slavery
  • 120 million girls worldwide experience sexual exploitation

Child Trafficking in Conflict Zones

India, a Save the Children child champion, inside her home haphazardly patched together with wood panels

Because child trafficking is often linked with lucrative criminal activity and corruption, it is hard to estimate how many children suffer, but trafficking and exploitation is an increasing risk as more children around the world live in conflict.

Globally, 426 million children live in conflict zones today. That’s nearly one-fifth of the world’s children. Living amidst conflict increases children’s exposure to grave human rights violations, which include child trafficking and gender-based violence. 

Combating Trafficking in Daulatdia

Shuma*, with her hands cupped our her mouth, stands outside a school for children affected by the sex working industry in Daulatdia, Bangladesh

Shuma,* is the daughter and granddaughter of former sex workers from the Daulatdia brothel in Bangladesh – another girl seemingly stuck in the cycle of poverty and violence. But studying at a Save the Children-supported school for children from the brothel has empowered Shuma to dream big – she wants to stay in school and study to be an English teacher when she grows up. *Name changed to protect privacy.

One of the largest brothels in the world, Daulatdia in Bangladesh is a community built upon sex work. Thanks to our supporters, Save the Children has been working in the village since 1997, supporting mothers and children with the aim of lifting children out of poverty and toward a better future – breaking the cycle of poverty and sexual exploitation.

Tragically, many of the sex workers in the town are girls under age 18, some as young as 10. Many are trafficked into the town, while others are forced into the sex trade. These girls are extremely vulnerable, living their lives exposed to serious risks, including physical, sexual and psychological violence.

Our Work to Combat Child Trafficking in Daulatdia

Some sex workers in Daulatdia become pregnant and have children of their own. Save the Children experts offer counseling to these young mothers on child development and how to care for their children, focusing on early learning so that babies and children are nurtured, build strong relationships, and develop physically and mentally. We also provide pre-school and primary education, so children can remain in school.

One of the most critical aspects of our work in Daulatdia is providing children, especially girls, with safe spaces. These are areas where children can safely read, rest and play, do homework and benefit from coaching for their studies – places where they can simply be children again.

We’re helping educate and rehabilitate girls  – either at home or in alternative care – providing a safe alternative to life as a sex worker and breaking the cycle of violence and exploitation.

“Girls should be able to study and fulfill their dreams,” says Shuma. “They should decide for themselves what they want to be. If I study I will do well in life.”

Involving local governments to improve services for children and their families is another crucial part of our work in Daulatdia. With increasing community support, we are able to provide more and more marginalized children with the opportunities every child deserves.

Frequently Asked Questions About Child Trafficking

Frequently Asked Answers About Child Trafficking


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