Mya Mya grew up in a small village in rural Myanmar. When she was just 13 her life was completely turned upside down by a string of tragic events. Her parents lost their jobs, fell into debt bondage and sold their daughter to an agent who forced her into factory work. Mya Mya’s childlike sense of wonder and her freedoms were soon lost as she was told to stop school and go to work in a shoe factory.
At such a young age, Mya Mya was not accustomed to working 15-hour shifts in such harsh working conditions. She felt as though she had lost all sense of purpose. Mya Mya would stand in the production line, her back aching, her stomach grumbling, all the while dreaming of working in an office and longing for a chance to rescue her family from their poverty. Mya Mya’s natural beauty often caught the eye of many who thought to exploit her vulnerability and naivety for their gain. This is what happened when Ye Win, a seemingly kind man, lured Mya Mya and her cousin into believing his web of lies, filled with empty promises and fabricated dreams.
Mya Mya and her cousin were promised a job in the city and drove with Ye Win to a nearby house where they would stay for the night. That night the woman who lived in the home was not happy with their presence. She terrorized the two young girls, endlessly hurling insults and curses at them. They were locked in one of the rooms and all of a sudden, there was an eerie moment of calm. The woman was making various phone calls, Ye Win had left the house and the two girls were clueless as to what would happen. Early the next day they were harshly awoken and forcibly taken to a hotel. Mya Mya could no longer recognize the city she was in. She tried to remember landmarks and signs so that when the chance came she could tell others, but she was in such a state of shock that she could not retain anything.
They arrived at the dilapidated hotel, with flickering fluorescent lights and an awful smell of damp and old cigarettes. It was here Mya Mya was taken to a small room. She was forced to wear a white dress, to sit on the bed, and wait. She sat there alone, in a dark dismal room, and waited for a moment that would begin her rapid descent into a very dark place.
A few moments later, the door creaked open and a man walked into the room. He had bought her innocence. She wept and cried for help while he, without any sympathy, stole her virginity. As he left he passed another man whose dark, piercing eyes glared maliciously at Mya Mya. He violently pulled her into his tattoo-covered arms and took her and her cousin to a brothel specializing in the selling of underage girls.
Mya Mya remained strong and brave for her cousin. As they were bought and sold, Mya Mya would try to calm the accusing voices which echoed endlessly in her mind. After three months Mya Mya could no longer bear seeing their dignity being crushed and their potential crumble. She and her cousin took a step of bravery, they traded their cautious nature for a heart of courage.
Mya Mya had been watching the pimps outside her room through a small hole in the wall. She waited for them to fall asleep, and it was at that moment she saw her opportunity. She and her cousin tip-toed through the room and escaped into the night. Although exhausted, they ran through the night until dawn arrived. Mya Mya then boldly approached a car whose owner kindly offered to drive her to her village. Mya Mya and her cousin were finally reunited with their family.
Despite being liberated, like many who suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), they were not the same as before. When they returned home they stayed in bed and refused to eat, they struggled to tell their family the series of traumatic events which befell them. Out of concern, their parents contacted an organization that referred both the girls to Eden.
Every girl who walks through the welcoming doors of Eden, although free, still experiences the traumatic symptoms of PTSD, shame and terror. It was a slow process, but soon Mya Mya spoke to our counselors about the atrocities she had faced. She then took another brave step. To claim victory over defeat, Mya Mya gave a report to the police and with the help of the Eden team, gave compelling evidence against those who had sold her into bondage. She went with the police and directed them to the people who had committed these crimes against her. They were arrested and afterwards Mya Mya stood, at only 14 years old, in a large courtroom with all eyes watching her as she told the truth about what had happened. Because of her bravery, they were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
Like all new women entering the Eden program, she added her painting to the Eden Dream Wall. It was a painting of her as an office secretary. Although she still believed this would be impossible, the finance team noticed her skills in organizing and mathematics, so they took her under their wing and trained her in accounting. Through these acts of bravery, she has restored her potential and has now graduated from Eden, but has chosen to continue working with the finance team where she can use her skills.
The Hidden Treasures Collection was designed to reflect the hidden courage that arose in Mya Mya. She was brave enough to escape, brave enough to report the crimes against her and brave enough to give evidence as a child in a terrifying situation in a courtroom, facing those who had so cruelly sold her. Bravery is not the absence of fear but the power that arises in us to overcome the fear with indignation and renewed hope. We all have hidden bravery within us and sometimes it is only in the darkest of times that we can find it and rise up against injustice, pain, hurt and shame. When you wear this collection it is a reminder that you carry this treasure of courage within and although others may not see it, it is there, hidden in the intricate pattern of your life. The words “I am brave” in the Myanmar language are intricately woven into the beautiful design as a reminder of the stories of Mya Mya and countless other women whose stories we may never hear, but whose courage inspires others to be brave.