Hema is 12-years-old and lives in a remote village in the north of Karantaka, a state on the East coast of India. She is the oldest of five children and has never been to school because she is responsible for doing all the housework and looking after her younger brothers and sisters while her parents are at work.

Hema’s mum and dad work on a farm. Their crop was destroyed by a drought and so they were very poor with little to eat. Hema’s parents were worried about how they were going to survive. But then a kind man from the city visited with the promise of a well-paid job for Hema.

Hema was taken to Bangalore with five other young girls to work as a housemaid. Her parents were paid a small sum of money and were told that Hema would be able to send back more once she was working. Hema was very excited and was pleased that she could help her family – now her brothers and sisters would have food to eat. When Hema reached Bangalore, she was taken to a big mansion which had large gates. But the job wasn’t what she had expected. Instead of being paid money for her work, she was treated as a slave. She was not paid and was not allowed to leave the grounds of the mansion. She was very badly treated by the man who had seemed so kind when he arrived at her parents’ house. Fortunately she was rescued and returned to her family, but the memories of what happened will stay with her for a long time.