Photo credit: Madhu Panday
Meeting with Deepika, a social worker involved in the Pahal project run by Aide et Action and its partner Prayas in New Delhi, India to support the children of female sex workers.
" At first I was quite scared to go to the GB Road area, which is unfortunately notorious for its prostitution. All my neighbours judged me. But day by day I became friends with the sex workers. They started to trust me and tell me their stories. Each of them has a painful past, the result of deception, poverty, desperation and sacrifice. They live a life of servitude and suffer severe physical and mental trauma. Their health is also constantly at risk. Listening to them is always traumatic and very disturbing to me. To this day, I still find it difficult to understand how a human being can be so ruthless and cruel to one of his fellow human beings."says Deepika. The young woman, who recently completed her studies, joined the Pahal programmeconducted by Aide et Action and its partner in New Delhi, India.
Stigmatised from birth
"My role is to make sure that the children of these prostitutes are enrolled in the centre we have created, explains Deepika. "And it is not easy. It is necessary to open a dialogue, to link the women of course, the children, but also the pimps who control these women and who are often the fathers of the children, with the non-cooperative neighbourhood communities, the public school, the police and the government departments/programmes responsible for the welfare of women and children. Surprisingly, sometimes the hardest part is convincing the women themselves. Their one and only concern is for their child's future. They do not want them to be part of this dark world, but they are helpless and powerless. One of them once explained to me that a girl living in the red light district was destined to become a sex worker no matter what and a boy was destined to become a pimp. She added that because of their profession, the children were stigmatised from birth and nothing could save them..."
Another future possible through education
" Yet I am convinced that education can change their lives: every time I meet a child, my determination grows stronger. I am desperate to save them from GB Road and I do everything I can to convince the parents to enrol the children in the centre. There, they are cared for in a suitable place, away from the brothels, to keep them away from the unhealthy world and the vices they are exposed to day and night. In the centre, they are supervised by a qualified team who offer them fun and educational activities. The children are also fed and can see a doctor if necessary. As soon as the children get better, I encourage the parents to send them elsewhere, to another family member or to a boarding school. A safe place where they can continue their education. Every time a child leaves GB Road to seek a better life, it's like opening a window for them to fly away and explore. "