In New Delhi, India, Aide et Action is running “PAHAL”, a project with the “Prayas” association, to support and assist sex workers. Often reduced to a status comparable to slaves, deprived of all rights, we are offering a chance for sex workers to regain hope and confidence through a support center which takes care of their children.
At just 30 years old, Jyothi has traces of a life of suffering etched on her delicate face. Her story, which she tells with downcast and tearful eyes, is heartbreaking and sadly it is not unique – there are thousands of women in India who have experienced similar pain and injustice. “I was bought around the age of 12/13 by a family member because my parents did not have enough to raise us with my brothers and sisters. I became a prostitute, bought and sold endlessly”. Jyothi is one of hundreds of women exploited in the heart of New Delhi, in the GB Road district, where pimps rule. Women, deprived of all rights, are locked up in rooms, often attached, and welcome their clients day and night. Impossible to go out without authorization, without any money, they are at the mercy of their owners and have almost no chance of leaving this open prison, as the rest of Indian society condemns them and rejects them for their “bad life”, which they have anything but chosen.
Child victims and trauma
Children born from their meetings with clients are also victims, as the pimps leave them with their mothers and the children are forced to witness the horrible scenes in the rooms night and day. They are often malnourished, poorly cared for and in great psychological pain. Aide et Action, with the support of an Indian association Prayas, opened a reception center and educational activities to take care of these children day after day and named it “PAHAL” The Initiation.
A shelter to save these children and relieve mothers
The project team pick these children up in the morning and bring them back in the evening. Gradually, mothers see their children come back healthier every evening, happy to go to the center every day to play, learn, exchange and eat a hot meal at least once a day. The support center is not only a source of joy and comfort for children but also gives their mothers hope by bringing their children out of an extremely dangerous and traumatic environment. “Our goal is to create a relationship of trust with these women. We do not judge them, we are there for them, to support and help them when we can. The pimps don’t necessarily see us well, but they tolerate us, they’re not necessarily threatened by the center because it doesn’t jeopardize the market or the trafficking of women”, explains the director of the center.
Boarding schools are being gradually created by our partner Prayas far from Delhi to lift these children out of their current traumatic environment where they can evolve and find a way out of it. After years of hell, Jyothi has come out of sex work. “I fell in love with one of the clients when I was 28 years old. He did everything to get me out of there and had to pay a very large sum of money. At 30 years old, I no longer had so much value in this environment, I was too old. Today I am married, I have two children … and I want to help other women who have suffered the same as me.” But the road will be long and difficult as these women are abandoned by everyone, especially the Indian authorities. Named sisters by the project team, these sex workers in Delhi are beginning to rebuild their self esteem through “PAHAL”.