"Turn off the red lights to switch on the souls"
Sunita left her alcoholic and abusive husband after she could no longer take it. She was devastated at having to leave her two children behind but she had exhausted her ability to remain and suffer. It was then that she met a woman who brought her to Ahmednagar. Sunita was well aware of what was in store for her, but with no education and no other alternatives to earn money; she was resigned to take up sex work to put food on her plate.
Sunita started working for Laxmi who owned a brothel in a red light area subject to many police raids. Sunita escaped one such raid and fled to Malegaon, continuing sex work in its red light area. One of her clients, a fruit merchant expressed his desire to marry her and, grateful of the offer of some stability in her life at last, Sunita agreed. They had a normal family life with two kids. When life was going good, Sunita’s husband brought another woman home. Whatever little self-esteem Sunita had left made her leave the house immediately with her small daughter, returning to the only refuge she knew, the red light area in Ahmednagar.
Here she met Meenatai, one of our peer mentors. She registered her with our Snehjyot project, which works for the health, hygiene and rights of sex workers, re- establishing their identities and place in society. This project also counsels them to leave sex work and helps find alternative livelihoods. Meenatai, an ex-sex-worker herself, gradually counselled Sunita to look after the welfare of her daughter as well as herself. Snehjyot also helped Sunita to procure documents for admitting her daughter in a school. Things began to look up and Sunita started feeling that she should leave sex work to ensure a better future for her daughter.
Meenatai and Snehalaya helped her find a few options. She decided to start a small make-shift food cart and we provided her with the necessary utensils, a repaired, decorated and ready-to-use cart. Her friend, Meenatai gave her some seed money which Sunita will return to her once she starts making a profit. It has been almost for months now and Sunita’s business is proving a success. With many enjoying her ‘Vada pav’ and ginger tea. She says: “Snehalaya and Meenatai have helped me get my dignity back. Though I earn less, there is a satisfaction of hard work which I never got before.” When questioned about her daughter’s future now, she replies, “I want my daughter to study well and find a good job and have a stable life”.
We are sure that Sunita and her daughter are well on their way to finding their own place in society.