Payal, enjoying her time in a safe house. (Photo courtesy India Partners)
India (MNN) ― India is a sending, receiving, and transit nation for the sex trade. The reality for the children of the brothels is that they're likely to be sold as a sex slaves.
Kaytie Fiedler, field representative for India Partners, says the statistics are sobering. "There are over 250,000 commercial sex workers just in Mumbai alone. It's believed that over a third of that number are children under the age of 12." They're the definition of "at-risk" children. "90% of the children that are born and are living in the brothels will also become commercial sex workers as they get older."
India Partners discovered that one way to help was to reach the kids first. A safe home called Anandalay was therefore established. Anandalay is a home for daughters of trafficked women where they receive quality education, wholesome food, and excellent accommodation under the committed care of a houseparent couple.
"They can come and have a great meal," says Fiedler. "They will get love and attention. They'll get an education. More importantly, children are going to grow up knowing that there is an alternative for them and they don't have to choose this lifestyle that [they're] so trapped in."
By injecting hope, they could show these women and children that there is an alternative to the brothels. They began providing safe houses for kids like 7-year-old Payal. The ministry's partners set up schools in the heart of the red light areas and began reaching out to brothel moms, offering their children a haven six days a week outside the red light areas.
Speaking through an interpreter, Payal* expresses both her relief at being rescued and her concern for her mother, who still works in the brothel. "I feel safe over here. They love me, they provide for me. They give me whatever I need. I know the place where my mother stays. She's not safe there, and I wish that she would also be safe as I am safe here."
Payal's reaction is common. "The child is now growing up in a regular family, a loving environment, where that stress of being used in the trade is being taken away."
What about mom? "She is the ultimate goal," explains Fiedler. "Because they are so full of mistrust, they hate themselves, they hate what they do, and it's a longer process to reach her. That's why working through the children can be such a motivation for them. When they see what's happening with their child and the transformation that's happened, they start to ask, 'What is there for me?'"
The ministry teams talk about alternatives, safe houses and, most importantly, a future of hope. And moms are welcomed with open arms. They're told, "'We'd love to have you come in and rest for a while, talk with our counselors, find some healing for your mind and your body. Then, let us introduce you to a new trade...something that you want to be doing!'"
Most need help getting out of the sex trade. India Partners can help with that, too. India Partners also provides literacy training as well as vocational training. "We really look at an individualized program, based on what the women themselves see themselves doing and encourage them in those areas of their gifting."
The Gospel plays an integral role in these rescues. As a result, lives are being restored in the Red Light Districts of Mumbai. On more than one occasion, former brothel workers are eager to share their new-found freedom in Christ with others who are still in the trade. One former worker writes, "I want to let them know that the life that they live and that I lived at one point has no value. Transformation can come if you take a step of faith."
$3.62 a night removes a child from the red-light districts and relocates him or her to a safe home. Children are given house parents, a private tutor, enrolled in private school, and given a loving environment where they can thrive.
Sponsors help, too. For $1 a day, a sponsor insures that a child will be given food, shelter, medical care, clothing, education and/or vocational training.
*This is Payal's story:
Seven year old Payal's mother was a victim of the sex trade and worked in Turbhe red light area in Mumbai. Sahaara staff knew Payal's mother since 2008. Payal was a student in the Sahaara balwadi as well. [Sahaara is a ministry which seeks to draw out the dream embedded in the hearts and lives of the underprivileged and create avenues for the fulfillment of their dreams. India Partners has been collaborating with Sahaara since 2007l]
Sahaara has worked with trafficked women and children in and around the red-light areas With counsel, Payal's mother decided to admit her to Anandalay for a better and safer future. Anandalay (Home of Joy) is a shelter home run by Sahaara for daughters of trafficked women. Anandalay houses these children who are brought up by house-parents in a loving and conducive family environment. Payal was welcomed into Anandalay on 1st April 2009.
Initially when she came in, Payal hailing from an environment of violence and abuse in the red light and unfamiliar with a family environment was very aggressive in her language and did not show respect to others. The houseparents engaged with her, assured her with love, and instructed her in good behaviour. Observing the other children and heeding the guidance, Payal began to mature in her social skills. Payal is now respectful and loving in speech and conduct with the other children in the home and her houseparents.
Currently she is enrolled in Sr. K.G. in one of the top schools in the locality (St. Xaviers' School, Airoli, a branch of Ryan Schools). Ryan Schools has strength of students of nearly 200,000 children with a nationwide spread, guided by 8,000 d educators focusing on child-centered qualitative learning. The syllabus covers English (alphabet recognition, reading, writing, and sentence formation), numeracy, activities, extracurricular activities such as sports, craft, and drawing.
Payal is academically strong and scores above 90% in her subjects. She is confident in skills like writing and communication. She particularly enjoys football and athletics. She was selected for the school hockey, football, and the school march past team as well!
She feels at home in Anandalay and loves to help the other children in catching up on their studies. She is very sharing in nature and is proactive in helping the houseparents.