Mumbai red-light district outreach transforms: woman turns from slave to nurse

By April 17, 2012

India (MNN) — Over 250,000 women and children are trapped in the commercial sex trade of Mumbai, India. The cycle seems unending as women sell their children into the trade, and as demand continues to increase.

India Partners works with an organization in Mumbai called Sahaara Charitable Society. For years, Sahaara has been working to save women and children from the sex trade.

"One of the goals is to stop this cycle of the children being used and trafficked into new areas," explains Kaytie Fiedler with India Partners.

Sahaara does this in two ways: by keeping children from ever entering the trade, and by pulling women out of it.

Children who live in brothels with their mothers are at extremely high risk to one day be sold or coerced into the trade themselves. Many trapped mothers feel like their children have no other option, so when presented with an alternative future for their kids, they are often excited to hear about it. Sahaara's alternatives include 10 schools in the red-light areas of Mumbai, which currently service 800 children, as well as a foster care program that keeps kids safe and still allows them to see their moms.

Sahaara has a program to pull women who wish to leave the trade into safe houses. This starts often as women join Sahaara Bible studies within the red-light district. The studies include meals, counseling, and encouragement as they learn that Someone cares deeply for them. Many women have been able to leave their lifestyles and enter safe houses through these programs, which also offer literacy and vocational training to provide new options.

Sunita is one of those women. She is a prime example of the power of Sahaara's outreach.

Sunita was 20 years old when her mother sold her into a brothel in the red-light districts of Mumbai, India. Initially, Sunita believed she would be working at an office. When she discovered her true plight, she immediately began begging for her freedom. The brothel owner told Sunita that unless she paid her debt, she could not leave.

Sahaara held regular group counseling sessions near her brothel. Through their counseling, Sunita believed she could have a new life outside the red-light districts, and after a few weeks she asked for prayers that she would be set her free.

The following morning when Sunita asked again for her freedom, the brothel owner miraculously agreed. Sunita contacted the Bible study group and was placed in a safe house with other women and a counselor.

While in the safe house, she regained her life, says Fielder.

"She went through adult literacy classes, entered a nurse's aide program, and successfully graduated from there," explains Fiedler. "She's moved out of the safe house. She now works in the hospital as a nurse."

Sunita's is just one of many success stories India Partners has witnessed. Women are gaining freedom, turning to Christ, and living new lives doing any vocation they choose. Children are given opportunities that keep them forever away from the brothels they once called home.

This is all being done at a shockingly low cost. It costs just $3.62 to keep a child off the streets in a safe house for a night–only the price of a latte, Fielder points out. To help a child for a night or a month, or to help a woman like Sunita reach all the potential God has for her, click here.

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