An eyewitness account written by Freedom Firm social worker Mincy Varghese
Elfreeda and I reached Hyderabad in the early hours of the morning. Our meeting at Prajwala, an anti-trafficking organization in South India with several micro-enterprises. was at 11 am, which meant that we had enough time to find our way to our hotel, freshen up and eat breakfast. Some of the girls we had rescued in the last few years now worked at Prajwala. Our objective was to visit them, see how they were doing, and learn more about the organization.
When we arrived at Prajwala, we met Mr. Ahmed, one of the directors, who was very helpful and showed us around. Apart from a huge shelter home with a capacity to house 1200 girls and schools for children of sex workers, Prajwala also has several micro-enterprises where rescued girls are trained and later employed. The micro-enterprises include designing, bookbinding, screen printing, carpentry, and welding. Seema*, one of the girls Freedom Firm had rescued in 2008 told us how much she loved working there. I was surprised and impressed when I found out that Seema is a welder and makes things like bunk beds and chairs!
We also met Lalitha*, who Freedom Firm had rescued twice in 2007. She now works as a caretaker of the in-house hospital at the shelter home. She talked to us about how much she loves being at Prajwala and proudly told us about how she testified against her traffickers and brothel-keepers in the court in Pune. She recounted how her mother had come to meet her when she was in Mumbai. Lalitha told her mother that she would never return home as she knows that if she did, her mother would force her back into prostitution. There were 4 other girls rescued by Freedom Firm who had been at Prajwala. We didn’t get a chance to meet them as 2 had gone back to their villages and the other 2 were now working elsewhere, but we got updates on how they were doing. I was happy to hear that they too were doing very well and had adopted various professions such as book-binding, jewelry-making and working as a security guard.
My trip was a great learning experience. It challenged some of the preconceived notions I had. For instance, I previously thought that there was a limited kind of work that trafficked victims could do, given that they are usually girls with little or no educational background. Seeing the girls happily working in such varied occupations made me realize that these girls are really strong and that they are able to step outside the boundaries of gender even after all they have been through.
I’m glad I got to go on this trip. Meeting the girls and seeing them lead wholesome and restored lives and getting a glimpse of how God is constantly working behind the scenes even once the girls leave Freedom Firm’s aftercare program, was just incredible!
*name changed to protect identity