Dear friends, It is our pleasure to connect with you after a gap. Over our newsletter updates. Our journey too has been one of ups & downs, like most others, with the Pandemic playing havoc with all our plans. However, we have had to improvise and adapt quickly without which we wouldn't survive. The changes forced us to do things we never did before or thought we would do. Read on about how we took the Government's mandate for vaccination seriously and helped change mindsets of fear and skepticism to acceptance and participation. We saw this among marginalised communities like the commercially sexually exploited women in the Red-light Areas and with Eunuchs & Transgenders. In the source areas, our approach has been one of Home-Based Care where we have helped provide medical units and trained volunteers to be the first responders to a possible third wave. In remote places, travel to get proper medical care takes time and is filled with hurdles. Lastly, each story that we share is one of the real lives being affected. Behind the story is the untold story of the heroic sacrifices our committed staff are taking to help rewrite stories from bondage and drudgery to hope and freedom. Yours for a traffick-free world. Aaboo 😊
Vaccination Drive in the Red Light Area:
A few weeks ago, in partnership with the local city Administration, 198 women from the Sonapur Red light in Bhandup were inoculated with their 1st dose of the Covishield vaccine at a special vaccination camp organised by the city administration (BMC) at our Sonapur centre. This was a major achievement for Purnata and also a recognition from the Local Administration for our presence and work in the area. There was much coverage in the local news of the event, they are as follows:
Vaccination Drive for Eunuchs & Transgender community
BMC N Ward of Ghatkopar East took initiative to help the transgender community who are marginalised by society, to help them get their vaccination. The Health minister Rajesh Tope and MP Suprita Sule were the chief guests. Purnata was asked to coordinate with the transgender community, make the arrangements for the day and also do a skit for awareness. Our Program Manager along with two volunteers from Purnata were admins in one of the Mumbai Transgender Community WhatsApp group for a week, thus making it easy to coordinate with them. In total over 100 transgenders got vaccinated at St. Joseph's School, Vikhroli West and the program was well-received by the community and covered by the media.
Zomato- Purnata Partnership
In a span of less than three months we were able to give out over 12000 hot meals with additional nutritional additions from our side like eggs and fruits. Thank you Zomato.
Additionally, in partnership with APPI & MBS, we were able to distribute over 600 food kits in three different Red Light areas which constitutes to over 2 lakh meals!
Thanks particularly APPI for believing in us and MBS for lending a helping hand.
During the second wave of covid, Zomato had started their program called feed India and they were looking to partner with NGOs to help them to run this program. The vision of this program is that every child should have one meal a day. This is how Purnata got connected with Zomato.
Zomato was ready to cook food but the condition was that we had to bring the containers and collect the food from the nearby Zomato’s kitchen. So we agreed to that. With a lot of excitement, we started providing a one-time meal at Purnata Ashray Centre Sonapur and at Purnata Jeevan Asha Centre Ghatkopar.
Zomato has their weekly meal menu which is very nice. They gave good healthy food. We decided we should include daily eggs and any fruits as extra nutrition for the children with the meal. So we started this program with Zomato from the month of May till July.
We had a few staff and a set of volunteers who helped Purnata in running this program. We oriented all the team members on what precautions they’ll have to take while serving the food like use of masks and visors, gloves & regular sanitising themselves.
The children who came for food were monitored by our team checking their temperature, ensuring all children practiced sanitisation and maintain social distance. The food serving team would also sit accordingly. Before serving the food to the children one staff member tasted the food and then serve it to the children.
We got a very good response from the community from both centres, every day almost 80-85 children came in the month of May and then in the month of June around 65-70 children were able to take food. In the month of August, they wanted to increase the number of children and they have asked Purnata to give food to the women of the red light area too. The women began requesting dry ration instead of cooked food. That’s when we stopped as we felt the needs had changed.
HBC’s training was held at our Merudandi Center, Basirhat, North 24 Parganas. The training was attended by 6 volunteers along with Dr. Sharmistha Nandi with Subrata and Mithu. From the Kolkata office Souvik Sarkar, Sony Thomas, Sujit and Susan participated too.
After a quick round of introduction, Souvik spoke about Pandemic and gave a basic idea about what HBC involves Dr. Sharmistha Nandi gave HBC training about Covid prevention. She explained the importance of prevention in this pandemic. She also explained about the importance of using masks in prevention, apart from the importance of having healthy habits. She also demonstrated the medical equipment and the correct use of those equipment. The Q &A session helped clear their doubts & fears.
I grew up in Karnataka born into a family that sold me as a Devadasi. My mother had two husbands, both of them died when I was 4 years old. I am the daughter of her second husband. I was actually born in Mumbai but my mother didn't want me to grow up in the red light area. However, out of desperation, she had already introduced my older sister Bheema to the red-light area as she too was dedicated a devadasi. When I was 4 years old my father passed away. One of the ladies from our hometown promised her a good job in Mumbai but sold her into prostitution. My mother left me with my aunt and she came to Mumbai in search of a job.
When I was 10 years old and started her menses my aunt devoted me to the goddess called Yellamma. The custom of this ritual activity is that after one girl is devoted to the goddess Yellamma they can’t get married but can live with any man. When I was 10 years old I used to go with her friends for household work. During that time one man violated me. Out of fear I didn’t share anything with my aunt nor anyone else. After a few months when I was seven months pregnant, that time my aunt realised that I was pregnant. So aunty asked my older sister Bheema to take me to Mumbai with her.
Bheema also works in the red light area as a commercial sexually exploited woman. Bheema took the responsibilities for me and as the older sister. One day she took Julie for an abortion. This affected me so badly that I lost my senses and got addicted to alcohol. I started staying with Bheema in the red light area. I used to see my sister sleeping with so many men, as many customers used to come. One day I met a customer who came for Bheema and fell in love with him. That customer stayed with me for some time but when he saw that I was pregnant he left her and ran away.
This is how I fell multiple times into several relationship but no one accepted me as their wife. All 5 customers just made me pregnant and left me in a vulnerable situation. Today, I’m caring for five children from five different customers. My sister Bheema also forced me to work with her and support her financially and I had no choice. I had five children of my own too. As a girl who grew up without a mother's care and father's protection, I was very lonely and broken.
I decided I couldn’t take this anymore and finally decided to commit suicide. I decided to end my life and so I drank some poison. My sister immediately took me to the hospital and after much effort from the doctor I came back to life. After my last delivery, I had no interest or feeling to take any more customers and so reduced customers to one or two a day.
Bheema realised that Julie has to move out of the area and needed help. She approached Purnata to help Julie. Today Julie is under the rehabilitation program of Purnata. Her four children are in the hostel and the fifth one is just 8 months old. Purnata has made arrangement for the baby’s care and Julie is now looking to the future with hope.
Julie is trying to cope with her new life. The trauma is so severe that Julie she can lose her senses and is a short-tempered person now. It's a challenge to deal with her and help her understand. With love from our staff, counselling, motivation and prayers now, Julie is settling in and submitting to the program to give her a future.