There is something oddly satisfying about the impeccable service that the girls of Koshish bring to the events they handle. Polite and shy, these girls might not speak much but their smiles are plentiful.

About Koshish

Koshish is a self-help group under STOP Global Movement, a food catering service based in New Delhi. They work with underprivileged women in India, and those along the borders of Nepal and Bangladesh who have been rescued from trafficking.

The evils of sex work cause some deep-rooted mental issues. These women need therapy, counselling as well as training to be rehabilitated.

‘I started working as a sex worker at the age of eight and now in my twenties, I have joined this NGO,’ says one of the girls. Many have worked in private brothels which are illegal, before being rescued. They look too young to have been sex workers until you hear their backstories. We spoke to Rama, one of the managers at Koshish. She says, ‘We have been working as a company, since 1999. We work in tandem with the non-profit organizations.’

The girls at Koshish have been trained from the India Institute of Hotel Management, PUSA. Also by chefs of reputed hotels and American Wives Association, the Embassy of Iceland and the Embassy of Austria. They have been running cafeterias in a few colleges in the University of Delhi, for more than four years. Also, they and have been catering for parties and gatherings in Foreign Embassies.

Contributions of the Non-Profit Sector

Many NGOs in India work with women, and their empowerment. They hire poor, uneducated women and train them through vocational courses to enable them to earn a livelihood. Women in villages are also given an incentive that when their children go to school they can learn to weave at the same time.

However, according to reports, there are an estimated 1.2 million children trafficked into prostitution. Several international organizations like ‘Free a girl’ work with the Indian police in capturing traffickers, pimps and sex offenders.

‘We find several girls hiding in small nooks, like air conditioner vents, and we call them out on it,’ says an active volunteer. ‘They’ve been abused, sexually, mentally, psychologically, and that can only cause nightmares and horror to the poor girls,’ Rama says.

The United Nations office on drugs and crime, reports the story of Munni, the story of a sex worker in Kolkata. Munni lives in Sonagachi, the largest red-light district in Kolkata. It is considered to be home to over 10,000 sex workers.

“All I remember is that I am from Bangladesh and I came here when I was ten years old. I tell people I am a Hindu and that my name is Munni. I am sixteen now but I tell people I am twenty years old. I have been here for five years and this is my home. I have no family. ‘Ma’ (the lady pimp) is my family. She looks after me, feeds me, even gives me money to buy saris (dresses) for Durga Puja. But she means business and I have to work. When I was little, a man came to my house and said he will keep me in a place and that I will marry a prince but I have to do as he says. He brought me to Kolkata and left me here at one of the dirtiest brothels promising to return but never showed up,” says Munni.

What the Statistics Show

While speaking at a press conference, Vijaya Rahatkar, the president of Maharashtra State Women’s Commission stated that there are around 27 lakh women who have fallen victims to human trafficking.

As per the report by the Indian National Crime Records Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs about 20,000 women and children were victims of human trafficking in India in 2016,which is a rise of 22 percent from 2015. The figures show 19,223 women and children were trafficked in 2016 against 15,448 in 2015. There were 9,104 trafficked children in 2015 – a 27 percent increase.

Legal Status

The Indian government has taken several measures to ensure the organization of underprivileged and poor conditions of the sex workers, passing several bills. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act’ 2009, The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act or ITPA, Section 372 and 373 of IPC all deal with prostitution. A landmark judgment January 1993 granted permission for the admission of Commercial Sex Workers’ children in schools without stating the father’s name, which is the customary procedure in school admission.

Our Two Cents

While their stories are heart-breaking, the young girls have a light in their eyes now. The evils of sex work cause some deep-rooted mental issues. These women need therapy, counselling as well as training to be rehabilitated. But it is rehabilitation at ground level that creates the maximum impact, as well as working towards changing mindsets towards employing rehabilitated trafficked victims.

However, it really isn’t about the large-scale growth and awareness, but more about the togetherness these young girls feel when they are giggling together as they work in a job that gives them income and dignity. It is these smiles that come from a life changed, which warms the heart and makes one realise the need for society to accept them and help in integrating them back into society.

They need to be heard; it changes everything.

Also read: How Shahla Raza is Helping Syrian Refugee Children In Istanbul

Navina Singh is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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