Thirteen-year-old Divya can’t remember a time when she was not scared of her mother’s customers. She dreamed of freedom, despite being urged by her mother and grandmother to take up their profession as a sex worker.
Divya’s determination to be free led her to a night shelter set up by Prerana, a nonprofit organization that fights human trafficking. Today, she has put her fears behind her, and she looks forward to a better life.
Prerana has answered the prayers of thousands of children and youths such as Divya (not her real name) in Mumbai, the most populous city in India. It rebuilds the lives of children rescued from red-light areas by providing night-care centers, an educational support program, and shelters for girls.
Helping the children of sex workers had never been a part of Priti Patkar’s life plan. But when the woman who would become the founder of Prerana saw the plight of girls and boys in Mumbai’s infamous red-light district, she vowed to help them, and she has done her best to fulfill that promise.
It all started when Ms. Patkar visited Kamathipura, Mumbai’s red-light district, to do research as a university student studying social work in 1986. What began as a simple survey turned into something much more as she began to learn about the living conditions of the children of sex workers in Kamathipura.
The sex workers opened up to her.
“I was shocked to learn that children were often drugged and put under the cots as their mothers solicited customers,” she recalls. “Who would ever have thought that these young children often [served] as masseurs for their mother’s customers and ran errands for them?”