It’s late on a winter’s afternoon and dusk is settling in. You are ten years old, and at the time when children across the world are thinking of homework and dinner, you are wondering where you are going to hide tonight. As soon as the sun sets the first customer will be here. Your mom no longer hides what she is doing, she’s weary of the shame. She was trafficked into this red-light district at your age. For years you would hide under the bed, but now that you’re older, your mom calculates the risk and sends you out of the house. But it’s just as dangerous for you out there.
There are loud voices in the hallway. The night has started. Grabbing your schoolwork, you hurry out into the tiny alleyway that runs between the brothels. The streets are mobbed with people. You weave quickly around drunken men waving bottles, You block out their rude shouting to the girls and women lining the street, their colorful saris and bright makeup barely masking despair...
It’s an impossible situation for a child. Behind you, at home, is danger and the sorrow of seeing your mother hurt and humiliated. Out in the streets - more danger and violence. Where can you go to be safe, to do your homework, to eat? Where can you go to be a child?
Just six months ago, Ani and hundreds of other children in two Calcutta red light areas had nowhere safe to go each night and were at extreme risk for trafficking. Their mothers had no options, having been trapped their entire lives in a cycle of abuse and powerlessness. As a daughter approaches ten years of age, it is increasingly difficult to keep her safe.
But now, thanks to our supporters and friends, many red light area children spend their evenings in a safe, loving environment. Along with an amazing local partner, Her Future has opened Resource Centers where children can come for shelter, meals, homework help, and mental health counseling. Their mothers receive vocational training and therapy to help them get out of exploitation and provide a better life for their children.
Like our other programs, the Resource Centers are designed to improve communities from within. The impact of the protection and hope that these centers provide is impossible to quantify. We have immediately begun to sow the seeds of empowerment and education. It is a process we have seen many times over - hope breeds hope, change breeds change.
At Her Future, based on over a decade of success, we always have hope. We have seen the impact of safe shelter, education, and employment on vulnerable lives again and again. Please donate for the Resource Centers to help bring a bright future to the many women and girls waiting for help.
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By Sarah Annay, creator of Vision for Empowerment workshops.
We first started offering Vision for Empowerment workshops in 2015. What started as an employment exploration project has turned into something even more empowering—a workshop that gives young women and girls a voice in Kolkata, through photography and visual storytelling.