Prajwala's rehabilitative shelter continues to transform the lives of hundreds of adult and child victims of sex trafficking. In our adult home (known as Asha Nikethan), from October to December 2013 there were 54 new admissions of women who were rescued from forced prostitution and referred to the shelter through court order. These victims not only received comprehensive healthcare services, nutritional diet and access to life skills training, but also were provided trauma care and group therapy to help them heal psychologically and emotionally from their painful experiences. The peer counseling program, in which survivors are recruited as "Sakhis" (friends) to provide support to their fellow residents and enhance internal monitoring within the shelter, has proven to be immensely successful. In addition to healing arts practices such as Chekka Bajana and Kollatam dance classes, a new music therapy program in the form of drum beat sessions was initiated to re-connect the women with their inner spiritual rhythm and foster group harmony. Furthermore, in Prajwala's new life-skills center, 90 victims participated in a 25-day jewelry making training course and are in the process of being placed at different venues throughout the country as salespersons, product designers and other roles. Thanks to Prajwala's efforts, 10 victims also received Rs. 10,000/- immediate relief funds from the state government, which will help each of them start a new life that is in no way associated with the flesh trade.
In our children's home (called Astha Nivas), in addition to medical services and treatment for HIV positive victims, all 70 girls are excelling in their education and preparing to mainstream into society. Two of the girls who were rescued from trafficking as children and referred to Prajwala over 10 years ago, recently graduated from intermediate and were admitted into pharmacy and law colleges, where they have completed their half-yearly exams. They are demonstrating that regardless of difficult past circumstances, with hard work and determination even those who were most marginalized and rejected can achieve their dreams. The success of these children has inspired leaders and prominent individuals from India and abroad to replicate and scale Prajwala's anti-trafficking initiatives. For example, over 11 visitors came to the home including representatives from Leger Foundation, OLM, Sanlaap Organization, Kerala Mahila Samakhya Society and the AP state government to learn about our pioneering interventions. Prajwala also makes the effort to restore happy childhoods to children who experienced rape and other forms of sexual violence, by celebrating all national holidays, religious festivals and special occasions through performances, ceremonies and cultural events which are planned and organized by the children themselves. This quarter Ayudapu pooja, Saraswathi pooja, Vijaya Dasami, Bakreed, Moharam and Diwali were celebrated with exuberant joy.
This holiday season we wish to thank with deepest gratitude all of Prajwala's supporters, who have made it possible for children and women in the therapeutic community to gain safety, protection and access to essential services which help them gain a new lease on life, and create their own destiny free of exploitation or oppression. Thank you for your generosity, for believing in our mission to empower and uplift the most vulnerable, and for extending your precious support towards our efforts to end modern day slavery.
At Prajwala’s shelter home, 68 girls who are survivors of rape, sex trafficking and other forms of sexual violence are given the opportunity to receive a holistic, value-based education that takes both formal learning as well as psychosocial healing into account. The children attend the Astha Nivas residential transition school located on the campus premises where they study all state-required syllabus subjects until 5th class. Meditation, yoga and physical exercise are integrated into the school’s daily schedule to help the children to overcome the trauma which they have experienced. The transformation in the child is very vivid and the children develop positive self esteem and confidence which is reflected in their overall performance in academic and extracurricular activities.
After they pass 5th class, the children are sent to mainstream government schools for 6th-10th class during the day where they interact with students from local villages and townships. Older girls enroll in intermediate courses as well as colleges and universities according to their interests and aptitudes. A significant attitudinal change is visible in the girls when they take admission into formal schools. The child with very low self esteem becomes very confident and stable, with the assurance that her life is saved and she can live with dignity in the society. Through this education they are equipped with the necessary scholastic, interpersonal and professional skills to ensure a bright future—thus enabling them to break the shackles of their oppressive past and dream as high as the sky.
During the past three months, the Astha Nivas children have given the shelter many reasons to celebrate. Not only did 100% of students pass their annual exams with flying colors, but three of the youngest girls got first rank! The 10th class examination results for mainstream students revealed that four girls passed with good percentage while one received 8 GPA. Furthermore, two intermediate 2nd year girls wrote EAMCET exam and also one appeared for NEET exam. All three girls were qualified and got ranks, while another got a sear in GLAND Institute of Pharmacy. To add to this plethora of successes, one of Prajwala’s mainstream students attended her college’s Annual Day program and to everyone’s joy she received first prize in the Biology, Physics & Chemistry (Bi.P.C) group. Her college awarded her a trophy and certificate for her accomplishment!
In addition to these achievements, Prajwala’s Rescue and Restoration team strove to trace out one Astha child’s home after she had been at the shelter for 9 years with no contact with her family (as she had been separated from them at a young age). The house was extremely difficult to trace because the city of Hyderabad had changed so much over the past decade and many familiar landmarks had disappeared. For several days the child was unable to identify the direction of the house in L.B. Nagar area. Finally the team decided to divide into two groups and asked everyone in the neighborhoods if they recognized the family name of the child, but no one knew because the child had changed her original name. After tireless searching the team finally found her family and they broke down in tears when they saw her. They were incredibly thankful to Prajwala for restoring their dearest daughter!
In the area of civic rehabilitation, Prajwala’s efforts to provide all minor victims with government welfare benefits have also yielded fruitful results. Field staff met and followed-up with the district’s civil supply officer requesting him to provide ration cards and Aadhar cards according to G.O.Ms 1. As a result, 22 Astha Nivas children and 23 survivor staff working in the shelter took their photographs for the cards after supplying bank book pass Xerox, current electricity bill and PAN card. The age certificate was also received from Gazetted and in a single day all of the children were able to possess an official form of identity proof, which is essential for their futures as they continue their studies and higher education.
The past three months have been an exciting time for all the child and women survivors living in Prajwala's rehabilitative shelter home. In April 2013, only did 100% of 7th class students pass their final exams in First Division, but three were double promoted to 10th class! This is an extraordinary achievement given that these children have faced unimaginable adversities in their lives which they have slowly overcome with strength and resilience. Prajwala has inculcated the value and importance of education so that the next generation becomes self-reliant and successful in the perusal of their dreams, which are finally becoming a reality!
In addition to these landmarks, Prajwala has developed a new program in the shelter home called "Sakhi" (meaning friend), in which adult survivors are selected through an assessment process to be responsible for the supervision of 25-30 of their fellow residents as part of a peer-based support system. The Sakhis are employed as Prajwala staff and help the home coordinators care for the needs and well-being of newly rescued victims, including barefoot counseling and case management. The result has been an astounding 100% participation of all victims in the home activities and immediate crisis response regarding any issues within the therapeutic community. One survivor who completed the Sakhi training and was socially reintegrated with her family left the organization in tears, saying "Promise me one thing: That I can always return to Prajwala."
Below are some additional highlights worth celebrating:
On the political and legal advocacy front, in June 2013 Prajwala's Chief Functionary Dr. Sunitha Krishnan conducted sensitization trainings for 98 judges from 8 districts of Andhra Pradesh's Telangana Region. During this month she also addressed a gathering of over 6,000 youth in Pune to discuss issues regarding anti-trafficking and sexual violence, and was appointed Vice Chair of the reconstituted AP Women's Commission! As indicated by these path-breaking steps, Prajwala has covered many miles in its journey, yet has millions more left to travel. The commitment of our partners, supporters and volunteers is what reinforces the impact of our mission, and for this we are eternally grateful.
Prajwala’s rehabilitative shelter home continues to provide holistic, non-discriminatory and unbiased access to education, healthcare, livelihood options and other needful services for children and adult victims of sex trafficking. The transition school within the shelter not only fosters the overall development of the children, but also equips them with the necessary psychosocial and scholastic skills to ensure a bright future that breaks the cycles of poverty and social exclusion.
In addition to normalizing activities such as education and involving in home programs, children need time for structured recreation where they can play, strengthen their friendships and enjoy their lives in a healthy way. For this reason, Prajwala allocates 1 hour for games every day, during which children have been spending relishing in their brand new playground. Mainstream students have also started planting saplings and sowing seeds. On Saturday evenings, cultural events are also conducted and on Sundays children spend their free time watching movies in the amphi-theatre and participating in Brahmakumari spiritual yoga and meditation classes.
Prajwala’s shelter home also has a visiting physician and gynecologist, and medical services are available for any emergencies or special cases of children. As many children are HIV+ and have a compromised immunity, the clinician administers regular assessment of CD4 status and accordingly manages opportunistic infections and free access to antiretroviral drugs. A referral network is used to connect children with services on an as-needed basis including external medical experts and facilities for hospitalization.
In addition, counseling is given to all members on academic/learning issues, self-development, health and personal hygiene, motivation, ventilation of feelings, and behavior modification. By and large, all home activities are functioning smoothly as a result of the commitment, support and leadership of caretakers, counselors, and coordinators alike.
Prajwala has welcomed the 2013 new year with newfound hopes of healing, blessings and success for all children and adults who have found sanctuary in our therapeutic shelter home. This rehabilitative community has continued to provide a wide range of holistic services in the areas of education, healthcare, recreation, and counseling by a dedicated team of staff. The shelter is thriving as an environment where vulnerable children rescued from various stages of the trafficking process can heal psychologically, be educationally and economically empowered and have access to effective channels of social reintegration.
During the last months of 2012, there were many achievements in the shelter, beginning with the fact that despite their difficult backgrounds and traumatic life experiences, six mainstream students topped their classes in quarterly exams with highest marks. The shelter also inaugurated a nursery school and children's park, the latter of which now serves exclusively as an area for fun and relaxation. The crèche currently has 2 infants and 7 toddlers with 2 caretakers managing the daily programs.
Furthermore, in collaboration with Silver Oaks International Baccalaureate School, a student leadership training program was organized by the student committee members of all centers to improve personality development and leadership qualities of the children. A total of 10 children went to Henry Martin Institute to attend the leadership training program and had the opportunity to interact with students from other mainstream schools. During the sessions, children learned about good habits to adopt in their lives and participated in a variety of interactive writing and speaking activities aimed at increasing self-confidence and interpersonal communication skills.
On the political front, after lots of struggle the shelter home received a government license for the shelter until September 2013, which makes Prajwala the only officially legal rehabilitation shelter in Andhra Pradesh. Efforts are continuously being made to make the shelter a truly healing, rehabilitative space where strong, self-reliant and capable young women emerge to take control of their lives and pursue the dreams that they themselves define.
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