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Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India

by Snehalaya 'Home of Love'
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Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue 615 sex workers & at-risk children in India

Pramila and Prajekta are the best of friends and the 17 year olds already have quite a history together. They both come from very poor families and met at a government hostel where they had been admitted in the hope that they would be better provided for there. While the institution provided the basics, the prison-like atmosphere prompted the duo, along with six other girls, to break out in the dead of night over a year ago.

While Prajekta ran to a nearby aunty and uncle, Pramila found the 30-year-old married man she had been having an affair with before she entered the home. The 15-year-old moved in with her lover, who is father to a 13-year-old, where she lived until she was found by her father six months later.

He promptly returned her to the hostel and filed a rape complaint against her ‘boyfriend’. The other six escapees had returned to their families and given that they had found it so easy to slip out of the hostel unnoticed a district judge ruled that it was not a safe home for these vulnerable girls. He issued a court order that they be sent to one of the best homes available, with a reputation for keeping its beneficiaries safe, happy and secure, that home was Snehalaya.

Pramila and Prajekta moved to our Rehab Centre three months ago and have settled in really well with Pramila taking to the stage at our recent Ganpati Chaturthi festival to sing in front of our other 250 children. As her heavenly voice drifted across campus it was impossible to tell that she has lengthy and potentially traumatic legal actions to face in the not too distant future. Fortunately our counsellors and staff are well trained in this area and have been helping her prepare. It’s thanks to their support that when her parents, fearing recriminations in the community they are all from, suggested she drop the case and instead become the second wife of her ‘boyfriend’, she was adamant that they proceed and he face justice.

For now she is fully committed to her final year of school and hoping for good results which will help her to become a police officer and help others like her who are taken advantage of by older men. 

It's thanks to your support that we have built the reputation we have for providing safe care for vulnerable girls like these. On behalf of all of our children, thank you for chosing to help us.

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Thanks to you, Anjali's future looks bright
Thanks to you, Anjali's future looks bright

Thank you for all your support in changing the destinies of marginalized children and women. Although we aim to help all those who need our assistance, the foundations of Snehalaya are based on rescuing children and women from the hardships and exposure of living within red light communities in our district and beyond.

Breaking the cycle

While our younger children have recently returned to school and our older children are making their final preparations to start college next month, we have been conducting outreach visits to sex workers to offer their children a safe and secure home and education. As a result, we have recently welcomed another 28 beneficiaries to our Rehab Center where they have also been admitted to our English Medium School.

We firmly believe that education can help break the cycle of exploitation and violence that goes hand in hand with prostitution. With your continued donations we can ensure those within our care are given every opportunity to complete their studies and progress to college and university, opening up more choice in their own futures.

The results

Therefore, we are very proud to announce a 78% success rate for our 10th Standard students this year. A special well done to Sonali who received top marks overall. She has overcome her own personal challenges whilst completing her studies. Recently, while undergoing routine medical treatment, it was discovered she was HIV+. She was admitted to our Rehab Center to receive specialized care and support and, thanks to an intense programme of counselling and emotional guidance from our caregivers, she is adjusting well to her new home and diagnosis. She is now focussed on completing her studies in commerce and the future your support is providing her. You’ll also be pleased to hear that we achieved a 100% pass rate for our 12th standard students who are now busy preparing to start college.

Fighting for education

As part of our ongoing support to girls and women we have joined the year-long campaign, Students Stand #WithMalala (SSWM), a collaboration between Malala Fund and Participant Media, to empower the next generation to raise their voices for all girls’ rights to 12 years of free, safe and quality education. Since our launch in November we have shared Malala Yousafzai’s story and campaign with over 27,000 people. On 15 June, our Rehab Center children added their voices to the campaign, taking part in our showcase to celebrate the conclusion of our roadshows within Ahmendnagar District. They performed three dances highlighting the hardship women worldwide face on a daily basis.

One of our newest admissions, a brave young woman called Anjali also took part in the programme by sharing her own story. Anjali and her parents were tricked into an arranged marriage with a violent husband. Three days after the wedding she managed to escape and fled over 120km back to her parents' house in one of the villages we were screening the Malala documentary. Inspired by the film and Malala’s personal story, she came straight to our office where, thanks to your donation we were able to offer to support her to complete her studies. She is now looking forward to her new life at college training to become a social worker.

Anjali says: “If a 12 year old can do all of this for her education, I can fight for mine too. Thank you for your support in helping me to take back ownership of my life and education.”

Read more about our campaign to stand #withMalala here.

Flying the flag for girls' education
Flying the flag for girls' education
Our 12th standard students celebrate their results
Our 12th standard students celebrate their results

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Holi provided a welcome break from exam revision.
Holi provided a welcome break from exam revision.

Mortality at all time low

We have amazing news! Thanks to your support we are incredibly happy to say that for the first time in our 27-year history we have completed the financial year without enduring the heartbreak of reporting that one or more of our beneficiaries has died as a result of HIV or AIDS. This is the lowest our child HIV mortality rate has ever been.

You should take credit in knowing that your support has directly enabled us to make some simple but significant changes in the support and care we offer. Thanks to you, we’ve been able to improve our Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART), introduce more exercise into daily routines to delay beginning drug treatment and adapt our menus introducing more vitamins and nutrition from our farm grown produce. Also very importantly our record-keeping to monitor beneficiary development and identify any issues earlier has been improved.

Healthier longer, fitter and stronger

Although the introduction of organic food direct from our Himmatgram (find out more about our farm project here) means we now know what is going into our food, following consultation with a dietitian we are taking further steps to increase fruit, nuts and dairy into our meals whilst continuing to reduce salt and sugar intakes. This is important, along with regulated meal timings, to maintain the effectiveness of our ART medication.

We all know that exercise is good for you and the children here love to take part in recreational and competitive activities. On top of traditional Indian games such as Kabbadi, we’ve introduced football and volleyball. Being active is not only good for the body, it’s good for the spirit. Most Olympians couldn’t match the pride that our Balbhavan children experienced when they swept the board with 80% of the prizes at our Inter-sports day.

Educating for Empowerment

We believe it is our responsibility to equip our children with the life skills they will need to stand on their own feet once they leave our care. Living in the World’s largest democracy we know that educating them on their rights to have their say on their lives and environment is essential. Therefore, we are proud to announce the inauguration of our Child Parliament.

Following consultation, our children, with support and guidance from a Bangalore NGO with a similar initiative, created their own government structure and held independent elections. All 11 dormitories now have a Chief Minister and a Cabinet made up of Health, Education, Cultural, Sport, Law and Opposition Ministers, who each have two helpers, ensuring that everyone has a role to play.

The Chief Ministers, Cabinet and full Parliament all meet separately, twice a month, consulting with their constituents to bring forward matters for wider discussion or the attention of our staff. The children are absolutely loving being able to have their say and air their issues openly and we are learning so much more about how we can better support and develop them. With dedicated representatives able to directly discuss issues with those experiencing them, they are also finding their own solutions to problems and we are reaping the rewards with radical rises in school and exercise attendance.

It’s inspiring how seriously they take their personal development and education and for the past few month many have been studiously revising for their State Board exams. We have 17 children currently taking 10th standard exams and eight their 11th standard. We are expecting great things from them and to help them achieve this we arranged Skype meetings with an educational counsellor from Mumbai and guest lectures and motivational talks from exceptional local teachers. Some also took mock examinations giving them invaluable to build their confidence. They will receive their final results in June.

This commitment is why we already have 34 students currently enrolled in college and once exams are over we are planning visits to further and higher education institutions so our 10th and 11th standard students can investigate their own career choices. You can read more and support our education programme here.

Priya says thank you in becoming a local leader

One former beneficiary who realised her career dreams is Priya, who devastatingly lost both her parents to HIV. Staying with relatives in a small village near Ahmednagar shortly afterwards, she also fell sick. Lab tests confirmed Priya was HIV+ and suffering from tuberculosis. She was outcast by her own family and villagers, her schooling was stopped and everyone started telling her that she too would die soon.

Priya was shattered, not so much at the thought of death, but at being unable to fulfil her ambition of joining the Police. When we heard her tragic story we reached out to her, bringing her to Snehalaya for medical treatment and some much needed emotional and moral support. We encouraged Priya to continue her studies, providing books, tuition and physical training, so that once she passed the state exams she could compete with other candidates to qualify for Police training.

Priya is India’s first known HIV+ policewoman, setting a great example for the many other boys and girls at Snehalaya who are studying hard to achieve their own career dreams without discrimination. With your continued support we know we can create many more role models like Priya.

Many thanks for staying a constant support to Snehalaya so we can continue to improve the lives of all of our beneficiaries and, like Priya, ensure they acheive their ambitions.

Priya's Police Passing Out Parade.
Priya's Police Passing Out Parade.
The children take turns to prepare Sunday dinners.
The children take turns to prepare Sunday dinners.
Our Child Parliament represents all ages.
Our Child Parliament represents all ages.

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#HerVoice - Stop The Violence (Nov-Dec 2015)

  • 40,000 of you signed to petition the Indian Government to address rape culture at local and judicial level
  • We collected over £15,500 in donations since Nov with 50% match funding running until 31st December
  • Malala's documentary 'He Named Me Malala' was screened to girls and women from slums and red light disctricts across Maharashtra
  • We united with 7 other Indian Charities to really ask people on the streets to support ending Gender Based Violence
  • We were on the TV, Radio, National and International Newspapers over 30 times for #HerVoice
  • Anna Hazare - Leading Indian Social Activist and UK Member of Parliament Tulip Saddiq both publically supported our cause along with dozens of other high profile individuals

The Hard Statistics - A child goes missing every 8minutes.  A death over dowry occurs every 102mins and a rape every 34mins.  Many women face domestic violence and martial rape, not knowing it is a crime. In India the stark reality is even before birth girls face prejudice with many private medical practioners still offering illegal 'selective sex abortions' to the point that the sex ratio of boys to girls in India is disproportionately unbalanced.  As a girl education is often seen as a wasted investment as marriage will mean losing you to another family.  Only 48% of girls make it into secondary education and only 2% complete 12th standard.  

Snehalaya actively fight these statistics daily by remaining a place of trust, refuge and rehabilitation for people whatever their circumstances.  

If you are in a position to donate even £5 per month please do so here now DONATE NOW

You can also support by signing our #HerVoice petition to urge the Indian government to tighted existing protection laws in India and actively address rape culture so no girls have to face what Reshma faced. SIGN PETITION 

Take Reshma - at 11 her father died and she was raped by her step father.  She ran away only to be raped by the taxi driver who also sold her to a brothel.  With your help and support from Childline we tracked down where she was captive and conducted a sting rescue and brought her to Snehalaya, Reshma's home for the last 3 years.   With councelling in an environment where she is supported and believed, she has managed to work through her losses and find comfort knowing she is not alone.  She has even reached 8th standard doing well at school. Reshma hopes to become a police officer to protect girls from enduring what she had to go through.  

It costs £92 to perform a sting operation to rescue minors from sex trafficking and it costs £54 a month to keep girls like Reshma safe in our long term care. You have helped and we hope you will continue to do so.  Any donation you make TODAY ONLY will be matched by 50% meaning you give £10 we get £15.  

Many thanks for staying a constant support to Snehalaya so we can continue to help girls like Reshma.

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Sunitha is doing the best job at being Mum
Sunitha is doing the best job at being Mum

The word 'Mother' is a powerful one.  The world over people recognise the most important and pivotal person in their live as their Mother, often revered more then deity.  

Women, play a vital role the world over, in the family as provider, supporter and nurturer and in the world at large with 90% of the working hours being fulfilled by a women (at 10% of the worlds pay).  A 13% drop in vulnerable employment for women worldwide is encouraging.  In politics the proportion of women in parliament has doubled.  In education we are closer then ever in reaching more of our children.  Gender equality for Women now more then ever seems attainable, or does it?  Sadly when you’re in an abusive situation nothing else matters.  In India 3 out of  4 girls don’t finish secondary education, a rape occurs every 20 minutes and dowry deaths and honour killings go unpunished.  It’s time to change that. 

Our rescue projects work across the board to bring Gender Equality and if you are a women in India as far as we are concerned it's ok to be pregant and alone, it's no big deal if you are homeless and destitute, we don't judge if you are making your money from sex work and have a heroin addiction, if you are burned, mamed, scarred physically or just in a bad way - we don't see that first.  We see you are in need of our services and we will not push you to explain your situation, we will just offer you all we can to help you get to a safe point and to get back to living the life you imagined in your better moments.

The world needs a change.  It's me, it's you, it's all of us that can bring that change - Malala New York UN summit 25th September 2015

Take Sunitha.  She is the best person in our organisation to support our younger boys get along in school and to mentor our adolscent girls through their difficult years.  She is training to be a nurse and she is the best person because she knows first hand how ugly the scars of Gender Inequality can look like.  We just see a tower of resiliance and a great mother for our children who have come to us in need of some maternal love.

Join the action.  Sign the #hervoice petition and follow the campaign in Nov 9 - Dec 7.  It's full of practical ways to make change in India possible.  Keep supporting all the NGO's striving for gender equality.  The world's better united, bring back our women.

Running 9th Nov - 7th Dec...do your bit for change
Running 9th Nov - 7th Dec...do your bit for change
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Organization Information

Snehalaya 'Home of Love'

Location: Ahmednagar, Maharashtra - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Snehalaya
Project Leader:
Joyce Connolly
Ahmednagar, Maharashtra India
$187,591 raised of $195,450 goal
 
2,175 donations
$7,859 to go
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