This is the story of a woman named Soni* from the Turbhe red-light area. Soni is originally from West Bengal. Her family consists of her parents, older brother and two children. Unfortunately, she lost her husband when she was pregnant with her second child in an accident. She therefore had to come back to live with her family. However, the family was very poor and hence could not support her and the children. She didn’t receive any support from her brother too. This left Soni completely helpless. She did not know what to do.

One day her family asked her to go to Mumbai to seek some livelihood opportunities. She came to Mumbai in 2012 and started working as a maid for few months. But the job was not enough to help her support herself and her family or to repay the debt she incurred from building her parents’ house in her native place.

A friend then introduced her to the sex trade saying she can earn more through the trade. Soni worked for a month as a commercial sex worker in Pune and then came to Turbhe and has been in this trade for the past 9 years.

Sahaara got in touch with her in 2021. The field staff was able to help her with KYC documentation and Bank account opening. Over the year, through constant mentoring on debt repayment and savings, she was able to pay back her debt. She also regularly attended awareness sessions conducted in the Sahaara Drop-in Centre. Our staff was also able to recognize her skill of cooking and encouraged her to use her skills for an alternate livelihood.

By August 2022, she was able to leave the area and move to Gujarat with her children. She has now opened a roadside food joint (locally called as Dhaba) in Gujarat and is able to earn Rs. 10,000- 15,000 per month in profits through this.

Soni is grateful to Sahaara for equipping her with the skills and motivating her to move out and begin a new life with dignity.

*Name changed to protect participant identity.