If one meets Nandini* today, one would only see a middle-aged woman who has fared well through the journey of life. One would not know that her transition, from poverty to being able to have enough, has cost her freedom.

When Nandini was 21 years old, she eloped with her lover and got married. A few years later trouble entered their paradise when her husband’s health started deteriorating due to excessive alcohol intake. With mounting medical bills and a loan amount to pay, the family further plunged into poverty.

It was during this time in the year 2006 that she was lured by a friend into believing that a better life awaits her in Mumbai. She was quick to follow and walked into the trap of traffickers.  

By 2013 Nandini was broken-spirited, trapped and had accepted her life in the brothels of Mumbai. She became one of the many nameless faces often deprived of dignity, standing in the alleys of the bustling red-light area of this city.

Sahaara runs a drop-in-centre in the red-light areas. The staffs help the women through counselling, vocational training and medical camps. The women often enjoy learning values through activities, games, songs. The staffs build a relationship with them and impact their lives in a positive manner in order to empower them towards an alternate lifestyle and livelihood.

When our staff met Nandini, she had a skin infection, for which the staff urged her to attend the skin camp, which greatly benefited her. Nandini soon became a regular to our centre as her relationship with the staff grew better. Her hygiene and health improved considerably through the sessions she attended. She enthusiastically participated in all the activities and encouraged others to do so.

After the staff counselled her, she enrolled herself in our tailoring program and soon started earning an income as she stitched garments for other women in the area. Encouraged by this she expressed her desire to have an alternate source of income but the large money which she had borrowed as a loan amount from the local loan sharks tied her to the flesh industry. The staff counselled her about managing her money better, subsequently, she started saving and was able to pay off her loan amount within her time period.   

In April 2018, the staff helped her in her decision to exit from the trade and the area. Today Nandini is living in her native village, where she is enjoying and providing for her family through the tailoring skill she acquired. Though her abuse and trauma shaped her past, today freedom shapes her tomorrow.

*Name changed to protect the identity