“After the lockdown, we had no income and no food. My mother was planning to resume providing sexual favours to men. I couldn’t stop crying” said Shyamala*.
Seventeen-year-old Shyamala* belongs to the Devadasi community, a marginalised section of society who take up sex work as their livelihood as part of an age-old tradition.
Generations of women in the same family perform sexual favours to men, and this becomes their role in society.
Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ project, Children Empowerment for Getting Out of the Devadasi System (GOOD) works in 5 districts in North Karnataka, where the system is most prevalent. It focuses on protecting children of Devadasis from social and sexual exploitation as well as eradicating the Devadasi system in the region.
Project GOOD reached out to Shyamala and her family after which she was enrolled in a training programme on tailoring. Upon the completion of her course, she began stitching for a living and was able to support her family.
Sadly, when COVID-19 struck, the family lost its livelihood.
Shyamala’s mother was helpless. She thought getting back to sex work was the only way her family could be saved. With each passing day, Shyamala began slipping into depression. The family plunged into darkness.
That’s when project GOOD intervened again.
Understanding the increased vulnerability of the target population, the project began home visits to understand each one’s situation. Shyamala’s problems were identified.
The project had a relief distribution plan to target families where food essentials and hygiene kits needed to be distributed. As part of this, they required a supply of face masks. Keeping this in mind, the project gave the family an order to stitch 400 face masks for COVID-19 prevention. The project approached the Block Panchayat (local government officials) for its support in procurement of materials during the pandemic.
Once Shyamala got access to the materials, she began stitching again. The project provided the family 12 rupees per mask. Shyamala heaved a sigh of relief.
“ I’m now out of fear. My mother and I have decided to help out other Devadasi families as well, so we involved them in the mask stitching process too. I’m so thankful for this timely support.”, says Shyamala.
Truly, hope can be found in the darkest of times.
Along with Shyamala’s family, the project has provided emergency relief in terms of food essentials and hygiene kits to target families.