In the small village of Yalgur, Bijapur district at the banks of the Krishna river lives 15-year-old Lekha (name changed). With a little black bindi on her forehead, hair pleated in a braid and a bag full of books, she walks around her lush-green village carrying a beaming smile. One can easily ignore the fact that the weight of books is nothing compared to the burden in her heart. 

 

 

 

Coming from a Devadasi community, Lekha lives in a small cemented house with her mother and two brothers. Though their family has always depended on the little donations from the temple to sustain themselves, the family income dropped drastically as Lekha’s brothers lost their daily wage work. Lekha’s mother and brothers also increased their alcohol intake during this time of financial crisis. 

Having no source of income combined with alcohol abuse, Lekha was pressurised by her family to give up her studies and to take up sex work as a Devadasi instead. Gloom took over Lekha, she was depressed to the point where she thought self-harm would be the only way out. 

“I wanted to continue my education but my family was forcing me to get dedicated as a Devadasi. My mother and brothers were addicted to alcohol. I was feeling scared”, shares Lekha.

 

 

Being part of our GOOD project’s Kishori club (an empowerment club for children of Devadasis) since 2019, Lekha was in a dilemma – to share her troubles and go against her family or give up on her life. After sleepless nights of worrying, she felt in her spirit to take a step of courage and share with her fellow Kishoris and GOOD staff about her rights being violated. To help address this issue, the Kishori Club dialled 1098 to call the Childline staff. Soon after, the project staff, ChildLine officials and the Kishori Club members visited Lekha’s house. 

They warned the family about the legal consequences of forcing Lekha into sex work while getting their signed consent to let Lekha continue her education. The staff also enrolled Lekha’s mother and brothers on regular counselling sessions to help with their alcohol addiction as well as ensure Lekha’s wellbeing by providing psychosocial support through counselling sessions.

 

 

Now Lekha once again walks smiling ear to ear carrying books in a bag on her shoulder, the kind of weight she prefers. 

“My future would have been ruined if I didn’t become a member of the Kishori Group. I feel happy and safe with the support provided by the GOOD staff and ChildLine. I am going to school regularly now.” 

 

By Vaishnavi Gupta, Senior Communications Associate

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