‘My children need to have a better life’
Originally from Rampur, West Bengal, India, Leela*, 31, was forced into marriage by her parents at the age of 16 to a man she had never met before. Her husband was abusive and violent, and Leela felt trapped and unable to escape. Yet, she had no idea what was to lay ahead.
Having trusted her husband, she was deceived by him and trafficked for sexual exploitation. He sold her off to a brothel in Bhiwandi, over 1,400 km from her hometown. Unaware of her destination and where she was, she lost all contact with her family and became entirely isolated.
Leela has since been living in the brothel in Bhiwandi for 15 years, where she has two children: a five-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl. Both her children are enrolled in a project run by the Good Shepherd sisters. The project aims to protect and promote the rights of children of women in prostitution – constantly exposed to exploitation and particularly at risk. Every day, together with over 170 other children, her children enjoy a safe environment where they can engage in stimulative learning activities under the guidance and care of the experienced sisters and staff who work at the project.
“I am happy my children are in the program,” says Leela, “they need to have a better life than what I had.” Leela would like to quit what she does and receives support through a training program to gain skills to start her own small-scale business and earn an alternative income.
A different and decent life for Leela and her two children where they can all enjoy their full rights is becoming possible.