Covid second wave: Sex workers get help from Good Samaritans
Even before they could recover from the impact of last year’s lockdown, the second wave of Covid and the subsequent lockdown have dealt another blow to most of the sex workers in the Capital; who were already struggling to make ends meet. In the narrow bylanes of Garston Bastion (GB) Road, a team of volunteers comprising students and young professionals can be found, distributing food and dry ration to families of over 800 sex workers!
“Since we are aware of the problems faced by the women in the area, we collected funds and even conducted a food drive to distribute the packets that contain ration (for 15 days), including dal, rice, flour, basic spices as well as soaps and sanitisers,” says Shankar Singh, founder of the NGO, Vrikshit Foundation. He adds that the group will soon return with reusable sanitary napkins for the women in the area.
“For sex workers, getting help from authorities is a challenge since they do not have ration cards... Around 2,000 plus sex workers reside in the 100 brothels who have lost their only means of livelihood because of the lockdown,” explains Awadhesh Yadav, founder of Society Participatory Integrated Development (SPID), an NGO working in the Capital for women and child development. Along with food, the society is focussing on pregnant and lactating mothers, who are provided with milk for their kids.
“Our goal is to prevent the second generation from prostitution. At our 24-hour shelter in GB road area, we take care of kids of sex workers, which includes their boarding, food and education. We are also distributing ration to the hundreds of families here, and families of the Perna tribe, residing in Najafgarh,” says Yadav, adding, “Many women came to us asking for help during the second wave, and we are trying our best to help everyone, and raise awareness about their plight.”
Efforts are being made by some, who are providing emotional support, literacy and life skills to women engaged in prostitution. “During the pandemic, under our HeARTshala initiative, we have taught women how to stitch cotton masks and bags, to provide them an alternate source of livelihood. In the second wave, these women have been given machines so that they can work at home, since we do not want to risk calling them to the centres,” says Aarzoo Jolly, program lead at Kat-Katha, adding, “We are also teaching them about finance and entrepreneurship through online classes, to allow them to have an alternate source of livelihood.” Jolly says that the organisation is also taking care of around 30 children of the sex workers, who are being taught via online classes at the moment.
Author tweets @bhagat_mallika