This is a project of ‘The Free to Live Trust’ (TFTLT- SC045423) working in collaboration with the Waghmode Foundation an Indian Non-Governmental Organisation( NGO) based close to the city of Pune, India in the district of Maharashtra.
Two of the TFTLT founding trustees are Soroptimists:
1 Dr Pam Cairns,
SI Dundee member.
2 Mrs Avril Duncan, SI Perth.
Past President of SI Dundee Norma McGovern is also a Trustee
The Project is based in Bori a village at Baramati in district of Maharashtra.
The two main objectives to this project are:
1. To build a home for forty children who are the abandoned offspring of trafficked sex workers (Appendix 1 and 2) and to provide funds to meet the initial running costs of the home. It is hoped that if funding allows more children will be rescued..
2. To rescue commercial sex workers (CSW) who have been trafficked and who would like to start a new life free from exploitation and sexual violence.
Background to Project
In March 2014 Pam Cairns, SI Dundee, joined Avril Duncan, SI Perth, and eight other women on a trip to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girls Scouts -WAGGGS- Centre in Pune, India. Pam planned to carry out research into trafficking and abuse for her issues based third novel on this visit to India.
Staying at the WAGGGS Centre provided an opportunity to visit Non-Governmental Organisation’s (NGO) working with marginalised and at risk women and girls vulnerable to domestic and sexual violence of endemic proportions.
Avril and Pam visited one such NGO, Kayakalpa, a charity set up to work with the commercial sex workers of Pune’s red-light district. Pune has a population of over eight million people and is one of India’s fast growing commercial centres.
The offices of Kayakalpa are across the street from the brothels. The organisation was founded in 1993 by Seema Wagmode. Seema explained that there are over 3,000 women and girls and some boys and young men, working in the brothels.
According to Seema’s research and experience, over 90% of the workers are victims of human trafficking. Typically traffickers visit poor communities in Nepal, Bengal and other states and offer unsuspecting, often illiterate, parent’s “good jobs” for their daughters. In reality the girls are brought to cities like Pune and sold like cattle to the brothel keepers.
Once purchased, the girls are told that they owe transport costs, purchase costs and must pay for their accommodation and up-keep. They are forced to service men without complaint.
Pam and Avril were taken on an escorted visit to a brothel by Kayakalpa staff, up a dark smelly stair onto a balcony past a queue of men waiting to enter another brothel – it was as if they were waiting in line for the barber.
This was a difficult visit for the two Soroptomists but very informative.
On return to the Kayakalpa offices, Avril and Pam were then introduced to forty children of the sex workers.
These children had been abandoned into the care of the charity.
Seema told of her plan to remove the children to a safe area and build a home for them and a rehabilitation centre for rescued sex workers, on her husband’s farm, in Bori eighty miles from Pune.
Pam and Avril, and the other ladies of the visiting group agreed to fundraise for the children’s home. They have formed a charity, The Free to Live Trust. (TFTLT)
Pam and Avril are founding Trustees of the charity. SI Dundee President Norma McGovern and Helen Jackson Commissioner Mentor of Girl Guides Perth and Kinross are also Trustees.
The Waghmode Patil Trust
Rev Haribhau Waghmode Patil Pratishthan (RHWPP) was founded in 2005 and registered under BPT Act 1950. RHWPP provides health education programmes to schools and communities under the Pune Municipal Corporation raising health awareness amongst Commercial Sex Workers (CSW), truckers, police, slum dwellers and children. RHWPP cares for the children of the CSW on Kayakalpa’s premises. RHWPP has a staff of five for the children’s care.
Is the sister organisation of the Waghmode Patil Trust. Its offices are located in the Red Light District, Pune , a city of over eight million people. Kayakalpa was established in 1993. It provides community based support in the Pune District for CSW.
The organisation has 20 years experience of providing health education, health checkups and regular testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), other sexually transmitted infections (STD’s) and general health needs of sex workers. Funding for its programmes is from local and international donations. Kayakalpa has also advocated on behalf of the commercial sex workers since 1993 to increase the living standards and conditions for the workers. Kayakalpa staff includes accountants, counsellors, peer educators, and medical officers.
Research in India has shown that an alarming 81% of the children of CSW remain in the brothels or are left to roam the streets. These children are malnourished, at risk of physical and sexual violence and have no access to education or health care. Boys as well as girls are at risk of being forced into prostitution. The children are ostracised and badly treated by the community and the police due to the stigma of being the children of CSW. In view of these findings Kayakalpa began to care for these children in 2006.
In 2009 full time care of the children passed to RHWPP. The children are provided with a nutritional diet, access to education and health. The accommodation is not fit for purpose. There are two cramped rooms above the offices of Kayakalpa with limited sanitation. At night, for their own safety, the children are locked behind an iron gate.
At weekends, there is a drop-in feeding programme for street children in the area. Currently around a hundred children attend each day which reflects the level of need.
Bori Project Outline
A five acre piece of land for this home and the rehabilitation centre has been acquired by RHWPP in the village of Bori.
This is an ideal location for the children who will be away from dangers of alcohol, drugs and violence. They will be able to enjoy the countryside environment well away from those who would wish to abuse them. The children will attend the local primary school and have access to medical care in the village.
As the children mature there will be opportunities to further their education and learn skills to help them find jobs when they leave school. This will reduce exposure to human traffickers and exploitation. Young boys can grow up in an environment where they learn the value of human relationships and to respect women and girls.
Transport will be provided by the project to facilitate visits from any of the children’s mothers who wish to make the journey to Bori.
The building is complete and the first children have moved in. The house still requires to be fitted out with furnishings and equipment.
The Free to Live Trustees would like to thank the many Soroptimists and friends for their support with Seema’s Project.
Please see The Free to Live website for more information.