Let There Be Light

Two Treasured Children In India’s Capital Bring Hope For Sex Worker Community

The hunger crisis during lockdown forced Kunal and Akash to found an NGO. It did not only provide meals at the time of need but work to bring respect and other necessities of life for the workers

Delhi: In the year 2020 and 2021, the Covid wave and lockdown had severely impacted the livelihood of the women of GB Road. Children, women and elderly people had no source of income which left them hungry for days without ration. Observing the helpless situation of his community people, Kunal Kumar and Akash decided to do something for the community.

Kunal and Akash with the help of their mentor Juhi Sharma, Founder of Light Up Foundation decided to collaborate with various NGOs to arrange for ration.

Maan Foundation has been founded by two young boys from GB Road to help the community of sex workers. Kunal Kumar and Akash, are a part of the community. They have been born and brought up in GB Road, New Delhi and have been working tirelessly since April 2020 towards providing relief work for the women of GB Road.

“Lockdown Ke Dauraan Mere Bacche Ko Dhoodh nahi Milta Tha, Aur Aise Halaat The Ke Kayi Dino Se Hum Ko Ration Bhi Nahi Mila Tha, Per Ussey Bhi Jyada Jaruri Tha Bas humare bacche ke liye dhoodh mil jaye. Waise Mei Humko Kunal aur Akash Se Bahut Madad mili, unhone har baar hamari madad ki Aur Sirf Ration Hi Nahi, Dhoodh ka intezaam Bhi Kiya Gaya Tha. Hum Sabko Brabar ration mila, Aesa Nhi Hua Ki Ek Ration Mei Se Do Logon Ko Batna Pda,” informed Shweta (name changed) one of the Didis, who lives at GB Road.

“We want to create community solutions that bring and give back respect to the deserving women and the community of GB Road. We aspire to create solutions that solve problems, empower and make an impact in the lives of the people who live in these red-light areas,” mentioned Kunal.

red right area sex workers and pandemic lockdown Maan foundation Akash Kunal Kumar
Courtesy: Maan Foundation crowdfunding campaign

Kunal Story

Kunal Kumar, a 20-year-old, passed his secondary education from Open School in 2020 but due to the lockdown and pandemic, his education got discontinued.

“Light Up has helped me with my education, therapy and skill development since then and I enrolled for the 12th standard from National Institute Of Open Schooling (NIOS). The pandemic increased anxiety and panic in our lives. I went into depression. With the help of therapy, I became better. I want to bring about health facilities, education opportunities and livelihood jobs for my community people. I want to bring back the lost confidence, self-respect of the women of GB Road through Maan Foundation,” hoped Kunal.

Kunal believes in the advocacy of mental health too. The kids who live in the community have not been taught how to accept the work their parents do, and it creates trauma in their minds for a long.

“I used to blame my mother, I have changed over 6 schools just because other children would talk about my mother,’’ he said.

Kunal has now come forward intending to support the various women and children. He wants to break this chain and give his mother and the other women he calls family a better living condition.

red right area sex workers and pandemic lockdown Maan foundation Akash Kunal Kumar
Courtesy: Maan Foundation crowdfunding campaign

Akash story

While Akash, an 18-year-old, who also grew up with his mother in the brothel has just completed his 10th standard and is now staying at home because his schooling has stopped because of the pandemic.

“I have not told where I live or what my mother does in school,” said Akash. He wants to do social work when he grows up and support his family. “Kids bully you when they know you live on GB Road. They talk about us and our mothers in a demeaning manner,” he added.

The pandemic has impacted the lives of innumerable people and families all across the world. One major section of our society that has been left out and neglected are the women living in brothels. Sex workers have mostly been neglected by mainstream society resulting in huge mental health issues and identity crises.

Home to 4,000 women and 150-200 children, G.B. Road (Garstin Bastion Road) is the largest red-light area of Delhi. The women over here are scarred with trauma and loss of identity. Sex workers are portrayed as immoral, unchaste, vulnerable, and weak. Lack of choice, trust or pressure from the brothels also becomes a reason for these women to not step out of this profession and enter a new job with skills. There is always a risk of harassment and shame attached to this profession. The current pandemic has impacted the livelihood of these sex workers and various other sex workers of the world. With the rise in Covid cases, the imposition of lockdown in various areas has put the earning of sex workers on hold.

The foundation is affiliated with Light Up (Emotions Matter Foundation) which has been training them as grassroots leaders in problem-solving, negotiation, resilience communication, decision-making skills among others to put to use on the ground.

Maan Foundation is also running a crowdfunding campaign to support sex workers and the kids living in red-light areas.

Varalika Mishra

is a Mental Health activist, author and a freelance journalist

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