By Prerna Trivedi
I was once a girl with a lesser understanding of the problems around the world but now it feels impossible to take my mind off of it. In India, there are more than 800,000 prostitutes and sex workers who are discriminated against, exploited, and deprived of basic needs. These issues are accentuated during times like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ruchira Gupta (pictured above) founded the ‘Apne Aap’ NGO.
‘Apne Aap’ an NGO founded by Ruchira Gupta, a journalist, and activist with ‘1 Million meals’ has ensured food, medical, and hygiene security consistently even during the times of a pandemic that has affected India worst with its second wave. More than fifty lakh meals have been served to the most vulnerable communities i.e. women and girls who are victims of sex trafficking, underprivileged women in refugee camps, etc. Sounds inspiring, doesn’t it?
The economic distress and stigma attached to the community of sex workers have made it very difficult for them to survive during the lockdown and the pandemic. They are left with no food, shelter, running water, or personal hygiene for themselves or their children. The community was grateful for the aid provided by ‘Apne Aap’ and ‘1 Million Meals’ but the process of collecting and distributing the meals had many obstacles which delayed and maybe even hindered ‘Apne Aap’ and ‘1 Million Meals’ aid for the most underprivileged and neglected community.
An impact analysis report by student volunteers from Ahmedabad University on the work done by both the NGOs said that food trucks had to go through a lot of hassle related to acquiring passes to reach the villages. How can government intervene here and help? They can make it easier for food trucks to reach through a simple method of checking the trucks and letting them pass through without any policy or pass hassle.
Moreover, creating awareness through different platforms of communication should become our responsibility as citizens without attaching a stigma to it. Might I suggest, using technology to its best, a human chain of volunteers can be created for supplying and distributing resources and funds? Rather than centralizing the distribution of resources like food and sanitary pads, it can be divided into district and city-wide projects with the help and collaboration of other local NGOs.
What can the general public do to ensure food security for these young vulnerable women? Well, do not hesitate to talk about their struggle and raising a voice for them, encouraging people to donate who are financially capable of it. Normalize helping these women for a better tomorrow.
Underprivileged and vulnerable children can be given training on reaching out to helpline nos. and toll-free lines when they sense danger or need aid. They can be trained about good and bad touches. The lines can get blurry for them as it has been normal for them to see intimate physical touch around them. Underprivileged women who have ration cards make up a very small percentage of the rather larger population who are left without any source of getting food grains.
So, rather the government can redistribute or create new food and hygiene passes for all the underprivileged women including victims of sex- trafficking which would also help keep a record of the beneficiaries. Those people should be made to feel inclusive and accepted and their upliftment can be aimed through vocational training programs.
Their physiological and mental health should also be looked after especially in the time of a pandemic where no income flow has left them in states of distress, sadness, and anxiety. For that, student volunteers or any volunteers with a psychology background and verified certificate course in counseling without a language barrier can set up a 24×7 helpline through which the beneficiaries can talk thoroughly to without any language barriers.
Sanitary pad companies or factories can help uplift them by providing free menstrual hygiene products and standing for a cause with the product that they sell and factory owners can recruit women for training for specific working hours ensuring economic empowerment of those women without them getting exploited.
All of these recommendations sound like simple answers to complex problems but making simple choices as a simple solution to fill someone’s belly or ensure a little hope sounds fair. Might I suggest we take a step towards understanding their needs and problems? Might I suggest we accept them and uplift them together? Might I suggest just make a simple donation for a noble cause? Might I suggest and highlight how we can play a part to make their world a little better? Might I suggest a better tomorrow?