Today I would like to share with you a story of an incredible organization called Oasis India. Oasis India do preventional, educational and rehab work with victims of trafficking. When you read the stories of people, mostly women, you can not stay calm. Why is this happening? How is it possible? All those questions running through your head.
But there is hope. And the hope is this kind of organizations, that give a new opportunity for people who desperately need help. And it’s not only one-time help, but it’s a continuous work and collaboration, teaching new skills, like sewing and supporting in finding new, decent jobs.
But let’s ask Mercy Jennifer, a communications executive of Oasis India to tell us more about their organization and the people they work with.
Could you introduce yourself and tell a little bit about your occupation at the moment?
I am Mercy. I have been working with Oasis India for the past three years as Communications Executive. I work alongside the Fundraising Team supporting them in their endeavours. I have studied Bachelors in Literature and a Masters in Social Work.
My passion has always been to work with children. I had previously attended a fundraising concert by Oasis India where they spoke about the work that they do and it was quite inspiring. I was especially captured by their work with children! After a few months, I came across an ad for Communications executive position at Oasis India and jumped right at the opportunity. The rest is history.
The past three years with Oasis India has been fruitful and fulfilling! I have travelled across cities and have witnessed the amazing work our leadership and project staff do with our beneficiaries. That has what makes this whole experience satisfactory.
What is the main aim of Oasis India?
We work to prevent human trafficking and other forms of violence against women and children and assist each person to flourish in the context of their community. In all our programmes we work with anti-human trafficking as our focus by providing rehabilitation and after-care for women who leave the red-light areas of Mumbai and through anti-human trafficking awareness across our projects and communities.
How do you operate? Do you actively search for the victims of trafficking?
We have hubs in Bandra, Nalasopara, Kamathipura and Grant Road.
Kamathipura and Grant Road are active red-light areas. In fact, Kamathipura has existed for more than 150 years in India.
Most women there are sex workers by free will and many are born there, not having seen the world outside. Grant Road similarly has many sex workers who have been trafficked. Although we do not rescue victims of trafficking, we counsel and work with women who would like to leave or have left the red-light area.
Women who leave the red-light area are admitted in our rehabilitation and after-care home, Nirmal Bhavan. This is where the women receive active counselling, taught literacy and are trained in a vocational skill like tailoring, cooking or hairstyling.
Jessica Gunjal, Nirmal Bhavan coordinator has worked with these women for many years. And she says, “We have girls who are very young and also women in their 40s. They all have no general knowledge whatsoever. All they know is what they have seen and heard in the red-light area.”
Oasis India’s Livelihood Programme helps them to learn, grow and become self-sustainable. Although this a long term goal, they take it one day at a time. We teach them how to sit, eat, talk, travel and self-groom. Some of them have not held a pencil in their lives. Jessica says, “We had an 18-year-old who cried every time we asked her to hold a pencil. It took her four months to learn just that.” They are also taught how to tell time, days of the week, even fruits and vegetables.
The ultimate goal is to help these women take the leap into the real world with confidence and skills.
How do you cope with everything you know about what those victims had to go through?
This is from Sheela Bhalerao in our Kamathipura Hub – “I am a social worker at Oasis India’s Kamathipura Hub. My day begins with a walk around the area where I meet women. Women just like you and me but with a stinging past that brought them here. Starting from rapport building to helping them move out of the RLA, we slowly work to empower them to not only make the decision to leave but also to become self-sustainable. Although this is a long emotional and mentally draining process, many women have successfully left the trade. They live among us. Happily.
When we initially start working with a sex worker- we face an established pattern. First, they lie. Avoid eye contact. Eventually, they open up, call us ‘didi’ (sister) and get attached to us like family. When we personally get to know these women, it is hard to digest that they were lied to, kidnapped and forced into sex work.”
How can other people help your organization and the victims?
Hosting a Social Enterprise stall with products made by our beneficiaries who are now earning regular income: our social enterprise stall comprises of products made by our beneficiaries who make products such as clothes, accessories, pouches and bags from cotton or jute material. You could host our stalls in any of your events or in your workplace!
They receive fair wages for the products that they have made.
Ride in our annual motorbiking event, Mukti Bike Challenge to bring awareness on Human trafficking: the road isn’t long when you have a purpose. Ride to make trafficking history by raising awareness along the trafficking routes of Bangalore to Mumbai. Get in touch with us if you need more information on this!
Financial Contributions either through our individual 500 Club, payroll giving or via CSR grant applications made: giving is not just about making a donation, it’s about making a difference. And, you can make a difference in other’s lives by cheerfully donating in different ways. 500 Club – this is Oasis India’s monthly-giving scheme where members contribute Rs 500 every month.
Can you share one or two successful stories?
When Tasleem’s* husband left her, she was trafficked into Mumbai’s red-light area (RLA) at the age of 20. She remarried but that ended tragically too. Tasleem and her three children left for Kolkata where she sought her mother’s help to take care of her children. But after struggling to fend for her family there, Tasleem and her daughter, Zaiba* came back to the RLA to make a living.
Kamathipura is a high-risk area for vulnerable children as they are prone to abuse. Tasleem feared for her daughter’s safety and sent her to our night shelter -where women and children from the RLA can spend the night in a safe and clean place.
After months of counselling, Tasleem moved out of the RLA and decided to change her life for her children. She joined the six-month vocational tailoring course in Borivali. She also stayed with her daughter in the night shelter. She now has a tailoring job and lives in a rented house!
Women like Tasleem receive holistic development at Oasis India and it helps them tum their life around.
Mallika’s* mother worked as a housekeeper in the red-light area of Mumbai. Their family suffered greatly from poverty. Mallika was married at a very young age of 13. Her husband was unemployed, an alcoholic and was very abusive towards her.
At just 14 years of age, Mallika had her first baby and was subjected to abuse by her husband because the firstborn was a girl. However, she continued to live with him for the next 2 years. When Mallika’s mother found out about the abuse, she brought her daughter back with her.
Later, she joined Oasis India’ tailoring and beautician course in the drop-in centre at Grant Road. Mallika wants to finish her course, go back to her village and start a small tailoring shop there.
It took her many years to heal from the pain of the abuse but she wishes that her daughter will have a great life. When a woman is free from violence and discrimination, she can not only have a peaceful life but also create a violence-free environment for her children.
Those stories are heartbreaking, but when you realize that so many women got help as well and now have hope and chance for a better future, it gives you hope as well.
This article was made with an informational purpose only.
If you would like to help, you can just share this article, because by raising the awareness of the problem and offering a solution, you contribute to the better future of those who suffered.
And of course, you can contribute directly to Oasis India here.
Let’s make our world a better place.
Cover photo by Roi Dimor on Unsplash, all the other photos were kindly provided by Mercy Jennifer from Oasis India.