New Delhi (05 Sep ,2011),(INDIA REPORT).
Nat Purwa is a village close to Lucknow where every girl is raised to be a prostitute. Ten years back even the thought of breaking this age old practise was unthinkable. Among these prostitutes was Chandralekha who spent her life making sure the next generation of girls break out of the tradition. As Chandralekha said,“A drunken man abused me at gun point. That’s when I broke down completely and decided to give up the profession.”Nat Purwa a village where the birth of a girl child is always celebrated, but for the wrong and curious reasons because childhood there ends at ten just like it did for Chanda, Pinky and Gudiya, young girls who were forced into the age old tradition of prostitution by their own parents. Shocking yet true. The people of Nat Purva believe that daughters are born there for flesh trade with fathers and brothers being their pimps.
Chandralekha was pushed into prostitution when she was just 14 years ld, by her own mother.
“My mother was not a prostitute but because I am the daughter of Nat Purwa I was forced to do so by my mother and grandmother,” Chandralekha said.
It was a drudgery and humiliation of 20 long years during which Chandralekha sold her body to earn a living. She gave birth to four children. 15 years ago Chandralekha reached breaking point.
“I went to a village nearby where a drunken thakur held me at gun point and abused me and that is when I came home and cried and decided that I have to give this up,” she said.
As a daughter of Nat Purwa, a village close to Lucknow, where every girl is raised to be a prostitute, Chandralekha had no choice but to get into the profession. But she’s spent her life making sure the next generation of girls break out of the 300 year old tradition. She got a job in the local Anganwadi School and despite threats convinced most families to send their daughters there. She even helped the girls of Nat Purwa get married and employed. Lack of funds has forced her to shut down her self help group for women. But her fight is on.
Chandralekha vision found direction with Asha, an NGO that had set up a school in Nat Purwa. Since she was a class 8 pass out, the NGO employed Chandralekha as a teacher. Over the years Chandralekha worked hard to convince parents to send their daughters to school.
More than half the village girls began to study. A village that never saw marriages of girls now witnessed them. Chandralekha managed to break a tradition that was almost 300 hundred years old.
Convincing families to send their only source of income to school and also breaking an age old custom was not without perils.
Chandralekha said,“People have come to my house to threaten me, they abuse me and I have also been beaten up.”
Did that deter Chandralekha in her crusade against prostitution? No. Infact she kept battling on to ensure that the village primary school got government recognition.
Now the vital question before Chandralekha was to find some alternative livelihood in place of flesh trade. So she started a self help group where the women took up tailoring and embroidery. The initiative lasted seven years, but lack of funds has meant that she has had to shut shop.
“There are women who have gotten back to prostitution, there are no funds, no support from anywhere, flesh trade is the only way,” Chandralekha said.
Chandralekha needs funds to help restart her self help group. But in the meantime she keeps pushing families to keep their daughters in school. Her lone fight and conviction is on…..
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