MUMBAI, INDIA – Earlier this year, IJM, our partners and a group of survivors of sex trafficking were all able to gather for a special celebration of an aftercare shelter home which has touched the lives of hundreds of girls.
On January 26, the Deonar Special Home celebrated 45 former residents and encouraged the 22 girls currently at the home to have hope for their futures. The reception included IJM’s casework and aftercare partners Save the Children India, Rescue Foundation, You Can Free Us, and Project Rescue, who have all played an important role in the restoration of these survivors.
As one graduated survivor shared, “I used to be angry all the time and felt like I had been kept in a prison. But it is here that your new life will begin if you are willing to give yourself a chance.”
This thread unified the stories of these survivors, who have all overcome the hardships of sex trafficking and are now working, pursuing their education, or raising families.
“Each of the girls who attended the reception have had a tough life. Some were sold into the flesh trade by their own families,” shared Pratibha Ovhal, the shelter home’s superintendent. “But they have still triumphed, and we want the current residents to take inspiration from them.”
The Deonar Special Home in Mumbai has been leading this crucial work since 1997. As the government-run shelter for minors rescued from trafficking, the home acts as a critical first intake point for victims in need of crucial rehabilitative care which includes crisis medical care, long-term counselling, and holistic support towards restoration.
IJM has been working with the home since launching in Mumbai in 2000. In those early days, the home’s resources were stretched and there were no government appointed counselors available for the 50 children who resided there making it hard to provide quality services or ensure successful rehabilitation to every child who needed it. At the time, the shelter home’s focus was on the provision of very basic care, housing and shelter. Private NGOs like IJM took on the responsibility to bring in programs and activities that prioritized comprehensive care for the victims.
Together with other partners in the anti-trafficking space, we have steadily helped the government orient themselves toward the needs of these young survivors and invest more into the home. This has included establishing minimum standards of care, improving the quality of trauma counselling, and improving how survivors’ cases were handled within the public justice system.
Other improvements at the shelter home have picked up quite a bit in the last few years, with support from corporate partners who helped make beautiful and substantial renovations to make the home brighter and better equipped for survivor care.
Altogether, the improvements to this critical resource—and the joy seen in the lives of the survivors who have lived there—gives us great hope for the future of aftercare in Mumbai going forward.
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