Prerana ATC | Fight Trafficking

One day in Prerana

Pinky Singh

Project Coordinator


I have been a part of Prerana team since 2017, as a Project Coordinator in the Institutional Placement Program. I primarily work with the women in the red-light areas of Kamathipura and Falkland Road, and their children. It took me some time to understand the women, the children, their needs and problems and Prerana’s intervention. Observing during interactions with the women while attending meetings and in-house trainings and conducting outreach visits gave me an opportunity to enrich my knowledge and understand the work better.

In all these years, there have been some days when I have encountered an emergency situation that requires immediate attention. It was the morning of 27th December 2017 when I was heading to office as planned. I received an emergency call from the social worker of a Children’s Home (hereafter referred to as CH), requesting my presence at the earliest. She requested to not probe further on call, following which I began to re-arrange my existing schedule. Usually, my tasks are pre-scheduled but it is rare when I have to reschedule my entire day’s plan. Time flexibility and effective team coordination allowed me to immediately head for the CH, after informing the team manager.

In the past during my follow-up calls and visits to the CH, Sheila always shared that she understood why her mother was not able to come to meet her in person. She used to share that financial or health issues might be a reason behind that. But during this visit, Sheila was particularly angry about it, validating and acknowledging her emotions was making her feel understood. During the interaction, I observed that the absence of her sister might have added to her grief. The lack of interaction with her mother, and the transfer of her sister to another CH had left her with nobody to express her feelings. After a while, she shared that some other children at the CH had also been teasing her by saying things like, ‘Arey teri mummy kyun nahi aayi’ (Why didn’t your mother come to meet you?), ‘Meri mummy toh mere liye ye gift leke aayi’ (My mother got a gift for me) etc. The comments she heard from other children made her more aggressive and anxious. I recall she had expressed her anger by saying, ‘Mai anaath toh hun nahi, phir kyun meri mummy nahi aati’ (I am not an orphan, then why doesn’t my mother come to meet me?). I tried to help the child understand that her problem was workable.

During the conversation, I noticed how children, or any individual, have their own way to deal with grief and anger. As social workers, we should allow the discussion to grow and let the child share emotions in his/her/their comfort zone. Moreover, emotional validation, i.e. the process of learning about, understanding, and expressing acceptance of someone’s emotional experience is imperative to make them feel heard and comforted. Before leaving the CH, I reassured Sheila that I will make every effort to find her mother and once I locate her, I will facilitate a meeting between them. I also assured her that I will stay in touch with her and update her on my efforts. I shared with the social worker of CH that the teasing Sheila was facing might be a form of bullying and suggested to her to look into this. We decided to discuss it in detail during the next visit.

On my way to office, I recalled how our team had asked Meena* (Sheila’s mother) to attend a mother meeting at the Night Care Center (NCC) in August, 2017. During my interaction with her that day, I had asked her about why she doesn’t visit the CH to meet her daughters. Meena, after much reluctance had shared that she was facing personal problems. Her aadmi had deserted her. After that, she was with another aadmi[2] who was already married. Due to his marital status, she faced lack of attention from his end. She added that whenever she raised her concern with him, he would abuse her physically and emotionally. She had shared that she didn’t want her daughters to see her scars and know that their mother is facing troubles. She was satisfied that her daughters were safe in the CH and avoided meeting them so they don’t realize that she is upset.

After reaching office at around 2:00pm, I worked on the documentation of another case that I had planned earlier. Soon after that, I discussed Sheila’s case with my colleagues and asked if they had met Meena recently. Meena had not been living in the red-light area since September 2017, and would travel to Falkland Road for soliciting. I checked our available database to find her current address or that of her previous place of residence that she had shared with us. The same afternoon, along with my colleague I conducted an outreach visit to Reay Road and the footpath near CSMT railway station, areas she had informed she lived at. I also interacted with other women in the community, being mindful to maintain confidentiality, and managed to trace her near the footpath of CSMT railway station in the evening. I explained Sheila’s situation to her, and requested her to meet her daughter soon. I observed Meena had grown aggressive and was reluctant to visit the CH, but on our insistence, she accompanied us the same evening. Sheila was extremely happy to meet her mother, and started crying upon seeing her. She asked her repeatedly about her absence. Meena explained to Sheila that the circumstances in her life are such wherein sometimes she is unable to establish contact with her. She added that when Sheila is at the CH, she feels reassured knowing she is safe and will have a better future, and that even if she is not in contact with Sheila, she always misses her. The meeting helped Sheila overcome her anger and grief.

As the day came to an end, I reflected upon things that I can do to address the teasing Sheila had faced. I planned to understand Meena’s concerns and help her understand her responsibility as a parent. I thought how we don’t often discuss the importance of healthy parenting and assume that we are supposed to learn it naturally. I decided to discuss in the next case management meeting on how we can help prevent such situations of mothers (parents) not visiting their children and not staying in touch with them for a prolonged period. Moreover, I noted how imperative it is to continue to motivate women to try and reduce their dependency on the aadmi and reach out to Prerana’s staff in case they face any troubles. During my interaction with Sheila, I had noted that the comments made by other children had added to her distress. Sometimes, children without any malice intent compare themselves with each other like “Meri mummy aaj mithai layi teri mummy to sirf wafer layi” (My mother got me sweets, yours got only a packet of wafers), “Teri mummy to kuch bhi nahi lati” (Your mother doesn’t get anything for you) etc. It might be possible that children don’t understand that teasing, or comparing, may cause emotional trauma to someone else.

To address these issues, awareness sessions can be conducted at CH to help children understand empathy and how to be mindful about others feelings. While every day as a social worker teaches something, these reflections have guided me through many cases and have enriched my experience as a professional.

[1] Names changed for confidentiality purposes

[2] The woman’s partner, who is a pimp, or a regular customer.

Documented by Ms. Pinky Singh

Documentation assistance and editing by Ms. Shatakshi Saxena

Reviewed by Ms. Geetarani Lourembam, Ms. Aarti Gor and Ms. Rashmi Taylor (Prerana team members)


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