Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Children of the Sex Trade, Nirvanavan Foundation, Rajasthan, India

When we start our working relationship in 2007, seven of the ten schools are functional, with three of the schools in financial distress. The following year, a benefit at Lucky's Cafe helps raise funding, along with others, to open three more schools.

During a visit in November of 2008, Nirvana and his team guide me through all ten villages and four others as well, hopeful recipients of a school in the future. Since these villages are deemed outcast by the rest of society, more from their professions rather than their caste, a school offered by the foundation is seen as the only hope by the children.

We must remember that life was different for these communities in the past. Before turning in desperation to the trade of sex, the Nat and Kanjar Communities were artisans as well as the traditional entertainers to everyone from royalty to village folk.

While being regarded as the lowest caste, they nonetheless earned their living from the traditional system of extending services among castes, with the women performing and the men supporting with music. With the decline of this social structure and the rise of other forms of entertainment, they were left with a nomadic lifestyle and without a traditional means of survival. The community has since turned to prostitution and is on the outside of society, having little access to education, medicine, justice and basic human rights. They are approached only for their work and ignored the rest of their lives.

With my own eyes, I see children sitting and listening to the teacher with an eagerness that teachers in the West may perhaps rarely experience. They sing songs, write their names, dance in circles and smile from ear to ear.

Sure, their sisters perform the trade known to these villages while all of this happens in front of me, but we only need to look at our own most recent civil rights struggles to understand that such changes take time and doing nothing cannot be accepted.

This is a beginning and we hope that you can be a part of it.

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