Jayamma started working as a sex worker way back in 1999. It was financial constraints in her family that led her to be in such a profession. Being married to a person who spent all the money on liquor, life had become difficult to sustain. She came from a poor family and was married off at an early age. Due to financial problems, her parents could not continue her education. Hence it was difficult for an uneducated lady like her to find a respectable job. Her husband was an alcoholic and she had to run the family. Finding no other way out, she jumped into this profession.
“Initially it was not easy for me to adapt to the certain change in my lifestyle and the surroundings. The thought of abandoning the profession came several times into my mind. But then I thought, what would I do after that? Who would feed me? How shall I run my family? These questions used to haunt me like anything and never let me leave the work I had started. But gradually I adopted and fitted well in the so called ‘dark’ world. Eventually I got to know the difficulties of the sex workers that they were facing in their lives,” said Jayamma B. sitting under a tree shade and fanning herself with a Japanese fan at Swabhumi. She had been in town recently to attend the International Sex Worker’s Freedom Festival. She represented her Community Based Organization, Chaithanya Mahila Mandali which happens to be the largest CBO for sex workers at Andhra Pradesh.
She was into prostitution for around 6 years and it was in the year 2000 that she felt the need to do something for the sex workers that would help them lead better lives. She felt that collectively she and her co –workers could actually do something for themselves and for the many other women suffering like them.
“Andhra Pradesh accounts for ten percent of the sex workers in India. Like in any other region, sex workers over here also have to face social boycott. They are always seen in a bad eye. This sums up the problems of the sex workers. They do not get the opportunities to make their lives beautiful. Hence I wanted to do something which would help them establish their lives in a refreshed way. I also wanted to establish a strong platform that would help us fight for the rights of the sex workers,” says Jayamma.
In Andhra Pradesh, young girls, especially from poor economic backgrounds, are lured into sex trade. There have also been cases when a young girl is married off to her first maternal uncle as per their tradition and then the man abandons her. In such cases, when these girls have no other way to earn money they are compelled to go into sex trade.
Archana Rao,technical documentation officer, CARE-India, a capacity building organization operating in 70 countries states, “We have been working with CMM since 2010. Our organization was impressed with the kind of work CMM was doing. Hence we decided to offer onsite capacity building trainings to many such upcoming CBOs and NGOs in the state in collaboration with CMM. We have been working in collaboration since then. It has brought welcome changes in the scenario. Today trafficking has decreased manifold in the region. Minor girls forced into sex trade are rescued and they undergo rigorous counseling. They are given vocational trainings. CMM has many such programmes such as candle making, pickle making, sewing, phenyl making. We also impart onsite mentoring to other CBOs and NGOs through CMM. It’s a large scale rehabilitation program that is conducted. It was all started by CMM.”
Chaithanya Mahila Mandali is the 1st CBO for Sex Workers in Andhra Pradesh. Jayamma abandoned prostitution and inspired many others like her to do the same. It had not been an easy start for them, since the Indian society has always shunned sex workers.
“Initially people were apprehensive in believing in our goals. They did not want to cooperate with us and that was quite obvious. But I never lost hope. I was prepared to face denials from the society. Even the media looked down upon us in a bad eye. Who would come to lend a helping hand to people who are sex workers? But gradually when we formed a strong group and people came to know of our efforts, we did get recognition. Media since then has played a great role in focusing on our activities and letting people know of the kind of work we are doing. Eventually the police also cooperated with us in several ways. Now the government also holds rehabilitation programs for the sex workers in collaboration with us. Isn’t that a great achievement?” Jayamma says with that proud grin over her face.
Lately, CMM has been granted a special category of the Sarva Shiksha Aviyaan by the Andhra Pradesh state government for the educating the “second generation” categories, i.e the children of the sex workers. None of them want their children to be in this profession. They want them to be educated and lead respectable lives. CMM looks into this quite minutely that these children are not affected by their mother’s profession and get the best out of life. It makes it a point to get them educated and be a better human being. Extracurricular activities are also arranged for these children to incite confidence and sportsmanship spirits within them.
Jayamma, today, is a well known figure for her rehabilitation works and the service she has been silently providing to the society