She is originally from Maharastra, but for the last 35 years she has been living in Delhi on GB Road, the large and infamous red-light district. Savhera would not exist but for her. Because Pushpa courageously raised her voice two years ago, new beginnings have been birthed today for eleven survivors of sexual exploitation around the world.
It was in May 2017 that Dr. Vanessa Bouché sat down on the floor of a medical clinic run by Shakti Vahini, Savhera’s NGO partner in Delhi. On one side of the room were a handful of university students from Texas on a study abroad program to learn about transnational human trafficking. On the other side of the room were women stuck in the brothels of GB Road, all of whom were trafficked there under false pretenses at some point in their lives.
As part of the study abroad experience, Dr. Bouché and the students would sit and talk to the women that happened to be there. Sometimes it was only one woman, sometimes it was 15.
That day, one of the women–Pushpa–spoke up, “Why should we talk to you? People come here to exploit us for our bodies, but you and people like you exploit us for our stories. They want us to tell all about ourselves, so they can publish books and articles, and yet we’re stuck here.”
Dr. Bouché affirmed those feelings and asked through the interpreter what she needed.
“We need dignified employment to get out of this dirty business!”
One year later, Savhera was formed…but Pushpa could not be found. It wasn’t until March of 2019, after a brand had been developed, a business plan had been implemented, a team had been hired, facilities had been procured, and uniforms had been designed, that our Human Development Manager, Tamanna Khan located Pushpa and reunited her with Dr. Bouché, who said, “We have a job waiting for you!”
Now Pushpa says: “I feel free–no need to hide anymore. Two years ago when I met Vanessa with her students, I asked her angrily, ‘Why do you exploit us for our stories. You will use those stories for your purpose, and my situation will remain the same.’ But I am not angry anymore.”
“I never thought my voice was powerful enough to cause Savhera to be formed for all of us.”
But it was. And the world is different because of her voice!
*name changed to protect privacy