Dipmala's inspirational journey of escaping slavery and gaining the power to chart own course

Dipmala's inspirational journey of escaping slavery and gaining the power to chart own course. She lived in a single-room apartment in Kolkata, West Bengal with her single mother after her father’s sudden departure from life.

It was difficult to get by with a meagre income of INR 5,500 each month by renting out their adjacent flat. 

Her mother was severely ill and struggled with the addiction to alcohol and sleeping pills. Due to all these domestic and financial constraints, Dipmala could only complete her studies till the 10th standard and had to drop out of school. 

Desperate to fend for her family and meet her mother's medical expenses, she entered the world of sex trade which was introduced to her by her friend Lekha* and her husband.

She worked as a sex worker for an entire year to take care of her mother and herself. With the information provided by VIHAAN, Dipmala was finally rescued at the age of 17 by the police from Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, Lalbazaar in Kolkata. 

"I needed a job to take care of my mother and me. One day, Lekha introduced me to a person and he promised me a good job. When I reached the place, I was asked to have sex with someone. I was scared, but I was forced to do it. Since that day, they threatened me mentioning that they would spread the news about the first-day incident in my school, friends and family. It continued till the police rescued me with other girls", said Dipmala.

After being rescued, Dipmala was taken to a safe house, where she underwent a medical examination and recorded witness statements.

VIHAAN focuses on a unique end-to-end approach to working with the vulnerable population and survivors of human trafficking. Led by the government officials and assisted by VIHAAN, the Rescue operations are meant to free children and women from situations of abuse and exploitation, whereas the Care and support interventions provide to facilitate critical physical, emotional, psychological and social well-being to survivor.

In Dipmala’s case, following the rescue, she was followed up continuously by Care and Support team with essential behavioural interventions to help her cope with the trauma. Our team makes periodical visits to Dipmala’s mother and provides emotional support. 

Her legal case is being fought in court by our Legal intervention team, whose primary objective is to provide legal assistance to survivors of human trafficking and protect their rights and uphold justice. 

In 2020, once Dipmala turned 18 years, she was restored to her family. However, she did not want to live with her mother. VIHAAN supported her to get rented accommodation and was encouraged by the Education and child safety team to re-enrol in a correspondence course through NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling).

We aim to provide educational support such as remedial coaching and financial support for education to help facilitate girls like Dipmala to complete their secondary level (10th standard) and prevent them from dropping out of school.

Dipmala was supported to secure a job at a restaurant and is currently preparing for her 12th board examination. Dipmala now lives a life full of vigour and motivation and always has the drive to live life on a positive note. VIHAAN’s Skill development and livelihood generation team ensures each victim is supported with sustainable livelihood opportunities.

VIHAAN supports in Strengthening the ecosystem by building capacity through training based on its experience of over a decade. Recognising VIHAAN's expertise in this domain, we were invited by government officials to conduct training sessions for new recruits of the Kolkata Police Training Academy and magistrates in Karnataka.

Through our unique end-to-end approach which is encompassed in the six strategic priority areas, we ensure that victims like Dipmala are educated, empowered and supported which enables them to reset their lives. 

"What VIHAAN gave me was a huge opportunity. It doesn't usually happen for girls like me. Breaking free from poverty and living a life of hope. Thank you very much", Dipmala overwhelmed with gratitude.

*Names changed to protect identity. Images are for representational purposes only. 

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