Rehabilitating Vadia - Inching closer to realizing a dream

The nomadic and de-notified tribes are practitioners of professions that are handed down from generation to generation. It was a traditional practice and each community did just that. Now imagine a situation where the family decides to pass-on the most inhumane and brutal profession there is i.e. prostitution. Vadia is one such village where the Saraniyaa community forces it’s extremely young daughters in to flesh trade. This is a practice that has been in existence since 1950s-1960s. A profession that was voluntarily picked up by few women during times of deprivation eventually  became a norm in this village with each household forcing their daughters into it while the sons taking up the job of being a pimp.

In 2005, VSSM began working in Vadia. The journey so far has been anything but easy. Persuading the families to stop pushing their daughters in this trade, confronting the pimps who move around in disguise of money lenders, sensitizing the society on this heinous practice, compelling parents to  educate their children to organizing the first ever mass marriage ceremony in the village, convincing 90 of 160 families to give up  the trade, building houses, reviving bore-wells and lakes, rejuvenating the farming land, providing interest free loans to the families to help them start their own business, starting a hostel to  specifically house the small girls of Vadia and linking them to top private school, VSSM has come a long way.

Vadia of today has come a long way from what it was before 2005. The persistent efforts by VSSM has brought an unprecedented change in the lives of people here, it has given the girls a ray of hope, the girls here now can believe in living a life full of immense possibilities of a better tomorrow.

It has taken us more then 12 years to bring Vadia to what it is today. The journey has been tremendously daunting and emotionally overwhelming. Nonetheless, with the progress we have made we envisage Vadia to be free from the shackles of a regressive past as it embraces change.

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Families in Vadia have stopped
forcing their daughters into flesh trade
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Girls have been either engaged or married
since the first communal marriage ceremony
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Children receive continuous education

Achievements

We have tried to chronicle VSSM’s efforts in Vadia beginning in 2005:

2005 – Visited Vadia for the first time after learning about its prevailing conditions through an article in The Times of India.

2006 – For the first time represented the conditions of Vadia to the Government.

2006 – Soon after bringing the conditions to Government’s notice we managed to obtain residential plots for 105 families. However, there were no provision for financial assistance to enable construction of houses on the plots because the application forms required to carry a joint picture of husband and wife. The women of Vadia aren’t married making it impossible to complete this requirement.

2007 – We succeeded in bringing special permission from the government which helped us construct 105 houses in Vadia. In the same year it was decided to hold monthly meeting under the chair of District Collector to discuss the evolving issues and conditions of Vadia.

2008 – The families here never featured on the BPL list nor had BPL cards. In spite of the fact that the women here engaged in the trade of prostitution to fill the empty bellies of their families were never considered to be poor by the government. We brought this fact to the notice of the government. As a result, all the ration cards were turned to Antyodaya Ration Cards.

2008 – We made an appeal to restart the defunct borewells that had been drilled and installed by the government in 1998. There was a pending electricity bill of Rs. 75,000 which VSSM paid off. The borewell began to function again enabling the population here to begin farming again.

2010 – After numerous requests the village of Vadia finally got 4 kilometers long pucca road to access the village from the nearest main road. For many years the officials had kept denying the applications arguing that the road will bring more clients to the women of Vadia.

2011 – The functioning of school in the village was regularized, while the mid-day-meal that was never made was now cooked daily.

2012 – With the intent to free the families from the clutches of the pimps operating in the village we initiated a program of providing interest-free loans, beginning with 10 families.

2012 – There is an unwritten code of conduct in Vadia wherein the girls who are engaged or married are never pushed into prostitution. We see this as an approach to curb girls as small as 12-13 years being pushed into prostitution. In 2012 we arranged first ever mass marriage ceremony in the village elder girls were married and younger girls were engaged. This stopped 20 girls from being compelled into the heinous practice of forced prostitution.

2013 – 90 families pledged to stop the practice of prostitution and not send their daughters into the trade. These families left Vadia and went on to settle in nearby Palanpur city.

2014 – For the first time, 30 children of Vadia staying in Tharad expressed the desire to study. As a result, we initiated a hostel for them. VSSM also took up the responsibility of raising and educating boy named Chandra. He was the first to choose not to end up becoming a pimp.

2015 – The constant threats being faced of kidnapping the girls from hostel made us move them closer to us. Hence, the boys and girls were brought to Ahmedabad and settled in separate facilities we specially initiated for them.

2014- 2018 – Between this period 90 families of Vadia have been extended interest free loans to begin small business ventures and make a living off prostitution. This has helped in freeing these families from the dept trap of pimps which has always compelled them to initiate their young girls into prostitution.

2017 – An extremely beautiful girl from Vadia, whom the pimps were eyeing for years eloped and VSSM provided shelter to her. This did not go well with the powerful pimps of the region. We received numerous threats including that of kidnapping Ms. Mittal Patel’s daughter. The Prime Minister of India had to intervene, and strict action was taken against these pimps.

2017 – The most notorious pimp stopped trading girls, asked for our forgiveness and decided to walk away from this trade. This was followed by another powerful pimp who also decided to stop working as pimp. Today, the forces from outside the village have stopped functioning in the village.

2017 – VSSM extends loan for drilling and instating two more borewells. The dry and arid Vadia required some more irrigation facility to take-up farming as a main occupation.  As a result of the borewells entire village has now began farming. The once dry parched and distraught looking Vadia comes across as a village that has draped itself  in a green.

Beginning 2012, the trend of marring the daughters in Vadia continues, families are proposing for interest-free loans to begin their own business and educate their children.