Down a narrow passageway between buildings, I sat down to chat with several women that I’ve been getting to know over the past several months. One of the women is from Bangladesh-the Khulna area. Recently I got to hear more of her story. She was trafficked into the commercial sex trade after the death of her husband. She is older now and has a married daughter. She commutes to the red-light area for work, bringing her sari along with her. In the heat of the afternoon, she relaxes in a mumu in the cool passageway, then dons her sari again, returning to work. Her daughter’s husband and his family do not know that she is part of the commercial sex trade, and, she cannot tell them. As I listen to this story, I notice a young woman in a sapphire blue sari return and stand against the wall of the passageway, waiting for her next client. I see another young woman leading a man into a brothel while another woman leads a man out.
In ten minutes, I witness the cycles of the red-light district unfold before me. Young women forced into the commercial sex trade become older women who have no other job opportunities and are therefore forced to continue to practice the trade that they never wanted to learn. Men come when they want and leave when they want. The women remain.
It is taking my eyes time to adjust to seeing these realities. It is taking my ears time to adjust to understanding the stories that these women share with me. Being a part of the journey with women who are finding freedom is an honor. This journey also takes time and is an investment. It is an investment in stopping the cycles of the red-light areas. It is an investment in a future that I might not get to fully witness. It is a wholly worthwhile investment.
Reflection by Ronit Odom, Sari Bari Human Resources and Training Consultant based in Kolkata, India. Ronit joined Sari Bari USA in October 2018 and gives her sweet energy to the Sari Bari Private Limited Leadership team, supporting their journey to become better leaders. She also brings her joy and enthusiasm to weekly soft skills trainings for all the women of Sari Bari. Ronit supports making our Sari Bari community a better place to work and a better place to heal.