The rescued girls seen preparing for their SSC exams at an NGO centre
Ruhi (name changed) was only in school when her parents got separated. The girl, who originally hails from a small village in Orissa, later came with her mother to Mumbai, where the two took up odd jobs to survive.
One fateful day, without her mum's knowledge, her aunt forced her into prostitution on the lure of making big money. Scared of the stigma, Ruhi faced the torment alone. Things changed when the girl was rescued by the police and sent to a shelter home. Today, the 17-year-old is among five girls from the Deonar Shelter Home to have passed the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations, making them the first in the city's history to clear the exam from a special home.
The girls, who hail from Orissa, West Bengal and Maharashtra, were rescued by the police under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act and were undergoing rehabilitation at the Deonar home.
Save The Children India, an NGO, which assists rehabilitation of rescued girls, decided to train them for the SSC exams after they saw potential in them. With the help of the shelter home authorities and Child Welfare Committee (CWC) these girls were taken to a unit of the NGO, where the girls studied for over a year. This is the first time in the history of Mumbai that girls from a special home have passed the SSC exam. "When they learned about their results, they felt like they were on top of the world. The girls now want to pursue careers in fashion design, travel tourism, banking and nursing," said Vaibhavi Tailor, senior programme officer, Save Our Sisters (SOS) and Save The Children India.
Tailor said the biggest hurdle was procuring the documentation of these girls as they hail from different states. The NGO, with the help of other social groups, managed to get the details of their previous schools and parents to obtain their documents. "Generally, girls or women from shelter homes are allowed to give academic exams through open schools, but in order to streamline these girls with mainstream courses, we ensured that they appear from the state board. It yielded positive results," said Tailor.
The average score of all the five girls, who cleared the exam, was around 45 per cent. But, NGO workers said that passing the SSC isn't an easy task because most of them dropped out of school early. Shilpa (name changed), who grew up in a slum in Malad, recalls how she was forced to drop out of school after Class V because her parents could not make ends meet. "We did not even have food to eat," she said.
She was just 14 years old, when she was lured into flesh trade. "The money that I earned helped me live a decent life," she said. Shilpa was rescued by police from a hotel in Malad and sent to a government shelter home. "Preparing for the SSC board exams after dropping out of school years ago, was not a cakewalk, but I can now live a dignified life," said Shilpa, who wishes to become a nurse.
To help fund the education of the girls, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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