I had last travelled to Varanasi when I was 11 years old, with blurred memories, barely remembering where I went or what I saw. After a gap of more than 20 years, I was back in Varanasi — this time with a totally different agenda.
I was visiting Guria, an organisation working on the rescue and rehabilitation of children and women who have been trafficked or have faced sexual violence.
The office is located in one of the back alleys of a residential part of town. The front gate is padlocked and so is the inner door. Ring a bell and someone comes down to open the gates and locks it behind us immediately. I have never seen such security arrangements in non-profits which generally have gates wide open to welcome one and all. We entered the office where there are two more rooms which are locked and the keys are with the Founder, Ajeet Singh ji.
As soon as introductions are over, the first question slips out naturally — why so much security?
Ajeetji patiently explains that the nature of their legal cases is such that they receive regular threats from perpetrators. These records are also the only way to keep the cases alive against them. There have been instances where the staff have been beaten up and hospitalised. Needless to say, I was sufficiently shaken.
That day was an eye-opener for me. Within the span of a few hours, I learnt about the work involved, in an astonishing assortment of cases. These could be anything from just ensuring proper investigation of a rape of an 11-year-old, rescuing women and children from trafficking in 60 brothels in Allahabad in one day, number of legal cases that one incident of rape could result in — apparently, a rape of a child by 5 people means 5 cases, each one fought individually — followed by appeals which become separate cases on their own. I sat there listening with a sinking feeling leaving me frustrated and helpless at the same time.
Guria, while based out of Varanasi does rescue and rehabilitation of trafficked children and women across the country from Agra to Hyderabad. They have a small dedicated team which fights against all odds to protect the survivors of abuse. They do this with great sensitivity to the people they serve. For many, if not all, survivors they work with, Guria is the only hope of getting justice.
Their other program is an after-school centre run in the Red Light Area of Varanasi where they counsel, teach and guide the children of sex workers so that not a single one of them needs to go back to the profession. On my second day in Varanasi, I spent about 3 hours with these children, five of who were training to apply for the Police Force! I went smiling all the way to my hostel having learnt about the transformation that has been brought about among these children.
At Give, we are proud to have Guria as one of our first partners on the platform in support of the survivors. Not many of us have the courage to stand up against such evils and keep fighting them. Not only that, to dedicatedly look after the survivors and rehabilitate them into this unforgiving society is a task that deserves praise! If you would like to make a small contribution every month to support their work, you can do so here.
Archana Hari leads the non-profit Relationships and due diligence at GiveIndia. Her primary role is to ensure that all partners on the platform are credible and adhere to requirements of the marketplace.