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  • ଓଡ଼ିଆରେ ପଢନ୍ତୁ

New Delhi: "I feel good now and it is much better than what I had to do before," said Sapna while her four-year-old daughter sat on her lap.

A sense of satisfaction gleamed in her face as Sapna, a former sex worker, also showed masks and scrunchies made by her.

She is among the scores of women who have left sex work in the national capital's GB Road and they are now eking out livelihoods with the help of a non-profit organisation.

The coronavirus pandemic might have come as a blessing in disguise as some of them found their way out of forced sex work and are now into making cloth masks, bags, mats, scrunchies and saree covers, among other items.

The non-profit organisation Kat Katha, which has been working to end forced sex work, is helping to skill and rehabilitate women who have left sex work. The venture 'Heartshala' is supported by Distress Management Collectives India, an NGO.

Aarzoo Jolly, the project coordinator for 'Heartshala', said it was started soon after the nationwide lockdown last year and has so far benefitted around 15 women who left sex work after many years of being forced into it.

The products being made by such people are being sold in the national capital and various other parts of the country, including Kerala.

"We are not doing online retailing and people mostly come to know about the products through word of mouth. It is more of a good livelihood for these people," Aarzoo said.

Some of the women have completed their training and have gone back to their villages.

"I feel good now... I have not stolen anything," said Payal, who is learning stitching now, and is happy to have left sex work.

The pandemic has also forced many women to leave GB Road. Aarzoo said there were around 4,000 women working as sex workers here before the pandemic.

"Now, the number will be around 2,000," Aarzoo, who has been working for rehabilitation of sex workers at GB Road, also called Shradhanand Marg, said.

As Sapna, Payal (who are in their late 30s) and others continued with their work, the four-year-old girl was busy playing with small fabric paint bottles and stacking one over the other.

As someone exclaimed, the girl has a good painting hand and mostly, a better future.

(Sapna and Payal are not their real names. Names have been changed to protect their privacy).

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