Last month was a difficult month. We are still grieving the loss of three survivors, three precious and young lives lost through different circumstances; one through illness, one through an accident, and one who took her own life.

Padma (rescued in Pune in January 2010) died of tuberculosis. For months she battled the disease. When she was first diagnosed, she refused treatment. She ignored everyone’s pleas to get help. We watched her waste away. When she finally agreed, the strong antibiotics and antivirals were not able to successfully fight the disease. I know from personal experience how hard it is to take strong medication for a long period of time; the side effects being harder to bear than the discomfort caused by the symptoms themselves. The point we forget at that moment is that the discomfort from the medicine is temporary and leads to length of life whereas the discomfort from the disease is permanent and leads to loss of life. Many times we lose sight of the future as we are blindsided by the present challenges and hardships. Padma, I understood your inability to bear with the present but oh, how I wish that you fought, just for a little while longer!

Two survivors were diagnosed with tuberculosis. One took it as a challenge, got treatment and is on the road to recovery. The other despaired and delayed treatment and finally succumbed. Each of us who were connected with Padma’s care wondered if we could have done anything differently to get her to continue treatment, what was that extra mile we missed which perhaps cost her her life? My conclusion at the end of my wondering is that we often do all we can but did we really do all we could?

Yes.

We ensured she had access to healthcare and also pledged our support if she wanted treatment in another facility. We visited her and her family and we connected her to a local organization for quicker support.

15 year old Atina (rescued in November 2022 from Ratlam) died of a venomous snake bite as she was being rushed to the hospital by her parents. How much of her sweet 16 did she get to experience and enjoy?

We first heard about Mahima in September 2021 when she was 13 years old. She lived in a village in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh. She spent most of her young life in a hostel. During the lockdown, her parents took her out of the hostel and forced her into prostitution. Once we confirmed her location, we tried to rescue her, not once but five times. All five times we failed as every rescue attempt was leaked to the people pimping and sexually exploiting her. We tried once in 2021, once in 2022 and thrice in 2023. We were discussing what measures we could take to escalate the matter when we learned she took her own life. She was only 16 years old.

Mahima, we are sorry that your parents failed you, your law enforcement authorities failed you and we failed you. We promise you that we will knock on every door more fervently and persistently for other victims and not let your life be in vain. As I write this, we are facing a similar challenge rescuing another victim from a different part of India. We tried twice and failed. We will not wait for another failed rescue attempt. We are at the court, knocking as loudly as we can seeking justice and action for this victim.

This month taught me that sometimes even our best is not enough and our all is really all we can do. While it may not be enough, we need to accept this and take the help of others to fill the gap. Our action needs to be quicker and strategically persistent. We need to keep showing up and making a noise till there is systemic change, till the hearts of those who have the responsibility to protect get transformed. We need to work harder and smarter to show the victim that we have not given up, the temporary roadblock can and will be removed.

Dear readers, donors and friends, we are transparent and share openly our successes, our failures, and our emotions with you. We need you to know that though we try, many times the result is often not up to us. We need you to stand with us and help us make a loud noise so that whether one victim or five, each victim will know that they count and will not be left behind. We need you to make your own noise, spread the word in your circles,with your friends, be an influencer, and take accountability and blame for your silence when those elected and those with authority and power condone these crimes. When we come together and make a loud enough and long enough noise, we will see justice and change.

Catherine Raja,
National Director