India: A Brighter Future for Sunita (April 2007)


Sunita is one of many migrant workers who came to Mumbai, India, in search of work. She found work as a day laborer in one of the city's 200 nakas or open labor markets. While employed at the naka, Sunita was sexually exploited by the contractor and managers at the construction site where she was working. Degraded by her employers' treatment and unable to earn sufficient wages through the naka, Sunita turned to prostitution to support her disabled husband and five teenage children.

During an information session on HIV/AIDS prevention, Sunita met an outreach worker from NIRMAN, a PEPFAR-supported non-governmental organization that promotes HIV/AIDS awareness among women working in construction. The outreach worker provided Sunita with counseling, which empowered her to share her experiences of sexual exploitation and take action to escape exploitation and prostitution.

Sunita continues to work as a day laborer, but she is no longer involved in prostitution, nor is she being sexually exploited. With the knowledge she gained from NIRMAN, Sunita was inspired to become a peer educator and now helps other female workers at the nakas. She addressed participants at a state-level discussion on sexual harassment in the workplace organized by the Women's Commission and the India Center for Human Rights and Law. She says, "I am determined to share my experience with other women like me, so that they can safeguard their lives and support their families with dignity."


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