"Pareshaniaan toh bahut aayin, lekin soch rakha tha gaon ki bachchiyon ko ab gutter me nahi dhakelenge (We faced a lot of problems, but we were determined not to push our daughters into the gutter)," said Krishna Bai, 60, seated on the steps of a newly constructed meeting arena at the far end of Sookha Kirar village in Madhya Pradesh's Raisen district.
Her hopeful gaze is fixated on a group of young girls playing kabaddi on the village playground. Krishna Bai said that it gives her solace – after so many years – to look at young girls, who are so focused on making a name for themselves.
After all, Sookha Kirar has had a provocative past and a reputation for sex work, which had nipped the futures of many a woman in the bud. Now, only a scarce few linger in the shadow of their former trade.
This is the story of how the women of Sookha Kirar pulled themselves and their daughters out of sex work, daring to dream again. Now, their dreams have propelled them into the sporting arena.
And there's a testament to this: two girls in the village, Ganga and Jamna Lavariya – who are twin sisters – recently made it to the national rowing team and participated in the national rowing competition held on 27-31 May 2023 in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
The transition, however, wasn't simple. It was long-drawn, and it took the members of Guriya – an NGO working against the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children – as well as the women of the village two decades to build a new Sookha Kirar.