The Covid 19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone in Bangladesh. But our hearts especially go out to women in brothels. You may or may not know that brothels are legal and registered in Bangladesh. In late April of 2020 the brothels were locked down with women and children inside with no money and no opportunity to earn or to leave. They are still closed at least through the end of July. We knew we needed to make sure they at least had something to eat.
We initially distributed food to a brothel we were connected with in Jashore. Our Jashore Operations Manager, Tabitha said, “They think about their future and cry. They know they will get food for this month but what will happen next month? And they cry for happiness too, as they receive food.”
One Basha artisan was able to help distribute food in Jashore. She had spent 20 years in that brothel! She said,
“I am so happy that I have been working hard for Basha for three years. I have a good life now. I was glad to have the opportunity to go to the brothel where I spent many long years in order to give relief. Now I can help my friends. Two of my friends have decided that they want to come to Basha so they can be successful and happy. Now people treat me well. I have a good life. I don’t feel ashamed to visit the brothel now; I feel proud to visit there.”
We knew that other communities were facing the same issues so we reached out to other organizations working in brothels where we have production centres. We found out another brothel near our Mymensingh centre had received aid initially but that had finished. Another hijra, or transgender community, had not received any aid at all. The hijra in Bangladesh are a very marginalised group cut off from earning money aside from prostitution and begging. No one had considered them for food distribution. Our third site is in Tangail, where women are not able to earn money in floating prostitution. All together we have given weeks of food relief to over 600 women plus additional food for small children. The cost to date has been over $20,000 which is huge for an organization as small as ours. We are grateful for every donor who joined us to make it possible.
From the beginning we knew this was a very unique opportunity. We suddenly had contact with prostituted women that we never had before. Our team is able to connect, show love, meet desperate need, and begin to whisper of opportunities outside of those dark places. Friends of Basha can provide essential, life giving relief during this time, and we can offer a path to freedom and dignified employment for their future. We know that most of them were forced into prostitution, but they have lost hope of having any different future. As they have this time free of being prostituted, we pray that hope will begin to dawn in their bruised and broken hearts.
Currently 2-3 women from each site are interested in joining our training programme. We are also hoping to provide sewing work to the hijra community. Everyone should have food. Everyone should have freedom. We are amazed at this door that is opening to offer both.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu