We love sharing stories of the women who, as part of a skills-training program, sew together Punjammies®. The Sudara Stories series highlights a few of these strong, amazing women. Today, we are honored to introduce Sheela.
Sheela’s Story of Hope and Freedom
When Sheela talks about her childhood, she talks about watching her father come home from work angry and drunk most nights of the week. Her mother was a commercial sex worker and often traveled to other cities for weeks at a time in search of work. Her father never seemed to care that she was gone, only that she was bringing money home. Although Sheela missed her mother, she knew that her father was unbearably angry and sometimes even violent towards her if her mother was not working or able to bring in the income he said they needed.
One evening she overheard her parents arguing — her mother was crying and begging him to allow her to stay home. She did not want to travel anymore, she told him that he should find a steady job if he really needed the money and that she wanted a different life for Sheela. Their argument lasted into the night and, as Sheela tried to fall asleep, she realized that their family didn’t need the money from her mother’s work. She realized that her father forced her mother into the commercial sex trade so that he could buy alcohol. And that when there were no customers for her in their town, he forced her to find work in larger cities and wouldn’t allow her to come home until she could bring home a specific amount.
Sheela’s mother soon left home again. She didn’t tell anyone where she was going or when she might be back and Sheela wondered if she would ever return. A few days later, her father came home from work angry and drunk; he told her that there were a few men outside that he wanted her to meet. That was the night Sheela’s father forced her into the sex trade.
After that night, Sheela was terrified of her father and being at home. She knew that she couldn’t stay at home, but where would she go? When could she see her mother? She ran away from home the next evening and found neighbors who were willing to take her in. They had heard about one of Sudara’s partner sewing centers and decided she would have more opportunity living there. Sheela is now living in safe housing with other women who were trafficked for sexual exploitation and receiving counseling and job skills training. She loves to sew and is excited about finding a job as soon as she completes her training.
Thank you for continuing to invest in and empower women to create a new life. You can read more Sudara Stories of Hope and Freedom here. And, find the Punjammies® we named in honor and celebration of Sheela here.
*Photo and name have been changed for identity protection and personal safety