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 Sumi.
Sumi’s father died when she was a young girl from HIV/AIDS; he had contracted the virus after many years of visiting brothels after work. Without his income or any family nearby to help her, Sumi’s mother was suddenly faced with having to raise small children and find a way to provide for them on her own.
Sumi’s mother searched for work, but she did not have enough skills or education and was turned away. Out of desperation, she entered the sex trade. Sumi remembers her mother telling them that she was only doing this because they needed to eat and she wanted Sumi and her younger brother to go to school.
After several years in the sex trade, Sumi’s mother started getting sick about once a day; sometimes she was so sick that she couldn’t work. When she was finally diagnosed with HIV, she decided to move the family back to her hometown.
Sumi was excited to meet her grandparents and cousins; they wanted nothing to do with Sumi, her brother, or her mother. They said that her mother had brought shame to herself, her family, and her village. And, she was not welcome in their home or village.
They moved again, but her mother’s health was worsening and she could no longer provide for the family. She began to pressure Sumi into the sex trade in order to feed the family. Sumi told us that she could not handle the pressure and that she twice attempted suicide. All she could think about was how scared she was of the sex trade, of contracting HIV like her parents, of suffering until death like her father and, soon, mother. She told us that she was a good student in school, that she enjoyed her studies, and that she wanted a better life for herself.
Within weeks after her nonfatal suicide attempts, Sumi learned about the Sudara centers through conversations with a neighbor and, then, a community worker. She left her home the next day in search of a new life. And, she is currently enrolled in skills-training courses in cosmetology and sewing.
We are grateful for the opportunity to provide Sumi with safe housing, counseling, and for her to be involved with a community of amazing women who have similar life stories and encourage her on a daily basis. Perhaps most of all, though, we are grateful for the change we see in Sumi – the joy in her smile, her continuous laughter amongst friends, and her heart to help others. She is scheduled to graduate next year; we are excited to see her live out all that she has planned for her future.
Thank you for continuing to invest in and empower women like Sumi to create a new life for herself — a life that is free from sex-slavery and full of hope.
*Photo and name have been changed for identity protection and personal safety