While COVID-19 has left many jobless, many others are looking at new avenues to survive. Sex workers are no exception. The dull business due to COVID-19 has encouraged them to scale-up their other source of income.
“Five females, who were sex workers and also had a part-time job, wish to scale up their part-time business,” told Bharati Patil, founder of Aadhar Bahuudeshiya Sanstha to Free Press Journal. “We work with 1,000 sex workers and from them around 20 per cent showed an interest in becoming their own bosses. But we could only support a few due to fund constraints. So, we selected the five based on some criteria.” The NGO is training these sex workers to develop their skills and are in the process of helping them set up business models. These sex workers are from the red-light area of Gandhali Pura in Amalner, Maharashtra.
Taking a cue from selling fabrics, Hasina (name changed on request) is preparing to enter the garment business. “I used to sell fabrics as a part-timer in my locality even before the pandemic. But during this pandemic, everything changed. I was stranded with no income as demand for sex work dropped,” she says. She is taking the support of the NGO to see if taking a loan to become a full-time entrepreneur and sell garments is possible.
Construction, which is usually portrayed as man’s world, is a sector Rosie (name changed) had decided to enter. Defying all age-old perceptions of the society, she is interested in becoming a retailer selling centering plates used in the construction of buildings. “It is a male-dominated industry, but I want to make it big here,” she averred. Capital investment to get started is the need of the hour and she is expecting that some social investors will come forward to support the initiative once the project takes off in full swing.
Yet another female, who started selling groceries as a local small-time seller, during the pandemic started selling groceries through an online-offline model. Patil said, “Women like her who have the passion to work, but need support to grow. They are all determined to come out of sex work and become job creators.”
Usually, the government and other authorities fund the NGO to support the health care needs of the sex workers. However, Patil added this pilot project would need support to grow and there is no specific fund for rehabilitation.