As quasi-judicial bodies functioning under India’s Juvenile Justice Act 2015, Child Welfare...
Submitted by jvenkatarangam on 16 March 2018
Born in the countryside of Bangladesh, Megala* was meant to have a quiet life. However, after the death of her father, Megala’s mother moved with her daughters to Mumbai to work in a steel mill. At the steel mill she met the man that became Megala’s stepfather.
Megala’s stepfather was a man who thought only of his personal gain. Megala was not allowed to attend school and instead was beaten regularly by her stepfather. He found a way to make money off of his stepdaughter by attempting to sell her virginity to the highest bidder. One night he dressed Megala in new clothes and they met with a man and another young girl. The men took the girls to a hotel to meet a man and sell them. The man they met with was a decoy customer set up by the police and IJM to interrupt the sale and rescue Megala.
Megala was only 10 years old when she was almost sold into a life of abuse. Though she was spared the trauma of rape, she was still betrayed by the man that was supposed to protect her. She was terrified and unable to return to her family.
Lila Nanda, an IJM casework manager who has supported Megala, remembered, “She was 10 years old, very tiny. It was the first time I saw a girl that small after a rescue.”
Megala was placed in a government shelter home for minor girls. She struggled for months in the home, unable to open up and process her trauma. Lila saw Megala struggling and petitioned the superintendent of the home to transfer her to a private aftercare home.
In the new home Megala started to blossom. She started to build relationships in the home and she opened up to Lila. She attended school and worked hard at her education.
Her new confidence gave her the ability to decide to testify in court against her offenders. The first judge in her case would not allow her to testify because he thought that someone so young wouldn’t be able to testify truthfully. In a sudden turn of events, the judge on her case was replaced and the new judge allowed her to testify. Both accused men were convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
“She didn’t show that she was sad,” Lila remembered. “She was strong, determined and never had any trouble. She always told her mother she will take care of her studies.”
In 2012, Megala continued chasing her dreams for education by graduating high school and moving on to college. She initially hoped to become a teacher, but later expressed a desire to become a social worker like the ones who helped her heal.
On August 28, 2017, Megala finally earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy. She’s the first-ever survivor from IJM Mumbai’s casework, to graduate from a formal university. Soon after, she was admitted for a three-year Master’s of Social Work program. One day she hopes to work for IJM full-time and help other vulnerable girls.
“I want to help other people like me,” Megala said confidently. “Whoever’s in need, I want to help them throughout my life. I graduated in Philosophy, but I also do painting to share social messages. I feel very proud that IJM has helped me come out of the darkness to light. I’m very thankful to them that they have helped me and others also.”
*Name changed to protect identity.