Mumbai: Forced into prostitution at the age of 10, Ayesha is fighting back. Not just that she is also helping others like her find life away from the brothels of the city.
Ayesha was rescued by a man from a dance bar who later became her husband. Today, she is reaching out to other sex workers, helping them become a part of mainstream society.
"Ayesha Didi has been a great support to us. We take our problems to her and she helps us with it. She is now getting us our PAN cards," said a sex worker.
Not just sex workers, Ayesha is helping their families lead a normal life too.
"My daughter was of marriageable age but we had no money. I wanted to commit suicide. Ayesha helped me. Today My daughter is happy and is about to have a baby," said another sex worker.
Ayesha is the president of the Kranti Mahila Sanstha which works for the Astha parivar, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. From providing medical facilities to HIV-affected sex workers and conducting health camps, condom distribution, insurance, and promoting self-help group membership, Ayesha is a messiah and a saviour for many.
"There was a sex worker whose husband died. She was thrown away from her rented house immediately with her stuff and the husband's dead body was lying in the hospital. I got people together collected money and helped her," said Ayesha.
In a city rife with sex trafficking, where an alarming number of sex workers are infected with HIV, people like Ayesha are helping to keep the disease from exploding.
Ayesha said, "No sex worker should have HIV or no STD that is my dream."
The dark and grimy days of Mumbai's brothels and dance bars are over for Ayesha who is making a fresh start. She now plans to contest for the upcoming BMC elections so that voices like hers are not lost.