Chandralekha hails from a place where the birth of a girl is celebrated, but for all wrong reasons. In older times, girls in her village Nat Purwa (near Lucknow), were raised to be prostitutes and often, both the father and brothers fulfilled the role of pimps. Caught in this age-old tradition, Chandralekha was only 15 when she was forced into this gruesome trade by none other than her mother and grandmother. Every day was a struggle and her agony continued for 20 long years. One day, she reached breaking point after a horrendous incident in which a drunken man sexually abused her at gunpoint. She decided to quit there and then and to find another way of life, no matter how difficult. Today, a mother of four, she is a well-respected primary school teacher and works hard to put an end to this age-old ‘tradition’ within her community. However, convincing parents to send their girls to school and avoid the sex trade, has not been easy. She has faced serious opposition in doing so and has been the victim of abuse, threats and even assaults for her revolutionary approach. This does not stop Chandralekha and the fight continues. Her amazing actions so far have enabled hundreds of women to have a choice in life, with the opportunity for a better future free from prostitution.
Her decision to break the tradition was deep-rooted in her concern to ensure a safe future for her own daughter and other young girls so that they didn’t follow the same path as her own. Her big moment of change came when Asha, a non-profit organization, started a school in her village. Educated only till eighth standard, Chandralekha applied for the post of a primary school teacher and got the job. Armed with her newfound confidence, she started organising self-help groups for women in her community. Today, more than 200 women share her vision and are gainfully employed in alternate professions. QUOTE: “My past still gives me shivers. I’m glad that I could provide a ray of hope to the girls in my village. I feel relieved that they will not have to go through the trauma that I faced. Nothing makes her happier than seeing girls going to school, taking up alternate professions and eventually leading a normal married life. My journey has made me stronger and I’ll continue my fight for these girls.”