Prerana ATC | Fight Trafficking

Prerana Intern Diaries: 'We were able to unlearn our biases and prejudices while working as social workers'

Aanchal Upadhyay and Vedika Bhosale

Aanchal Upadhyay and Vedika Bhosale

Interns with Prerana

Aanchal Upadhyay and Vedika Bhosale are students of MA Social Work with specialization in Community Organization and Development Practices and Livelihoods and Social Entrepreneurship respectively, from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. They interned with Prerana between February and May 2022.

Filled with curiosity and a thirst for learning about the various projects at Prerana, we, the two first-year social work students from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, approached the organization. Acknowledging our inquisitiveness, the team at Prerana warmly welcomed us on board.

On our first day at Prerana, we were given an orientation on the Child Protection Policy followed by the organization. The Child Protection Policy of Prerana is a very elaborate aspect as it not only covers the employees and the interns but also extends to the donors and various other stakeholders of Prerana’s work. We also learned about the conscious use of terms which were enlightened by Ms. Geetarani. Choosing to use the term ‘Women in Sex Trade’ over the western-influenced term ‘Sex worker’ makes a difference. Keeping ‘Women’ first and then her context is a deep thought in choosing the terminology. In our country, women are not in the sex trade by choice, they are there in those lanes of Red Light Areas because they were exploited by their trusted ones or strangers. We also learned other terms like ‘children in street situations.’ Here we keep children first and street later, as the rights of the children are non-negotiable irrespective of their contexts. We also came across an article in which using the term Victim was important over the term Survivor to highlight the suffering she/he was subjected to. Survivor term often tends to mislead that victimhood and its negative implications are over. Sometimes justice is served but a battle that the victim fights mentally stays longer than anyone knows.

While on the field, we found the window to explore different aspects of social work and connect the theory that was taught to us at TISS. As interns, a certain number of responsibilities were delegated to us by our supervisors at Prerana which gave us an experience of two different projects the organization has been working on. Responsibilities ranged from conducting and documenting Social Investigation visits, assisting in other legal and administrative procedures, preparing and submitting accounts, etc. During any visit that we were a part of, realizing the sensitivity of the case, our supervisors had faith in us and wanted us to get involved with the entire procedure. Our suggestions and questions were acknowledged at all times, especially on the field, and that gave us quite a comfortable space to keep clearing our doubts and be more thorough with the whole process. To put our skills to the test, there were follow-up visits and tasks that we did independently over a period of time, which were initially done with our supervisors.

Learnings from Udaan Project:

Prerana runs projects on various counts serving a similar goal of child protection. There are different projects and interventions across Prerana. Even though the main motto remains somewhat similar, every project is different and the cases that they deal with vary further. Here, we closely observed the use of the Principle of Individualization. Under Post Rescue Operations Project, every case that we got was different from the others. Every victim’s story was unique, the laws applied also differed. The same was the case with Project UDAAN. As the objective of Project UDAAN is to help children who have lost one or both of their parents in the COVID Pandemic, all cases can seem similar. However, that is not the situation. According to the principle of Individualization, every client is unique to the worker, so as was every child we worked with.  We were explained that every client is not just an individual but the individual. In Prerana, this was discussed with us at length, that we need to view every case with its uniqueness and be open to changes and divergent realities. The great part about the work culture here is that the work is divided according to the strength of each individual. The division of work is based on the skills and abilities that would be required in the respective task or project assigned.

Learnings from Post Rescue Operations (PRO) project:

Through the journey, we learned that effective communication is the heart and soul of social work practice. While we did home visits to our clients, we understood the importance of observing minute details. In one of our PRO visits, we observed that the girl and her family described their current situation as all good. But their non-verbal actions were different from their verbal expressions. Avoiding eye contact, and behaving differently were some of the non-verbal actions observed in the client and the family. After consistent communication and observations, the client was given the time and privacy to express herself freely only in the presence of a social worker. In this comfort, the child disclosed new layers of the case. In this disclosure, the client was assured the social worker would be there to support her in all her decisions. This verbal assurance gave a soothing comfort to the child.

While engaging in cases, we beheld an ethical principle of social work, the principle of self-determination that recognizes the rights and needs of clients to be free to make their own choices and decisions. Respecting the client’s perspective and viewing through their lens is essential. Though the law is against commercial sexual exploitation, we need to see through the view of women in the sex trade and understand why they still continue to be in it. This helps social workers to explore the case through their perspective to serve justice in a better way. The principle also highlights how important it is for the social worker to understand their own strengths, weaknesses, biases, and perceptions to precipitate them whenever required while doing case management.  

Prerana abides by the Principle of Confidentiality while working on all cases. We learnt that we have to be very conscious about the information that we let out to stakeholders on that account. While writing reports with a possible external viewing audience, we change names and specific details integral to the case in order to protect the identity of the client. In many cases, we need to be mindful about whom we discuss the case with and what repercussions that may have.

Overall learning from our experience:

We came here with our biases and prejudices. We are taking with us the art of detaching from our biases while entering into any person’s life as a social worker. It took a reasonable amount of time to learn this. We were maintaining a non-judgmental approach, swiping aside our perceptions and ideologies, which were sometimes in the fore or against our beneficiary’s story. Being a student social worker at Prerana is an intense but fun role.

As interns, we encountered certain ups and downs along our journey that helped us grow. The challenges we faced during our fieldwork helped us grow as an individual. Prerana works at the grassroots of problems; therefore, home visits and follow-up visits are a fundamental part of our task. It was a bit challenging when there were a few visits that had to be done on the same day at different locations. By doing this quite sometimes now we feel competent enough to travel and can extend ourselves in that direction. Not knowing the language and interacting with people with different socio-cultural backgrounds can be complicated but very intriguing. While interacting with different people, one learns a lot about society, which also helps gain knowledge. We were assigned challenging tasks but also ensured that we safely sailed through them.

One can never feel left alone here. We learned here that every small task has immense importance, and achieving the main goal is a process built upon these small tasks done together as a team. Prerana is working towards bringing a difference in society by trying to reform the lives of the children and striving to give them a better future by involving them in the process. We also learnt how to imbibe the principle of participation through these processes. Learning theories and principles is one thing and applying them to work is another. The dynamic work and environment in Prerana made us use all of our learnings judiciously and we aspire to use this experience further in our work.

To all the women we met in those darkest lanes of Falkland Road’s Red-Light area, their little ones, the young little girls who battled, are battling, or lost the battle. These lines are for you all. 

Roshni Ki Talaash Mei, Mai Andhere Galliyon Se Guzri Hu,

Aaj Jo Mai Khadi Hu, Isse Pehle Hazaar Baar Giri Hu… 

Today, after three months of hearing stories of the children who have been commercially and sexually exploited, and the women in the sex trade we are grateful to get the opportunity to directly or indirectly, not always but often, be a part of justice being served.

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