Meghan Tschanz

love shines on

Because She Matters.

I wrote this two years ago today in a red-light district in India. This story shaped me, molded me, formed me and has led me where I am today. She is the reason I write and she is the reason I will never stop advocating for justice.


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Anala has big brown doe eyes, eyes that wander around the room captivated by the smallest details. Eyes that entrance you, but when you look into those eyes it feels like she is somewhere else, lost in that mind of hers. It’s kind of like she is playing hide and seek with the world, only emerging when she feels safe.

She’s small for the age of five, barely tipping the scales at 20 pounds. Anala is dressed in a tattered baggy t-shirt that hangs over her underwear. Her hair is cropped short, probably due to a recent lice infestation and she has smears of dirt on her arms and legs. And today, February 5, 2013, she walked into the room, straight into my arms, and in so doing stole my heart.

They say she is mute, though she makes up for it with her hand gestures and facial expressions. She struts around on her tip-toes looking around the room to see who notices her, something  she probably learned from growing up in the red-light district. She has moments of incredible tenderness where she nestles herself into your arms and looks up into your eyes with a smile and then, suddenly, moments of incredible violence where she hits, elbows and throws punches, her little face contorted with hatred.

Though I can hardly blame her. Her story is one that digs its way into the depths of my soul.

 

Anala was born in a red light district in India, no one really knows her mother’s story but it probably goes something like this- her mother was most likely kidnapped from Nepal around the age of 13 and sold into prostitution for probably around $70. After that her mother stood at the edge of a run-down alley all day, wearing thick lipstick, heavy eyeliner and bright eyeshadow, waiting for a man to come to bed with her. When she was approached by a man, she was his for only $2.

Two dollars to do whatever he wanted to her. Two dollars for her body and her dignity, half of which goes to the pimp who owns her. When he finishes with her he casually leaves, going on with his life as if she was nothing more than an object. She did this probably 10-15 times a day just like the millions of girls like her in India.

Somewhere along the way she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a bright-eyed girl and names her Anala (fiery), whom she loves for six months, until she is sold to another pimp. Anala now becomes the property of the pimp; a man who, for a living, sells women as if they were objects.

Without a mother Anala wandered around the district during the day, until one day she found the Manna House of Prayer. The place has been transformed from a brothel to a daycare and prayer center, women drop off their children before they go to sell their bodies and some of the mothers stay and chat and brush our hair and laugh with us.

 

The one room building is about the size of two door garage that was separated into 8 different segments separated by curtains, where, in its former days, men would have their way with the women they had purchased for the hour. While their mothers entertained their clients the children would crawl around the floor under the bed. Now it is where true love, selfless love is given.

The house of prayer is run by a small group of dedicated believers and is an off-shoot of YWAM. There we work with a former sex worker, who was kidnapped and sold into prostitution as a young girl. She is rail thin and dying of HIV and tuberculosis but finds joy in her Jesus. And today she looks across the room at me as Anala crawls into my lap.

She falls asleep in my arms and as she breathes softly into my shoulder I wonder if this is the first time she has ever fallen asleep in someone’s arms. I wonder If this is the first time she has been held in a loving way.

And, suddenly, something in my chest relaxes, when I am holding her it feels like everything might turn out all right. I can feel God dancing all around me and I can feel a fiery hope in my chest for redemption. My soul sings a silent hallelujah to a day well lived.

 

If only my day had ended there.

When it comes time for us to leave, I lay Anala on a bench and walk outside into the muggy, cigarette filled air. I squeeze my way between the women of the street and their clients. I force a smile and give a hug to woman who had brushed my hair earlier that day. She is leading a heavy-set man down the alley way.

And as much as I try to spin it, there is no good ending tonight.

All I can think about is what will happen to Anala tonight, what she will see, what she will hear, what will be done to her. And my sight turns red.

This is the life Anala has to look forward to if something doesn’t change. I ask Abhay (our contact and the man in charge of the House of Prayer) if we can just kidnap Anala and give her a hope for the future. He says that the pimps are violent and will kill over their property. I ask if we can call the police and he says they are corrupt and will be bought off by the mafia. I ask what can we do.

He says pray.

Pray. And love, that is all I can do for now. I think I finally understand the words of Mother Teresa, “we can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

And that has to be enough- for now. But there is a fire is my heart, and it won’t be quenched until I see justice.

This race has lit a fire in my heart for women. To see justice and love brought to the child, the prostitute and the beggar. It’s a path that, God willing, will put me through law school so I can fight for children like Anala, because she matters.


Note: Anala is not the girl’s real name. It has been changed for her protection.

About Meghan Tschanz

I believe in love, empowerment. and adventure. The kind of love that believes in the face of adversity, the empowerment that allows people to step into their destiny, and the kind of adventure that leaves your heart pounding in your chest. I write because I want to remind us all that there is so much more to life.

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2 Replies

  1. Kristin Bennett

    Dear, with all due respect, if you’ve changed the name for her protection, why are you posting a picture of her face? Surely having her face posted with her story also puts her in danger?

    1. To be honest, I’m not sure. These were the instructions given by our contact there.

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