What’s in a name? Schools deny education to Banchhada women

Location IconNeemuch district, Madhya Pradesh

“Access to education is doubly difficult for us,” says Megha*, who comes from the Banchhada community of Madhya Pradesh.

A denotified tribe, the Banchhada community follows the caste occupation of sex work. Many girls from the community never attend school and are pushed into sex work as soon as they enter adolescence.

Further, as Megha points out, the working life of a sex worker is short and it is difficult to find work after the age of 26–27. They can’t find jobs in the formal sector. The stigma around sex work and the casteism they face make it almost impossible for them to work in the informal sector as well. Megha says, “Even if they find jobs as domestic workers, they are looked down upon as people from the community of sex workers. They often face abuse from their employers.”

Many women from the community see education as a solution to their problems. They feel it can help them find jobs that the wider society views as dignified. However, convincing family members and the community is a difficult task as, for centuries, young women have been the primary income earners of the Banchhada community. 

There are other problems as well. Despite circulars issued by the government, many schools still make it mandatory to provide father’s name and documentation for admissions. Children from the Banchhada community often don’t know the name of their father. “This creates a vicious cycle for us,” says Megha. “You can’t find jobs outside sex work because you are not educated. And you can’t get educated because of how the system functions.”

*Name changed to maintain confidentiality.

Megha is employed with a nonprofit organisation that works with survivors of sexual violence and forced labour. Debojit Dutta is an editorial associate at IDR. This story is reconstructed from a conversation with Megha.

Know more: Read this story to find out why teenage girls aren’t going to school.


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