In the C&A Foundation series Life After Forced Labour, photographer Ryan Lobo meets women who have rebuilt their lives after working under a particular form of forced labour called Sumangali. They have graciously shared their personal stories of love, struggle and hope for the future with us.
Fifteen-year-old Jancyrani lives with her father in the Indian village of Thavasimadai. She attends the Sanarpatty State High School, but getting there was a long, hard struggle.
'My father didn't want me to go to school,' recalls Jancy. 'He wanted me to work in the mills. He is an alcoholic and he beats me. He threatened to throw me out of his house if I disobeyed him.'
When Jancy's friends heard about this, one of them decided to call a local NGO, called 5s, for help. That same evening 5s met Jancy and took her in. They offered shelter and protection, and they helped Jancy confront her father.
But Jancy's father remained obstinate. He insisted that she go to work at the mills. This was the only way she could be of use. He could not afford to send her to school and he had no wife to help him.
“When they rescued me, I had no hope. I would borrow things like soap and oil from a neighbour and just try to stay out my father’s way. Today 5s pays for my school and for all my basic needs. I just want to stay in school.”Jancyrani (15)
Jancy's father finally conceded, but there was one condition. 'My father agreed to let me go to school on the condition that he would not have to pay a cent for any of my expenses. 5s looks after that now,' explains Jancy. 'Whenever my father assaults me or tries to force me to join the mills, they step in and give me refuge. But I am determined. I will go to school.'
With the support of her neighbours, friends and 5s, Jancy is now in the 10th grade and living at the school with the other children. Her father still wants her to work in the mills, but she knows that by getting her education she might just be able to avoid that fate.
At C&A Foundation, we are committed to working together with partners like Freedom Fund and 5s to eradicate and prevent forced labour. We work to ensure that girls like Jancy have a chance to go to school and escape the fate of so many others who are forced to work in Sumangali.
Photography by Ryan Lobo