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A demand for dignified employment

In June 2017, Dr. Vanessa Bouche and five of her TCU students sat on the floor of the medical clinic on GB Road, the heart of Delhi’s red light district. She was leading her third study abroad in Delhi on transnational human trafficking. Like the years prior, women who happened to be at the clinic spoke to the students, answering questions about their lives…until one woman spoke up.

“Why should we talk to you? Why should we tell you anything about our lives? You’re no different than those who exploit us for our bodies, but you exploit us for our stories! You get to go back to your normal lives while we remain stuck here! What’s in it for us?”

Those were true statements and fair questions. Dr. Bouche replied, “You don’t have to tell us anything; however, I genuinely do want to understand what you need so we can best support you. We brought you all kinds of supplies, but if that’s not what you want or need, what is it?”


Dr. Bouche replied with a promise that haunted her for the next six months: “I’m going to help you do that. I’m not sure how, but I’m going to try.”

For several months, there were nights that Dr. Bouche lost sleep over this promise. She was determined not to be another person added to the tally of those who show up, make false promises, and leave never to be seen again. But it wasn’t looking good. After six months of searching for social enterprises in Delhi working to provide jobs to women desperate for an exit from the brothels of GB Road, she came up dry. All of her research and connections led her to the conclusion that no such social enterprise existed within the city limits of Delhi. What now?