Sometimes it's not about the good or bad choices that we make, but it is about the unavoidable option which is left to survive in this world. Sex-work is one such option which gets left for thousands of people, and mostly women. Indian society sees brothels of sex-workers as a gloomy part that degrades the status of societies. And for years, the sex-workers and brothels have been stigmatized in India as some sort of fantasy land where people can satisfy their physical needs in a society where sex is considered a taboo. It may be some kind of pastime and fun for some people, but for women who work there with smiling faces, this bright place works as a slope of hell. Most of the women accept it as their faith and do their job as a sex-worker. But some of them resist and demand dignity and rights, and one such personality is Jayamma Bandari.

Jayamma Bandari manages Chaithanya Mahila Mandali in Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. Her NGO demands dignity and civic rights for sex-workers. In an orthodox Indian society, it takes a raging fire of courage and determination, and these are the two qualities that perfectly define Jayamma Bandari. She wears a faded cotton sari, old sandals, and she speaks with a soft voice. However, this social activist has a raging fire within her. And no would guess that she has been through hell in her past.

The story of Jayamma surviving and fighting through hell began in the year 1998. It was that year that Jayamma, a young mother with her baby girl, came to Hyderabad along with her husband from Nalgonda, a district sixty miles away from Hyderabad. Jayamma had been orphaned at the age of three and was brought up by her relatives, including an uncle who mistreated her. Jayamma fell in love at the age of 19. And in 1998, she got married without her family's approval. It was all good, and the couple even had a baby girl. In Hyderabad, she dreamed of a happy and secure life. However, her dreams shattered after a year when she was forced into sex-work by none other than her alcoholic husband. Jayamma was shocked and she had a harrowing time. She spent days crying and screaming aloud and not taking food. But ultimately after losing all the hopes, she did that work for a while. After seeing her life turning into a nightmare, Jayamma tried suicide, but she stayed after thinking about her child.

While Jayamma was doing her job, she somehow met Jaya Singh Thomas, a noted social activist with over two decades of experience. Jaya Singh Thomas helped Jayamma to get out of that place and do something for herself. Jaya encouraged her and helped her found CMM. 

In 2001, Jayamma changed her way and embarked on a new journey of life as a social activist. Now she aims to fight for the rights of the most stigmatized section of our society, the sex workers. Today, Jayamma Bandari has not only created a respectful place for herself with dignity but has also helped put the issues of sex workers in the eyes of law and government.

Jayamma Bandari guided a team of social workers that worked for the welfare of around 25,000 sex workers in Hyderabad city in the initial 10 years. Many of the team members were formal sex workers, and thus, there was an added benefit as they had easier access to others. Under their project, sex workers received information on HIV/ AIDS and other Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs).

Today, the other important area where the CMM works is helping the sex workers get valid documents such as Voting IDs, permanent bank accounts, aadhar card, etc. The documents will help them access government schemes and other civic facilities, and it can provide them the important social and economic security that they mostly lack. Currently, Jayamma has an impact on 4428 women, of which 1000 are engaging in alternative livelihoods. Now CMM reaches out to around 3,332 government school students where a majority of sex workers live. Jayamm's prevention house currently has around 43 children of sex workers.

Jayamma Bandari not only utilized the opportunity she got to pull herself out of the situation she was in but moreover she has been extending others the same opportunity. With Jayamma's support, women who were earlier nameless sex workers, are now playing major leadership in various fields. Jayamma has been an inspiration and a guide for a lot of sex workers. She has rescued and helped numerous women return home, helped them find an alternative livelihood, and sheltered and educated many sex workers' children. She has also prevented several young women and girls from entering into sex work, thus curving a life of freedom and dignity for them.

Ms. Jayamma Bandari, President of CMM has been honored with the Highest Civilian Honor for Woman "Nari Shakti Puraskar Award 2017" chosen by the Ministry of Woman and Child Development, Government of India

Jayamma has been recognized for her work and she had received several awards including the prestigious Naveena Mahila Contest Award, Nari Shakti Award, and the Mother Teresa Shiromani National Award. Jayamma also sits on some high-level forums and committees including the National Sex Workers Forum, New Delhi Advisory Board, and Andhra Pradesh State Legislative Forum. But, if anyone asks her about her greatest achievement in her larger than life journey, she replies, “Thousands of women today call me ‘amma’ (mother). It reflects their love and trust in me. This is the greatest honor for me”. Jayamma is a great combination of courage and determination, she teaches us to escape from the problems of life and then help others to do the same.