LEADING A ‘KRANTI‘ FROM KAMATIPURA TO ‘LIFE’
Titled as one of Newsweek’s “25 Under 25 Women to Watch” and honoured with ‘Youth Courage Award’ by UN, 19-year-old Shweta Katti is pursuing a course in psychology at NYC. 19-year-old Kavita Hosmani is attending ‘Semester at Sea’ on a scholarship. The endless list of achievements of these 18 girls including Shweta and Kavita is miraculous.
As daughters of sex workers, they spent years in brothels, trafficked, abused, exploited….growing up carelessly in shabby and dark environments of Kamatipura, Mumbai. But, perhaps something far beyond this, defined their identities, their personalities and existence as citizens of this country.
Their journey from the congested streets of Kamatipura to space as wide and refreshing as their thoughts and aspirations were not an easy-going until they met their ‘ANGEL’ Robin Chaurasiya.
“While working with an NGO, I landed in Kamatipura red light area in Mumbai and met these girls there. Interventions that engaged them in indifferent jobs like silai, papad, achaar made them even more impassive. They needed a space where their unique potentials could get wings”, says Robin.
Born and brought up in the US, and part of US Air Force, life has never been as rosy for Robin, as one imagines it to be. Herself being a victim of domestic violence, discrimination and abuse, she fought back, grew up against it, and fulfilled her desire to serve for the society. Before joining the US Air Force, she started volunteering in NGOs as early in her teens. She travelled across the world with such NGOs exposing herself to pathetic circumstances of different communities.
One such project with an NGO that concerned with the rehabilitation of girls from brothels, brought her to India. Kamatipura, being a hub of brothels, hence became their area of concern. Although NGOs had already provided them with alternate employment opportunities like stitching, papad and achaar making, those could not make a significant difference in the lives of the traumatised, physically and psychologically disturbed girls. Talking over this with fellow volunteers at the NGO, Robin realized that ‘education’ could be the channel towards a ‘happy’ future for these girls. Numerous efforts of integrating them in formal schools and other NGOs were made, none turning fruitful.
“To tackle situations and move ahead in life, psychological and emotional happiness was what these girls primarily needed, which our formal education system, unfortunately, could not provide them”, mentions Robin. In 2011, a small apartment in Santa Cruz gave those girls space, big enough to let them fulfil their dreams; a small team of volunteers and therapists, led by Robin, gave them support, strong enough to help them develop their potentials and follow their passion. A ‘KRANTI‘ had begun. Since then, for people at KRANTI, a week begins with a ‘Music Monday’ and goes on till a ‘Field trip Friday’. Their days begin with meditation and yoga and go on with journal writing, logic puzzle solving, group discussions, community work, theatre, games, therapies and so on.
“We intend to inculcate some important skills like thinking and problem solving, communication skills, community organisation and empowerment and compassion in them and this is how we do it through therapies, workshops, field trips and various fun-filled activities. Creating a joyful and energetic space for them, we ultimately aim to make them psychologically and emotionally empowered to fight back and become agents of social change”, explains Robin, the founder of KRANTI and a nominee of Global Teacher Prize Award, 2015.
In the past five years, these 18 girls from the red light area of Mumbai have traversed across the world as public speakers, theatre artists, workshop facilitators and messengers of social transformation. Eyes filled with dreams and hearts filled with passion, their aspirations are as high as being social entrepreneurs, rights activists, therapists and artists. They are not victims, but fighters. They are not weakened, instead of strengthened by their life experiences. They are leaders of tomorrow. They are Changemakers.
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