GB Road in Delhi, one of the largest red-light areas in the country, has long faced the humiliation from society for being a home to more than 1000 sex workers. Even setting foot in the area is considered a taboo by the standards of the “civilized” society. But a different story of this area which usually goes unheard, echoed in the voice of a 19 year old whose work changed the scenario altogether.
Arjun Rathod, a regular 19 year old kid, was born in the diseased alleys of GB Road to a sex worker. As a child, his first life lesson was unfortunately witnessing the violent, brutal and unjust attitude of people towards the sex workers and their children. This ignorance and disrepute followed him and eventually coerced him to leave his studies after class 6th. Agonized, Arjun sought for a purpose in his life. And the constant seclusion and discrimination that he and his fellow brothers and sisters faced channelized his agony into an unexpected yet firm determination.
His search for this unrequited solace led him to Kat-Katha, a Delhi based organization which had been working for the upliftment of the sex worker community. They projects focussed majorly on Rights, Integration, Skills and Education of women in that community. Arjun who joined the organization as a volunteer never knew that this was going to be the beginning of a glorious new chapter.
Arjun, who affectionately calls the sex workers as “Didi”, slowly and steadily gained a deeper acquaintance of their problems. He managed to solve the most basic yet the most important of those problems such as getting Adhar and Ration cards issued for them and making them aware of their rights as citizens of a democratic nation. It was during that volunteering experience in Kat-Katha that he came to know about the UfnManifesto campaign. It is a nationwide campaign initiated by CYC-PRAVAH and supported by UNFPA in the year 2014 and run for a period of 3 months in 2015. With the objective of engaging youth participation in the political process and bringing social inclusion and effectively involving government bodies for a change, this campaign ran across 20 states and Union Territories of the country.
The campaign provided the appropriate opportunities to Arjun for his work and helped him move a step forward to become the voice of the scarred women in GB road. He started off with a project called “Chai par charcha” where he was accompanied by other volunteers and young students. They started going to the red light district and discussed various issues like health, cleanliness and government interaction with the sex workers. The plight of these women came to limelight as they shared horrific instances such as inability to get proper medical care during pregnancy, insulting treatment by the police officials and other atrocities. UnManifesto served as a bugle for his voice which even reached the Delhi commission for Women and the Delhi Mahila Ayog.
For his work Arjun has been appointed as the Secretary for the GB Road sex worker community and will be actively informed regarding decisions pertaining to it.
While Working for a cause as imperative as this, Arjun simultaneously harbours a dream to become a professional photographer and has even interned at the National Geographic Channel.
“This experience brought out the leader in me and assured me that my call can be the voice of thousands of women who are dejected and violated on a regular basis by the society.” – Says a confident and resolute Arjun.
Story by : Ashita Rathore
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