“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly.”
― Barbara Haines Howett, Ladies of the Borobudur
Every time a girl child is born in the red-light area of Kamathipura there is a constant fear of being forced into prostitution. What are the odds that young girls would be able to fight off the influence of brothel owners, pimps and strongmen on their own? As the eldest sibling in her family, Kavita had a heavy burden on her shoulders. It fell to her to protect her younger siblings from preying eyes and the toxic environment of the red light area.
Kavita was 9 years old when Apne Aap Women’s Collective (AAWC) discovered her. AAWC works for the rights of women and children living in red light areas and provides a platform of holistic services to ensure a better quality of life for them. Their Udaan programme helps to empower young girls in red light areas (aged 5-18 years) by educating them, providing them medial aid, night shelter, daily nutritional meals and supplements, job skill training and placements and other services.
They enrolled her in their Udaan programme. Thanks to them she finally had the mentoring and academic guidance she had long sought. On successful completion of her 12th standard exams AAWC placed her at a Domino’s outlet. Her hard work paid off when she got promoted to the position of Team Leader. Kavita along with a girl from the Udaan programme got selected by an international luxury hotel as two of the 14 candidates nationwide for a three-year hotel management program. She won the Hans Bueschkens World Junior Chefs Challenge hosted by global food science manufacturer Griffith Laboratories and represented Asia in the semi-final round. Upon completion of the management program, Kavita and the other Udaan alumnus both joined the hotel’s Mumbai location as junior chefs.
Today, Kavita has moved her entire family out of Kamathipura with her new income. If it hadn’t been for AAWC and Kavita’s own determination, her family would have been exposed to unknown dangers and horrors. What’s more, Kavita’s own potential would have gone undiscovered.
"Udaan" is the Hindi word for "flight". AAWC aims to give women and girls in red-light areas a chance to break the shackles of their circumstances. They have helped numerous girls like Kavita spread their wings.
You too can help girls like Kavita live a life of dignity.
Story credit: Apne Aap Woman's Collective