Empower Future Leaders from Mumbai Red-Light Areas

 
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Sheetal Speaks to the Crowd at One Billion Rising
Sheetal Speaks to the Crowd at One Billion Rising

How did you spend your Valentine’s Day? Do you want know how we spent ours? We spent it cheering on our revolutionary Sheetal who became the star of the day as she spoke at the One Billion Rising event in Mumbai!

For more about the One Billion Rising campaign, click here:http://www.onebillionrising.org/pages/about-one-billion-rising.  

Sheetal shares her feelings and experience : “When Robin asked all of us about speaking at One Billion Rising I thought for a minute and then said that I want to talk about my mother and the violence she has faced. Robin said, ‘Okay, that’s great, write down what you are going to talk about.’ She was happy because I volunteered without any coaxing and this was the first time that I was going to talk in front of so many people. When I saw the crowd I became afraid because I was thinking about what people would say when they came to know that my mother is a sex worker and that I am going to talk about the struggles she faces. Would they listen to me? My body was shaking when they announced my name. I thought I’d be blank but when I started I felt encouraged. In the middle I started crying because I was missing my mother, but I was surprised by crowd who were shouting and encouraging me. I felt really happy. There are people who want to hear about my mother and the thousands of mothers like my mother. I gave this speech because I wanted to talk about sex workers. I wanted people to know about problems sex workers are facing and dealing with every minute of their lives. It was an exciting and very important experience. I am glad that I finally spoke about what I had wanted to for ages.” 

Watch Sheetal Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppbCCu16Fho 

Everyone here at Kranti was really happy for Sheetal. She went ahead and did what she wanted to do without being stopped by obstacles. Now it is your turn! If you have anything to do or say then just do it—now! Don’t wait until the last moment.

Last week I attended two conferences which were about how technology can help NGOs. The first conference was Connect IT: Social Media and Cloud organized by the NASSCOM Foundation and the second was Tech Camp, Mumbai, where we got the opportunity to partner with the Blue Ribbon Movement and connect to many people. It was all surprising for me because I never thought of technology helping NGOs in so many ways. I attended these conferences with Kranti’s staff.

Nowadays we Krantikaris (Revolutionaries) are attending Akanksha’s Service Learning Program sessions as part of Kranti's new partnership with Akanksha SLP (see link below for more information).  We Krantikaris and Akanksha’s change makers went to Borivali National Park to learn more about the environment. I wasn’t with them when they visited the park but I was there when they were discussing issues and the things they saw. I was sad and jealous that they learnt so many things that I missed. Now I am not missing any sessions and will tell you that these are the most interesting classes; we talk, we share, we discuss, and we learn new ideas. 

Sheetal Feels Nervous as She is Announced to Speak
Sheetal Feels Nervous as She is Announced to Speak
Mumbai Rises for Women
Mumbai Rises for Women
Women at the One Billion Rising Event, Mumbai
Women at the One Billion Rising Event, Mumbai
3 Revolutionaries on the Train Before OBR Event
3 Revolutionaries on the Train Before OBR Event
Me, Shweta
Me, Shweta

Links:

Me-Shweta
Me-Shweta

I am Shweta Katti. I am one Kranti's revolutionaries and have been here since Oct 2011. For the next 2 months, I'll be sending you updates about Kranti. I am taking a gap year and studying for my TOEFL so I can study abroad. I have also started to apply to universities, including America and NYU. I was admitted in the Semester at Sea program but wasn't able to go because my passport was not ready. Hopefully I'll go to the next voyage in June. During the past eight months I have travelled around India and Nepal volunteering in different organizations. It has been exciting and valuable months.

Happy Valentine's Day..

Valentine's Day is a day for love. This is the day when everyone shares their feelings, spends their time with the ones they love. But some people don't have the right to celebrate this day. I realized this at the pride march.

On Saturday two weeks ago, we all went to Queer pride in Mumbai. This is the third pride I have attended. Before Kranti I didn't know about different genders or about gay, lesbians and trans genders, but when I was exposed to these issues I became an ally of LGBT rights. At the first pride in Bangalore It was totally strange for me. I had never seen so many queer people together. It was different experience for me. I was in the pride but I was not there not with queer people; I wasn't enjoying it I was just thinking. But now it's not strange for me at all, I really enjoyed pride and dancing with queer people. I want to be an ally because I know how discrimination feels like. I too have experienced discrimination because of my dark skin, growing up in red light area, being lower caste, and language discrimination. Many people think if somebody can't speak English that means that person isn't smart enough. I have also faced discrimination due to lack of proper documentation - I don't have a birth certificate, therefore I couldn't get my passport and wasn't able to take TOEFL exams, which prevented me from applying to universities. That's why I believe that everybody should have equal rights, and it has been great to learn about and stand for queer rights!

That's it for now; my goal is to send a report every week. Thank you all for supporting Kranti!

You’ll be hearing from me soon.

Pride banner
Pride banner
Let the REVOLUTION begin
Let the REVOLUTION begin
Photo from pride
Photo from pride
what
what's on this sign I've been carrying around?!?!?
Kranti @pride
Kranti @pride
Sheetal @pride
Sheetal @pride
Kranti and the Ladakhi Women
Kranti and the Ladakhi Women's Travel Company

We took advantage of the Diwali Holiday by taking a 3 week trip to Kashmir and Ladakh. For a month prior to the trip, we focused on lessons of the Kashmir conflict, including film discussions, the history of pre and post-Partitioned India, and Kashmiri culture. During the trip, the girls wrote journals and we had frequent discussions about what they learned along the way. After a few days in Srinagar, we traversed the mountains in a van for 20 hours in order to reach Leh, Ladakh. From there, we took a four day trek through the mountains with the female run and led Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company (http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2011/nov/04/trek-himalayas-ladakh-india-female ).  We then spent 4 days at SECMOL (Students' Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh), a self-sustainable campus, where the Revolutionaries participated in daily chores, English classes, and also presented some gender & sexuality and sex ed workshops to the SECMOL students. The Revolutionaries are preparing a multi-media project that will include pictures and narrations of their experiences from the trip and the lessons learned in Kashmir. The theme for our project was ‘Journeys’, and the girls’ individual journeys were transformative, as was the overall Kranti journey!

During the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, four of our girls went on a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat for teens. They practiced meditation, mindfulness, and staying silent (well, almost silent) for 10 days! Most of the girls are continuing what they learned during the retreat and making time for daily meditation, which has really helped with mental and emotional health. Additionally, Kranti has started doing ten minutes of group meditation every night before bed.

This past month, Kranti’s Revolutionaries have had an opportunity to speak at a few conferences. Shweta represented Kranti at the Urban Poverty Workshop in Mumbai and again at the ACM DEV 2013 conference in Bangalore.  This month, the girls will be presenting at another conference in Mumbai as well as a class an alternative education course at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).  We are fortunate to have so many speaking opportunities for the Revolutionaries and continue to seek ways to make them visible as leaders.

Lunch on a mountain top
Lunch on a mountain top
Breakfast on a House Boat (Srinagar)
Breakfast on a House Boat (Srinagar)
Gliding across Dal Lake (Srinagar)
Gliding across Dal Lake (Srinagar)
Gender and Sexuality Workshop with SECMOL students
Gender and Sexuality Workshop with SECMOL students

Links:

Aparna Teaching Sex Ed
Aparna Teaching Sex Ed

June 2012: Kranti’s SJE Goes Global

In June, our local social justice education went global!  One of the Revolutionaries, Aparna, taught a series of sex education workshops for teenage girls at Project Crayons (http://www.projectcrayonsindia.org/).

And we are happy to announce that her sex education class was not only shared with the youth of Project Crayons but also made international news! Via the NY Times and NDTV, Aparna was able to educate and inform the world about her ideas of safe sex, clear up misconceptions about pregnancy and menstruation, and discuss the hardships sex workers face when getting medical treatment. Please follow the link to read the article and watch Aparna's honest and candid lesson about sex education. http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/06/meet-aparna-mumbais-teenage-sex-educator/

Summer vacation wrapped up as the Revolutionaries spent a week at a Rural Excursion Camp in Maharashtra. The girls spent time trekking, enjoying the forest, climbing trees, making new friends, and learning different skills, including rifle shooting!

Most of the Revolutionaries began a new school year in mid-June. We now have girls in 5th, 7th, 8th, and 12th English standards as well as 9th and 10th Hindi standards. The first few weeks of school were a dizzying exercise in organizing schedules for school, classes, tuition, and extra-curricular activities as each girl has a different daily schedule. Now, however, we have settled into a busy—yet consistent—routine, which includes the help of many volunteer tutors and at least one guest speaker per weekend.

 

July and August 2012: Revolutionaries Travel and Volunteer

Two of our Revolutionaries have a break from the demands of school and decided to spend some time volunteering and traveling. In her two months break between 10th and 11th standards, Laxmi chose to travel to Nepal to volunteer at a rural school, Maya Universe Academy, teaching Art and English to children. Here is the school’s website: http://www.mayauniverseacademy.org/.

Shweta, who passed her 12th board exams last spring and is currently taking a gap year, also traveled to Nepal, where she taught English to monks in a Buddhist monastery and sex ed to Nepali girls. Both Laxmi and Shweta returned return home in early August,; Laxmi started 11th standard in arts, and Shweta took a few days to study for the TOEFL exam before departing for Jharkhand, where she volunteering with the Gender Resource Center in the city of Ranchi for the remainder of the month.

For the rest of the Revolutionaries, the month of July was one of school, homework, and continued learning. Four of the Revolutionaries still make weekly trips to Project Crayons in order to teach on Sundays—in addition to Aparna’s sex ed classes, they have also been presenting classes on leadership and self-esteem.  We had a volunteer named Surhabi from Stanford University in California who worked  with the girls and helped them plan their weekly lessons for the girls at Project Crayons.

Morning Exercise at Rural Camp in Maharashtra
Morning Exercise at Rural Camp in Maharashtra
Shweta Teaching Classes to Nepali Girls
Shweta Teaching Classes to Nepali Girls
Laxmi Teaching Art to Children in Rural Nepal
Laxmi Teaching Art to Children in Rural Nepal
First Days of School
First Days of School

Links:

Jet skiing during one of Kranti
Jet skiing during one of Kranti's field trips

Early April was all about exams and then on the final day of completion the Revolutionaries cheered with joy and welcomed their awaited summer break!

Summer break in the Kranti house boiled down to three words: Educational Boot Camp!

April was the start of Kranti Summer Boot Camp, where every day included an educational workshop, guest speaker/teacher and a field trip. The Revolutionaries’ kicked off the month by attending an exhibit by Dharavi kids. The Kranti girls stayed within the realm of self-expression and created artwork of their own. Our walls were decked out with Revolutionary art, stories and poems!

The boot camp has been jammed packed with one exhilarating event after another, from puppet making to film debating. The Revolutionaries used their mental and physical strength while rock climbing and strategizing their way up a 43ft. wall! The girls have attended over 15 plays, films and workshops within the last month. On top of all the educational and fun- filled workshops they also attended various summer camps; ranging from survival skills in the Maharashtra forest to film making in the jungle of Chennai. One of the most exciting events of all was a trip to one of Mumbai’s islands where the Revolutionaries got to cool off and participate in water sports. They each got to ride a jet ski, learn how to kayak, and survive the twists and turns of a giant banana boat!

On the home-front, Kranti welcomed a new Revolutionary to our home and family! Sheetal is 17 years old and she has come at the most exciting time. With boot camp on the agenda and her firecracker personality she has settled right in with our other Revolutionaries!

Self defense training at home
Self defense training at home

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Organization

Kranti

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
http://www.kranti-india.org

Project Leader

Robin Chaurasiya

Mumbai, Maharashtra India

Where is this project located?