Empower Future Leaders from Mumbai Red-Light Areas

by Kranti
My photo in Newsweek!
My photo in Newsweek!

Dear Kranti Supporters,

It has been a busy two weeks as always!

First of all, I would like to announce that Newsweek magazine chose me as one of the “25 Under 25 Young Women to Watch” last week!! You can see it here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/galleries/2013/03/29/women-in-the-world-25-under-25-young-women-to-watch-photos.html#906f5b4b-0997-4931-a41c-ac1db74fd614

I am very excited to be chosen with so many amazing girls and women doing so many wonderful things for society!!

We have a volunteer, Rohit, who comes every Monday and teaches two hours sessions on Social Justice Issues. Last Monday, we went to watch 2 documentaries. A Pinch of Skin is a short documentary on the practice of Female Genital Mutilation. According to their website it is “a film on betrayal of innocent girls, perpetuated by a deep-seated social more, how medieval cruelty invades modern, educated homes, even today.” We learnt so many things from this movie we didn’t even know such thing happens in India. We knew about female genital mutilation in Africa. But in Rohit bhaiya’s (bhaiya means brother, it is what we call our male teachers and volunteers) session we have also talked about rituals and practices in different religions in India and all over the world.

This Monday, we surprised the staff by giving them story books we wrote and illustrated, a homework assignment from Rohit bhaiya. We enjoyed it, one day we were working until 3 o’clock in the morning! Yeah, our own books, sounds amazing right? I always wanted to write a book and my dream came true with the help of Rohit. He showed us a photo of a young boy and a man and asked us to think what the photo is about and what we think. We shared our ideas and then connected it with social issue that affects us. Later he told us that they were father and son in the photo. He then told us to write a story on that photo and the story should end on the photo.

The most exciting thing I did this week was attend – and present! – at The Goa Project Conference. I was the youngest speaker at the conference. I was really nervous at the time but when I started talking, the nervousness automatically disappeared. I did a workshop with our audience called the ‘sex worker’s life maze’. We asked them to become a rural, marginalized, illiterate 16-year-old girl and gave them situation where they had to make choices. Afterward, I facilitated a discussion where everyone shared their different views and thoughts. I asked them to share why they made the choices they made and how they felt. In those ten minutes they had been through the situations that most sex workers face. After that maze I shared my experiences growing up in the red light area. Everyone liked the workshop. They praised me and Katie (who “assisted” me) for the work Kranti is doing. It was a great experience for me I learnt different things about myself; I asked Katie “where I was mistaken and what should I improve?” she said that I talk so fast and don’t finish the sentence and jump on the other sentence, so I am trying to improve this. But I know that I am very lucky compared to any 18-year-old in the world to have so many speaking offers and opportunities. Since I get to speak on for my community so much, it is very important to me to represent them well.

Since I am taking a gap year right now I do not have exams, but the rest of the Revolutionaries have exams going on and all are studying hard. The youngest Revolutionary had a science fair at her school, the first time she and other students have ever had a chance to show their work to family and friends. Pictures below! After exams end, we will have 10 days of art workshop such as painting, sketching, sculpture, photography because there are three German volunteers here who want to teach us many types of art. Since school will finish this week, starting next week we will be doing only art and extracurricular activities like swimming, dance, guitar, drums, drawing. And of course finally sleeping! :)

I am still working on my passport and I hope to have it next week. But the people who made these laws, it is like they want to prevent poor, undocumented people from having passports. But I will beat the system and I will get my passport one way or another!! I hope all of you are doing well and thank you, as always, for supporting Kranti’s work and helping us achieve our dreams. 

Sincerely, Shweta

Sum
Sum's Science Fair Team
Sum
Sum's Science Fair Project - Natural Dyes
A different type of studying...
A different type of studying...

Links:

Hanging out before the performance
Hanging out before the performance

“I’m so scared, I don’t know what’s gonna happen!!” 12-year-old Sumaiya was near tears as we were getting ready in the bathroom. I hugged her and said, “It’s fine, we are going to be wonderful!” It was Kranti’s first public dance performance on 17 March at an event to raise awareness about child sexual abuse. As the choreographer and coordinator, I was having mixed feelings: excitement and fear. We turned our heads as the door banged open – Robin entered and said “They’ve moved you up, you need to be on stage in 5 minutes!” We grabbed our makeup, Kranti tattoos and extra clothes and sprinted from the bathroom, dodging between rickshaws as we crossed the street.

When we reached the stage, it seemed like EVERYBODY was starting at us. And they were – we had already been announced! Robin got onstage and introduced Kranti. The rest of us were still scared, and I was also a little excited. We all climbed on the stage, nervous and shaking, but then suddenly the music, and excitement ran through my body. As we started dancing, the crowd that had been small 5 minutes ago started growing by dozens! Everyone was cheering for us.…our coordination was a little off, but we were full of energy. Most importantly, our little angel Sumaiya was incredibly good on stage, she left behind all her fear and danced with her heart for her first dance performance in public. The special thing about this dance performance was that we (Revolutionaries) choreographed this dance without any outsider’s help. It was a HUGE success!! There is a link below if you haven’t already watched….why haven’t you watched?? (Like us on Facebook to see all of our videos: http://www.facebook.com/kranti.india)  

The other exciting thing happening at Kranti is that summer vacations are coming and Kranti’s staff have planned so many ways to get rid of us so they can have a staff retreat. The two youngest girls are visiting their village for 2 weeks then going to camps. We older girls are applying to 3 internships in India’s rural areas that will build our leadership abilities while learning about social problems. You can read about them here:

http://www.sambhaavnaa.org/programs

http://www.pravah.org/content/SMILE

I am applying for scholarships for a program called Semester at Sea, where I was accepted for Summer 2013 trip to visit 10 different countries! Also, staff and all of us are working hard to get passports made. Especially my passport, everyone is helping me (even the local politicians!) because I am trying to go on Semester at Sea and study in America next year.

Well this was our story and plans for summer vacations, what about you? Have you planned your summer vacations if not then get started soon! Also, a Happy Holi in advance, look out for photos in our next report!

Sincerely,

Shweta

P.S. Robin just told me that summer vacation does not start in America until May or June. Ours starts in early April and we go back to school in June. So I hope you are planning your spring breaks then instead!    

Before we were nervous!
Before we were nervous!
Staff making a living selling our handmade cards!
Staff making a living selling our handmade cards!
Robin introducing Kranti
Robin introducing Kranti

Links:

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:

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Organization Information

Kranti

Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra - India
Website: http:/​/​www.kranti-india.org
Project Leader:
Robin Chaurasiya
Mumbai, Maharashtra India