“I like learning from the outreach didi in the centre. I am able to grasp much better and faster when I come to learn at the centre.”
– Umeed Beneficiary when asked about visiting the AAWC centre for our adult literacy program.
Sitting in an ordinary synthetic saree and a bright smile, Sushila* talks about how “interesting and fun” adult literacy classes have been for her. Constantly in awe of our field director- the point of connection between AAWC and our beneficiaries, Sushila* makes it a point to clarify how she enjoys visiting the center over the outreach team visiting her at her home. She points to the change in scenario and the satisfaction of “going to another center to study” as the reasons behind her stance.
Especially because most of the women in prostitution aren’t allowed to leave their brothels, the few times they do venture out turn into beautiful memories for them. Better, when they also get to access free education and interactive workshops.
Sushila* is just one of the many women in prostitution who are benefitting from our adult literacy classes!
AAWC helps and supports women living in red lights district areas and here are some of these women's amazing stories.
Divya has been an Umeed beneficiary for the past six years. She was diagnosed with HIV+ and also suffered from Tuberculosis and skin infections. AAWC’s Field Director immediately started her treatments with a regular follow-up and counselling. She was enrolled as a member in our nutritional supplement program, adult literacy program as well as basic beauty parlor training program. Through this training, she has been placed in a reputed salon in Mumbai, and has been earning well. But due to her medical reasons, she has had to leave that Job. However, she hasn’t given up and has been taking beautician orders from home. Currently, her health condition as well as her financial condition has been getting better. She is happy that she could leave the flesh trade and is living a satisfied life. Two of her Daughters are now part of the Udaan program at AAWC.
Roopa has been working in the red light area of Mumbai for the last 17 years. She is a part of our Umeed program and has shown tremendous interest in adult literacy classes. Initially she could not even hold the pencil, but eventually- with her fierce determination, she has learnt to read and write. AAWC has provided her with books and other materials to practice with. Within seven to eight months, she has cleared all the parameters set for adult literacy. Today she can write her name, and even tries to form sentences in both Hindi as well as English language.
Vani and Priya, both 12 years old, were smiling confidently at me when I asked them what they knew about periods. They had both just returned from school, having changed into their fresh ghar ke kapde (pyjamas) and were about to sit down for homework when I interrupted their routine to ask a simple question: ‘Do you know about periods?’. They nodded a sure yes.
I chatted further about what and how much they knew. While Priya was a bit shy and probably wary of my presence, Vani took to the discussion as if she had been waiting for it to happen. She explained to me the many body parts and sexual organs present in a human figure, and how they interacted with each other- especially during periods. She talked about possible period pains and the various ways to deal with such pains. Amid this conversation, the girls never once flinched in saying the word ‘periods’ out loud. This came as a pleasant surprise to me as menstruation is still a taboo topic of conversation, and is often treated as a secret or an experience of shame.
This confidence in our adolescent beneficiaries could be attributed to the sessions undertaken by our in-house therapist on topics involving the body and sexual health. Due to these regular sessions that initiate conversations among our Udaan beneficiaries on themes as diverse as periods and career guidance, our beneficiaries are now growing into much refined and self-assured individuals.
Vani & Priya
Sangita, 9 , was born in Kamathipura where her mother used to work as a prostitute. Being in such a neighborhood, Sangita learned certain mannerism which led to an intimidating and abusive behavior on her behalf with her peers. With the help of a counselor, AAWC staff gave her special attention which helped Sangita in grasping her own behavior better. Sangita is still a mischievous girl, but she has grown compassionate and helpful towards others. She is even showing sincerity in her academics and her daily duties.
Meena, 19, has been Udaan beneficiary for last 8 years. Before joining AAWC, she used to live in a red light area of Falkland road along with her family. At an early age, she started getting involved in menial jobs in the same area to provide for her poor family. She was very likely to get herself involved in sex-trade herself, but a willingness to lead a successful life directed her to AAWC. Today, she is pursuing her graduation and has become a role model for other Udaan beneficiaries.
Savitri, a 3 year old Umang beneficiary, had been been enrolled in our program on a temporary basis. On arrival, she was under-nourished to the point where her body couldn’t handle the weight of her head. Walking lethargically, her head would plop to one side of her body; and within 5 minutes of walking- Savitri* would have to sit down to conserve her energy.
Brought in at such a state, we knew right away that Savitri* needed our special attention.
Along with keeping an eye on her food habits, we also referred her to a trusted doctor who finally told us the cause of her under-nourishment: no past consumption of solid food. We were further informed by the doctor that Savitri’s body had not had any experience of solid food as she was breastfed for past three years. Though this came as a slight surprise to us, we have had similar experiences in the past and hence knew the many ways to help Savitri* with healing positively: from mixing milk into her food to mashing rice into porridge, our staff took extra care in helping Savitri* develop a healthy relationship with her meals.
The process to bring Savitri’s* health back to normalcy has been a slow and patient one, but we have observed positive changes to her food consumption. She is beginning to appreciate communal eating, and often expresses a desire to eat by herself (and not be fed) with the rest of the children.
Eventually, and in just 2 months of this change- Savitri* now has a glow on her face! We are delighted with this progress, and are hoping that she shall recover fully by the end of this year.
Priti, just a four year old girl, has been in a beneficiary of Umang’s night-shelter for the past one year. Her mother has been in prostitution for about seven to eight years. Financial debts, abuse from her partners and daily struggle made both Priti and her mother’s lives miserable. After joining AAWC, her mother was relieved as she trusted AAWC to take good care of her young daughter. Last Year, Priti suffered from Herpes which led to a deteriorating health. AAWC provided her with proper care in terms of regular health check ups, multi vitamin etc. Today Priti is a healthy, bright and obedient child with an absolute zeal to learn.