Aasha Ki Kiran

Apne Aap Women’s Collective, India

Aishwarya Sharma on June 16, 2018 in Women Empowerment

Human trafficking is an umbrella term that is, problematically, often reduced to mean prostitution, when it involves sex trafficking. In India although it is illegal under Indian law, remains a significant problem. People are frequently illegally trafficked through India for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced/bonded labour. Although no reliable study of forced and bonded labour has been completed, NGOs estimate this problem affects [clarification needed] 20 to 65 million Indians. Men, women and children are trafficked in India for diverse reasons. Women and girls are trafficked within the country for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced marriage, especially in those areas where the sex ratio is highly skewed in favour of men. Men and boys are trafficked for the purposes of labour, and may be sexually exploited by traffickers to serve as gigolos, massage experts, escorts, etc. A significant portion of children are subjected to forced labour as factory workers, domestic servants, beggars, and agriculture workers, and have been used as armed combatants by some terrorist and insurgent groups.

Human trafficking in India results in women suffering from both mental and physical issues. Mental issues include disorders such as PTSD, depression and anxiety. The lack of control women has in trafficking increases their risk of suffering from mental disorders. Women who are forced into trafficking are at a higher risk for HIV, TB, and other STDs. Condoms are rarely used and therefore there is a higher risk for victims to suffer from an STD.

According to Pope Francis, "Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free victims and stop this crime that's become ever more aggressive, that threatens just not individuals, but the foundational values of society."

To limit trafficking and making life better who live in red light area, as well as giving them hope for a better future, a Non-Governmental Organisation, Apne Aap Women's Collective, founded in 1998 is serving the women and children of Kamathipura, the red-light area of Mumbai, that is also one of the largest and oldest red-light areas in Asia. They operate three programmes: Umeed, Udaan and Umang.

"Umeed" is the Hindi word for "hope". The objective of Umeed is to help women in prostitution maintain their physical, mental, and economic wellbeing. Umeed is not a one-time rescue program; rather, they seek to empower women with long-term skills so they can exit prostitution permanently when they are ready.

"Udaan" is the Hindi word for "flight". Through this project, they empower girls in the red-light area to know their rights and go for diverse and dignified career options, by developing their skill sets for aspirational professions, thereby equipping them to gain genuine socio-economic mobility, and, consequently preventing the inter-generational cycle of prostitution among daughters (ages 6-18) of women in brothel-based prostitution.

"Umang" is the Hindi word for "joy". The objective of Umang is to help toddlers (ages 2 to 5) develop physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially in preparation for formal schooling. Although new members often mimic the violence, abusive language, and sex acts they observe at home, Umang provides a safe space for toddlers to unlearn harmful behaviors and form healthy habits.

AAWC conducts daily visits to homes and boarding homes to monitor Umang children. Mothers of Umang children also attend monthly meetings to learn about important reports, workshops, and updates.

It helps women obtain the identity documents (voter cards, ration cards, PAN cards) that are necessary to access routine public services or gain employment in the formal sector. Women also attend monthly awareness workshops on legal issues (women’s rights, legislation on prostitution, child protection policy) and on government schemes for which they are eligible. They may also choose to enroll in vocational training programs to develop skills needed for alternate employment beyond the red-light area such as the ongoing beautician training program. Previously tailoring, mehendi designing and jewelry-making classes were conducted for the women.

Apne Aap Women’s Collective (AAWC) was awarded the GuideStar India NGO Gold Award (Advanced Level) for 2016. The Award aims to encourage and recognize organizations that practice and voluntarily demonstrate their transparency and accountability in the public domain.

We salute them for their work they are doing with great dedication and providing hope in each eye of Kamathipura since 1998 to improve the life of a number of women and their children.

To read more about the inspirational work they are doing, visit Apne Aap Women’s Collective today!

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