I started working for the first time as a full time employee in an NGO called Apne Aap women’s collective. It is an anti-trafficking organisation and provides services to commercial sex workers. We have around 700-800 women who are members of our organisation but we meet only 40-50 women on daily basis.
As program manager, I have to handle monitor and evaluate adult literacy program, nutrition, health, making identity documents and recreation of commercial sex workers in Falkland road. It was heart wrenching to see the conditions they live in. I go to brothels and teach them if they have time! We also provide some food to women who are HIV positive and if they need assistance with hospitals we do that too.
The first time I went to a red light area, I was very anxious. I had seen sex workers only in movies. So I had gone with certain notions and stereotypes. However, the women were very different from what I had imagined. They were very friendly and led a very normal family life. It did break my silly ideas about what to expect in a place like this.. As I was walking through the area, I was freaking about inane things like- what if I were kidnapped and trapped in a brothel? So in my interactions with them, I was the one reserved. I kept the conversations short and was careful to not divulge much information about me. Yet they shared their stories openly in a matter of seconds!
As I finished my work and left the red light area, I felt different. I was happy I did it, but it was an overwhelming experience for me. It made me realise how independent I am. I think, I still cannot fully fathom what changed in me.
This dark, neglected side of Mumbai had certainly showed me the brighter side of life! Now after three months, I have made a few friends with commercial sex workers and transgenders. They call me ‘Didi’ or ‘Madam’ as I teach them English. Recently, I have opened a few savings accounts for them. I feel so happy to think that their money is secured for their future!
What really inspires me is the zeal with which some women study at this age! I know a woman who is HIV positive, and is old. She reads and writes sincerely. She finishes her homework on time and waits for me to come! It gives me immense happiness to meet her everyday. She is such a happy person that she rejuvenates my enthusiasm to work with them! I have begun looking forward to meeting them nowadays.
About Krushna Dharia:
She is born and brought up in a Gujarati family, and has completed her Masters in social work from Nirmala Niketan college. She loves being around people, going to new places and understanding different cultures. She is also interested in art and theatre.