Initiating change in the lives of sex workers: Gitanjali Babbar at TEDxGBU

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Kat-Katha’s vision is to present a series of life choices to the women and children living in the brothels of GB Road and instill a sense of confidence in them to design and act towards a life of choice.

Gitanjali Babbar was initially involved with National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) where she got an opportunity to work with eunuchs. It was during this stint that Gitanjali first visited GB Road and interacted with the sex workers there. To her horror, she discovered the grim reality of these sex workers serving 20-40 customers in a day. They needed a support system to talk to about their personal issues apart from the regular safe sex information. Gitanjali did just that. She set up Kat-Katha- an initiative that aims to provide a better life for sex workers and opportunities to find alternative livelihoods.What makes Kat-Katha unique is the way they operate. Community participation is very much at the core of this initiative instead of the conventional raid, rescue and rehabilitation route. Gitanjali encourages GB Road sex workers to join mainstream life by teaching them arts like stitching, embroidery, painting and encouraging them to explore alternate life choices, both within and without the world of brothels. Today through her initiative, Geentajali works for 3500 to 4000 sex workers and continues to be an agent of change in our society.

Kat-Katha works with the commercial sex workers of Garston Bastion (GB) Road and their children. GB Road is the largest red light area in India’s capital city, Delhi.  The organisation employs a four prong “RISE” approach, which includes raising awareness of Rights, Integration with mainstream society vocational training, Skills training, and Education for both women and their children. Kat-Katha aims to impact 4000 women in 77 brothels of GB Road and to create a replicable model that can be used to offer choice and opportunity to sex workers across the country.

With a bustling economy that touches more than  4000 sex workers and pimps, policy and remedial interventions have evaded GB Road despite the fact an overwhelming 60% of women state that their profession was not one of choice, but poverty and desperation. Sex work has formed the core of the GB Road economy for over 2 centuries and has been untouched by reform through colonial times as well as in the independent Indian state. Sex workers’ children face social exclusion and have little opportunity for education. Through a vicious cycle that limits their opportunity and choice, many of these children are then forced into prostitution as well.

Listen to Gitanjali Babbar’s inspirational TED Talk, leave your valuable comments, and spread the word.
For more visit us at facebook.com/katkathaa or contact us at katkathaa@gmail.com

Love 🙂

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Fly High

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अब बिखरे हुए ख्वाबों की फिर से ताबीर करना चाहूँ ,

इस ग़मगीन दिल को खुशियों से भरना चाहूं।

उन कड़वी यादों को दफ़न करके,

ज़िन्दगी को ज़िन्दगी की तरह जीना चाहूँ।

आज फिर मैं मुस्तखीम राहों पर चलकर,

चाँद सी मुनवव्र होना चाहूँ।

तोड़ कर हर बेडी को,

अपनी ही ताल पर थिरकना चाहूँ।

अब तक चन्द साँसों में लिपटी,

एक कठपुतली थी मैं।

पर अब अपनी हर सांस को,

खुल कर जीना चाहूँ

 

– Firdoz

Katputli main Kyon?

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मिटटी का खिलौना नहीं हूँ मैं ,

 फिर क्यों हर कोई मुझे रौंदता जाता है ,

कागज़ की गुडिया नहीं हूँ मैं,

जो हर कोई मुझे मरोड़ता तोड़ता जाता है,

क्या कसूर है मेरा,

क्यूँ मेरा हर आंसू खारा पानी बन जाता है।

मेरे सपनों, मेरी ख्वाइशों, मेरे अरमानों को पनपने से पहले ही,

क्यूँ कुचल दिया जाता है।

कठपुतली नहीं हूँ मैं,

फिर क्यूँ मुझे धागों में जकड़ कर नचाया जाता है,

आखिर क्यूँ मेरी पहचान को मेरे शरीर से तोला जाता है?

 

A day at Bangla Sahib Gurudwara!

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आज  तक जो दिदिया अपने फ़ोन में नंबर भी अपने दोस्त से सेव करवाती थी , व्हात्सप्प, फेसबुक पर अकाउंट

तो बना लिया था पर स्टेटस लिखने से घबराती थी उनके दिल के कोने में कही न कही ये अरमान तो था  केवो भी

पढ़े message  लिखे पर ये सोचकर  रुक  जाती  थी की वह नहीं पढ़ सकती हे।  पर शायद भगवान्को कुछ  और

ही करना था उनके जीवन को शब्दों से  रंगना था इसलिए  उसने कुछ लोगो को वहा पढ़ने का होसला दिया तो वही

 दिद्यो के दिल में पढने के अरमान को फिर से जिन्दा कर दिया और पढने का एक खुबसूरत सिलसिला शुरू

हुआ।  एकदिन  युही  मैंने बातो बातो में कहा  की किताबो का  मेला लगा हे और उन्होंने बड़े उत्साह के साथ वहा

जाने की इच्छा जाहिर की और ३० अगस्त २०१३ को सुभह सुभह सूरज की नर्म किरणों में मैंने उन दो जगमगाते

चेहरों को देखा जो अभी तक किताबो केनाम सेदर जाते थे आज वही किताबो के मेले में जाने के लिए अपनी नींद

गवा  कर आये हे १०.३० बजे हम किताबो के मेले में पहुचे वो किताबो को इस तरह छु रहे थे की मानो किसी ने उनकी

कोरी हथेली पर चाँद रख दिया हो. उनकी चेहरों पर वो प्यारी सी मुस्कान मेरे दिल को एक अनचाही ख़ुशी देरही थी।

मैं हैरान थी  उनको देखकर की जो कल तक किताबो और शब्दों से डरती थी आज वही दिदिया मोटी  मोटी किताबे

अपने आप खरीद रही हे। वो चाहती थी की अपने छोटी से थैले में सारी किताबे भर ले।  उन्हें देख मुझे  लग रहा  था

 के छोटे से बच्चे के सामने  सारी  दुनिया की खुशिया बिखेर दी  गयी  हो और वो अपने छोटे छोटे हाथो सेहर एक ख़ुशी

को अपने झोली में भरना चाहता हो। आज मैंउस ख़ुशी को मह्सुश  कर रही थी जिसको शायद मैं आजतक हर जगहधुंद रही थी

 

– Firdoz

A Simple Story of a complex world..

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While on our visit to one of the brothels, we encountered a girl with beautiful eyes, hiding behind

 her a heart touching story.  The most special thing that she shared with glow on her face was that,

she is blessed with dancing and singing abilities. Her love for dancing and singing was pretty evident

and one could see the passion in her eyes, as her eyes sparkled when she discussed how well she

could sing and dance. She with her earnest interest, kept on explaining the specifications of dance

and music and that she had been appreciated many times by her audience. It was awesome to see

her leaping with joy when she boasted of knowing the technicalities of these arts. We were happy

with the fact that within the much criminalised world of GB road, we could meet a girl who glows

when she talks about her interest. But as life is unfair and not everything is hunky dory, her story

The lovely girl also sadly admitted that she hardly takes time out to pursue her passion as she seems

to find no use of it. The sadness which was peeping out from her sparkling eyes had a story to tell

about, how she once had to spend time at correction home after a police raid, which eventually lead

to decline in mujra mehfils in her room, which actually made her feel sad as the thing which she

loved had stopped now. Her story instantly compels us to introspect ourselves, that on one hand we

see a state protecting women from sexual violence by taking actions, and on the other we could not

stop thinking that a single event had changed her life and had put her wishes behind the curtains.

The sadness in her eyes and the feeling of being distressed had reached us even though there was a

silent conversation of despair and pain between us.  A question that kept haunting us was, whether

it was the fault  of that woman  to be surrounded by complexities of this society and surrender her

wishes just because she is a sex worker and her being so is a crime?

– Ritu Moni Das

Togetherness in trust

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When Sulekha Didi( name changed)  first came to my center, i remember she was not very convinced with my idea. She said that nobody is going to come, and even if 2-3 ladies will come, they will also stop after 2-3 weeks. And then during our conversation, she somewhere mentioned “Madam ko to bahut paise mil rahe honge, isliye to ye sab mehnat kar rhi hai”.  That time though I didn’t reply but another didi said “arey nahi madam hamare kehne se aa rhi hai, inki naukri to agra mein hai”. But yes Suman Didi was not convinced.

After that day she didn’t come for around 2 weeks, and then herself started coming, I don’t know what motivated her.  She started coming regularly and used to stay at the learning home more than any other didi.  I somewhere felt that may be now she trust me and my initiative. But I was proved wrong.

One night at around 11 PM, I got a call from one of the didi’s, she was crying on phone and asked me to come to their brothel, she shared that NGO people along with Police men have come to their brothel and now taking their friends with them.  She was crying while sharing, as that was the first raid after my intervention, so I had no idea what to do in such situation.  Still, I told didi to not to worry and wait for me, and as promised i reached there, i found Sulekha  Didi sitting outside the police station, she asked me to go and see, if the girls of their brothels are safe, they wanted me to go and interact with them. Somehow I went there and met SHO, he was shocked to know that I got a call from brothel, both of us were strangers to each other, he asked me (in a blaming tone) that I am advocating on part of the ladies but then I explained him about our project and then he understood.

– Gitanjali Babbar

Stringing relationships with dance and art

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“Bawara man dekhne laga ek sapna…”

These lines always used to strike through my mind whenever I used to visit  Kat-Katha, a place with dreams, where anything and everything was possible, be it the bacha’s or the volunteers. I always used to feel that there is a relation between this song, Kat-Katha and meJ

I clearly remember my first visit to Kat-Katha when I sang this song, all the kids who were busy in shouting, playing sat quietly just to hear me singing and trust me, it felt amazing, the feeling that the ,so called restless kids are listening with immense patience, was indeed beautiful and when I finished the song one of the student came to me and sweetly said, “didi can I also sing like this, and when I said ofcourse, then his next request was to teach him the same… WOW! I said to myself and without giving a second thought I nodded my head and said yes”J . That time I promised myself to come on regular basis and teach and learn music with these amazing group of youngsters (though we all call them bacha’s) and I shared this with Kat-Katha’s team, and they were more than happy to have me, this again made me felt beautiful.

So like this my journey with Kat-Katha started, one song has given birth to new relations.

And I started coming on regular basis, sometimes with my music band and sometime alone as started loving this place and vice versa. In the beginning it was very challenging to come closer to kids, though they always made me feel very comfortable but somewhere I wanted it at deeper level. Finally, I shared with Kat’s team that I want to join Kat-Katha on full time basis and they were also equally happy.  So from a volunteer to a full time music teacher, the journey has been great.

When I started coming on regular basis, the older members of the group asked me to also visit Brothels and see if we can plan Music classes in the brothels, I felt as if they have stolen my words as I was also feeling the same and this was like a dream come true. They shared that in some of the brothels Dance, Music is traditional and they might love to have a musical evening, that was it, I knew that of our bacha was from that brothel, so I started visiting his home with him and after 2-3 visits, spoke to them about having musical evening. To my surprise, the didi’s said yes and they were very excited which in turn added to my  excitement. So we decided a day and shared it with everyone, I even invited all my band friends. Everything was so perfect, we went to buy diya’s and flowers for decoration, and while going back home, I just thought of last time meeting the didi’s and updating them about the musical evening. It was already late, when I reached upstairs, I found all the women were busy in either getting ready or some of them were already waiting to perform. I went inside and met the owner, I was very excited and so was Ritu but without even listening, she simply said “kal mat aana, main hoon nahi” we knew that its just an excuse so we tried to know the reason, and finally all this ended into having our musical night then and there, as our other team members also joined and didi’s asked us to dance. So in the end all of us, didi’s, Kat-Katha’s team members started dancing, singing.

That day I realized how challenging it is to build that relation of trust in any brothel, may be I felt that its very easy to build the rapport here. But I was not completely wrong, as today, I go to the same brothel 3 days a week to give them music classes. So this is not only a transformation journey for me but also for people linked to it.

So now 3 days a week, I go to brothel to practice music with didi’s and my cute bacha’s take the music classes everyday for half and hour and a special music class, every Saturday where these days they are writing a song for Kat-Katha.

Would definitely share the song with everyone.  But before that I also want to share that “Aaj main apne aap ko bahut lucky manti hu,  ki I got this opportunity to be in Kat Katha.. mujhe pura vishvaas hai ki main in bachcho or didiyon ki  aur ye meri life me pyaar, music aur dance ke rang bhar denge..

 

Rashmi