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Monday, July 16, 2018

Hope Floats

A Delhi school is helping sex workers and their children with alternate opportunities.

Written by Divya A | Published: October 6, 2013 11:01:46 pm

A Delhi school is helping sex workers and their children with alternate opportunities.

Haseena,11,wants to be Katrina Kaif when she grows up. Dolly,8, dreamed of being a doctor till she saw a movie featuring Sonakshi Sinha. Now,she too wants to act. Girish,14,however,is unmoved by their filmi ambitions. “Arre,pehle main English aur maths to seekh loon,” he says.

This could have been anywhere — a bunch of kids discussing their aspirations — except that this is brothel No. 5407 in Delhi’s red-light district GB Road,and Haseena,Dolly and Girish are children of sex workers. Their lives had been confined within the caged terraces they call home,but in the last year,things have begun to change.

Every morning,at 9,they flock to this particular address from their respective homes and stay there till 6 pm,amid books,films,computers,food and a bunch of teachers. These teachers,a motivated group of young professionals in their 20s,have taken it upon themselves to add some value to the lives of these children. What started as an informal initiative has now taken the shape of a full-fledged school called Kat-Katha.

Leading the pack is Gitanjali Babbar,26,who first visited GB Road as a National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) employee. “A sex worker once told me,‘You NGO people can’t think beyond distributing condoms. Have you ever thought of what else we may need?’ That changed something in me,” says Babbar. She quit NACO and began visiting brothels to interact with the residents. “I realised none of them had access to education,” she says. A few friends shared her zeal and together they wondered how to take the children out of their fiercely restrictive space at least once a day.

Initially,the group began by visiting brothels,teaching the children to read and write. Over time,a brothel owner lent them a two-room unused chawl for a makeshift school. Its walls are now coated with fresh paint and graffiti,old bedsheets and mats cover the floor. Nearly 25 children sit,studying English,maths and Hindi. After lunch,there are lessons in dance,music and basic computer skills. Their mothers too drop by for vocational training in needlework and other easy-to-learn handicrafts that can help generate an alternate livelihood.

Although the school has been running for almost a year,it became a registered body only last month and Babbar hopes to get more support for their NGO. “Now we need to raise awareness about our cause,” she says.

Names of all children changed upon request

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