Apne Aap Women Worldwide held the first candle light march in the Sonagachi red light area

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Prostituted Girls, Women and activists marched in the Sonagachchi red-light area to demand police investigate the murder of 20 year old Saathi Das, who was trafficked there 9 months ago. Prostituted girls and women from Kolkata’s red light areas and activists under the banner of Apne Aap Women Worldwide took on a, first of its kind, candle light march in the Sonagachi red light area, to demand police take action against the murderer of Sathi Das. 

Sathi was a member of the Apne Aap network. She had started attending Apne Aap’s adult literacy classes and had auditioned for a part in a TV serial and was trying to get out of prostitution. She had planned to start conference bag making classes with Apne Aap just two days before she was strangled. Shockingly, she was found dead in the morning and somebody had run away with her two children. Her cell phone is also missing. The brothel owner and one of her regular clients are also missing. The police have failed to investigate the case. The march was followed by a meeting of survivors, activists and Apne Aap team members to plan followup actions against the growing violence against prostituted girls and women in the Sonagachchi red light area.

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PBS NewsHour airs a two-part special on Apne Aap conducting a rescue

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“RUCHIRA GUPTA: I am once again reminded why slavery still exists, because the laws are on paper and they are never implemented. And this is like – is back to ground zero, where I realize that the police, come what may, do not want to implement the laws on behalf of women and girls.”

Above Ruchira Gupta speaks on the troubles involved with fighting sex trafficking in the PBS NewsHour special which aired this week. Special PBS correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro traveled to India to take a closer look at the issue.

Please take a look at Apne Aap working in the field to put an end to sex trafficking as they conduct a rescue in India in a two-part special. Links provided below:

To watch Part one: click here

To watch Part two: click here

We Marched in Forbesganj on December 10th asking for an end to violence against women and girls

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In memory of Nirbhaya, Apne Aap Women Worldwide activists and students launched a march asking for an end to violence against women and girls. We started the global march in the redlight area of Forbesganj, Bihar because we believe that the last girl who is poor, female, low caste is the worst victim of sexual violence. She is invisible and neglected. Our march hopes to make the last girl visible and to be included in all laws and policies and government interventions for her uplift. We want the ‘uday’ of the ‘ant kanya’. The march was flagged off in Delhi and Kolkata too. Everywhere the march will leave a mural in the memory of Nirbhaya.

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Last Girl March

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In the memory of Nirbhaya we are launching a march asking for an end to violence against women and girls. We have started this global march in the red light area of Frobesganj, Bihar because we believe that the last girl who is poor, female, low caste is the worst vicitm of sexual violence. She is invisible and neglected. Our march hopes to make the last girl visible and to be included in all laws and policies and government interventions for her uplift. We want the ‘uday’ of the ‘ant kanya’.

The symbol of the march is Priya, a comic character who is a rape survivor, who flies around the world on a tiger standing upto sexual violence. Every march will start with a mural painted on a street wall and end at a bus stand, in memory of Nirbhaya or Jyoti Singh Pandey who was brutally raped in a bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012 and then murdered. The mural will also be the image of Priya sitting on a tiger against sexual violence.

This march will go all the way to UN in New York City with a call to action on March 2015 during the International Women’s Day asking the UN to include the last girl as they debate the Beijing Plus Twenty plan of action.

We invite everyone to join our march by doing similar events anywhere till March, 2015. You can join our March by uploading photos of your march and selfies with Priya on our facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Apne-Aap-Woman-Worldwide/

Anybody can download the comic online from this free downloadable link, https://www.facebook.com/priyas.shakti and the image for the mural and march from Apne aap’s website, http://www.apneaap.org/

Patna High Court files landmark Judgment on Apne Aap PIL

Migrant Sugar Cane ProjectPhoto by: David Goldman, davidgoldmanphoto.com

Click here to read judgment  

Patna High Court files landmark Judgment on Apne Aap PIL

Here is a link to a landmark judgment by the Patna High Court http://indiankanoon.org/doc/83172639/ on a public interest litigation filed by Apne Aap three years ago after our activist Kalam was falsely arrested, another activist Fatima’s daughter was kept in a police lockup up all night and  police looked on as traffickers pulled girls out of our boarding school saying their pimp-father had the right to take their daughters out!

We had asked for the court to ask the police to arrest traffickers and not activists, have special police officers for trafficking cases, social welfare services for both victims and at risk girls in every panchayat, boarding schools for at-risk girls, health, education, housing and legal services as well citizenship and subsidy documents for all victims. We shared Apne Aap’s ten asset approach from safe space, education through KGBV boarding schools, to karate class, to government IDs and subsidies, to livelihood support, bank accounts and services or victims as well as more shelters and more police action against traffickers and clients.

In a sweeping judgement, the court has asked the government of Bihar to tackle trafficking from every angle in every village. They will work to identify missing children, ensure school for at-risk children, arrest traffickers and clients, provide citizenship papers and subsidies to at-risk women and victims, provide seed money for small business, set up more shelters, and report back. It is truly one of the most comprehensive anti-trafficking judgements in the poorest state of India with a population of 82,998,509 of which 23,852,828 are girls. This judgement can transform the lives of the most marginalized of them by giving them access to citizenship and services and justice which has evaded them for centuries.

If we can get this judgement implemented in spite of the lack of resources in Bihar and track the difference it makes in five years, we will have proven our point to the whole world.

 

Youth create video for World Toilet Day 2014

This video was made possible by a mixed media project funded by the French Embassy Cultural Fund.

 

A Report on International Women’s day celebration

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, Delhi chapter of Apne aap women worldwide on 8th march took out a mass rally in Dharampura and PremNagar. The participants were the girls of the Perna, Sapera and Singhi community in Dharampura and of Perna community in PremNagar. The girls participated in the rally in full swing and shouted slogans like “Dahej pratha ki hahakaar, bandd karo yeh atyachaar”, “Agyanta ki diwaar todo, ladkiyon ko padao”,  “ladkiyon se hi toh sansaar hai, ladkiyan na ho toh sab bekaar hai toh Kyun hota hai ladkiyon ke saath atyachaar”  etc.  at the top of their voice.

Also, previous couple of days were dedicated to the workshop which was meant to make preparation for the event on 8th march and where the girls were seen creating the slogans for the rally, writing it on the chart papers and making placards all by themselves.

The rally attract a lot of attention of the general masses also as it started from the centre at Roshanpura and went all the route till the community in dharampura and returning back to the centre. Same was in the case of Premnagar where the rally was taken out in the community.

Post rally there was a discussion on the general issues people of the community have in Dharampura as many of them were not enrolled in any group of apneaap and most of them also wanted to learn applique and IGP activities running in the centre. Also, in PremNagar the discussion was held on the dropped out kids in the community so as to work on the learning component of ApneAapn in the community.

The rally along with the post rally discussion end with a three cheers to the womanhood and a refreshment.

 

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Legal Aid Camp

Background:

Legal Aid Camp is one of the components of legal empowerment program framed for WIP, WAR, Vulnerable, victims and survivors of trafficking and violence so that they can secure their rights and entitlements as guaranteed in our constitution as well as other provisions of law.

Objective:

Access to relevant, accurate legal information and anti-trafficking laws from the senior legal personnel and from the members of National University of Juridical Sciences Legal Aid Society, Law student of Calcutta University and from the members of Apne App Kolkata office.

Date

3rd March, 2014, 12:00-4:30 pm

Venue

12, Munshigunj Road, Kidderpore, Kolkata

Participants

119 Women and girls from Munshigunj and Topsia area along with Apne Aap staffs and NUJS LAS were present on that camp.

Activity performed

 Legal Awareness

The legal awareness is one of the important tools to empower any marginalized community through dissemination of information and creation & sharing of knowledge among community members and vulnerable groups. It will create awareness among people particularly who were forced into prostitution and for the women and girls who is under risk to be trafficked and the community people who were forcefully evicted from their residence by the government agencies violating all kind of basic human rights. It includes rights in its entire dimension like Civil and Political Rights, Economic Social Cultural Rights.

Mr. Sk. Fazul-E-Khoda Bin Mustapha, P.O. Legal started the session with the introduction of resource persons. After that Members of NUJS Legal Aid Society addressed the meeting. They told community women and girls on different laws and provisions of laws Iike Immoral Traffic(Prevention) Act-1956, New Criminal Law Amendment Act-2013, Protection of women from domestic violence act- 2005, Property rights of women, specially Hindu Succession Act- 1956 AND Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act 1937.

Taj Mohammad discussed on recent problems of community people to lodge any complaint before police and detailed procedure on it. Then he told about child marriage and its legal provisions, property rights of Muslim women as per Muslim Personal law, and their rights on divorce and its origin. He also told on right to education act and its present practice. He also told that prostituted women were the victim of circumstances. They came in prostitution to sustain their live when all other options were closed before her. The women in this business were deprived of many things in life like education and information of world beyond them. It is our duty to act jointly to end trafficking and violence against women.

Debjani Biswas told about empowering women through education and knowledge and apply that knowledge to their personal life and resist any kind of violence against women by taking strong action.

Sahana Dsgupta told about approach of apne aap to end trafficking and empowering women through knowledge including legal knowledge

It was told that the women had left their house so they needed to lean some clause of law that –

  1. No accused women could be arrested after sunset and before sunrise by the police.
  2. Woman police can arrest accused woman under Magistrate’s Order and she need to be produced to court within 24 hours of time span.
  3. Constitution of India said all were equal before law. But under special circumstances women & children were treated with special rights.
  4. It was also told that under any circumstances right to life and right to freedom couldn’t be violated under law.
  5. Women and children under 15 yrs of age couldn’t be interrogated at Police Station.
  6. Physical relation is a part of life and it’s a human practice to sustain life. But making physical relation forcefully might be referred as rape. Early constitution said the burden of proving rape lied with victim. It was told that rape as one of the heinous crime and  if any person wants to make physical relation against the woman’s consent then that would be treated as rape. But after many debate the law was amended and now the burden of proving rape lied with accused and he had prove his innocence. He had to go through all type of medical examination under provision of law. He couldn’t deny for any sorts of investigation like blood test, DNA and other laboratory or pathological tests. The amended law had relieved the victim. But the case of wife would be treated as separately.
  7. If a woman died within seven years of marriage then her family-in-laws had to prove that she hadn’t died of dowry cause.
  8. Prostitution is not illegal per se in India But if the nearby community neighbors objected of prostituted activity in the locality then government could take action accordingly. No red light area could be sustained within 200 meter of any school, college and temple.
  9. Marriage and divorced law for Hindu & Muslim were discussed. Hindu law could be amended unlike to Muslim Law as the later was framed under the direction of Hazrat Md.
  10. Hindu law said that husband had to feed his wife irrespective of all situations. Wife could demand compensation in case of divorce. But if wife had proper income unlike to her husband then no compensation could be granted under law.
  11. The property act of India said wife had been entitled with right to husband’s property. Then parents of that person had the right to his property.
  12. Lok adalat could be approached for solving small issues. The retired judges were appointed in Lok Adalat for solving petty cases. Government bore the burden of expenses for implementing law and order in the country.
  13. It was also told that every mother should admit their children to school and it is their fundamental rights to get free and compulsory education under Article 21A of our constitution and new RTE Act. They came to know government and police couldn’t evict them without providing any alternative support, though they were from red light community. This was possible because they had human rights

Some feedback from the participants:-

Ayesha Begum from Munshigunge asked about free and compulsory education and why her 4years grand son was not provided free education by government schools.Moriyam Bewa from Topsia submitted her question with relevant documents and asked about government policy to issue voter card and BPL card and why government issuing those card to all evicted people of Topsia.

Noorbanu Bibi asked about the procedure to enlist her name in RSBY list to get free medical treatment

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Blog Post

Sonar Bangla: Women’s Self-Empowerment Group Canteen, by Anupam Das (West Bengal State Coordinator)

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Eating is way for people to gather together, relax, and enjoy themselves. This is what ten women from Munshiganj Red Light Area in Kolkata thought. These women formed a Self-Empowerment Group (SEG) with the help of Apne Aap Women Worldwide after many years of hardship working in red light areas. The ten women who formed “Sonar Bangla,” which means Prosperous Bengal, in 2009 were asked to think what they could do to earn a dignified and sustainable livelihood.

During one group meeting, the women agreed that they love to cook and that this might be a way to earn a livelihood.  The next step for them was deciding where to sell their food. They knew that there were many offices in the Khidderpore area of Kolkata and that the people in those offices would be able to be regular customers for them. The women decided to open a canteen business, where they would supply tasty lunches to the various offices in the area. The group had said, “If people get clean and tasty lunches they would come back to the canteen again and again.” Apne Aap has taught the women how to keep accounts for their business and earn profits and establish a bank account

In January 2012, Sonar Bangla cooked for the first time for an Open Mike Session training workshop called That Takes Ovaries. The event brought about a lot of enjoyment and fun into the group and as such also made them become closer to one another and further believe in their business idea.

Sonar Bangla had another chance to provide their deliciously cooked food during at an internal workshop of Apne Aap in Kolkata in May 2012. The group again took responsibility for cooking and supplying all the lunches for the various participants of the workshop. Once again, the job was done in a fantastic way and all participants in the workshop were very happy to be able to eat such mouth-watering food during the four day workshop. Sonar Bangla made an inspiring profit which made all the women very happy again about their business venture. They used the profits as capital to enlarge their canteen activities. The women have also started to supply Apne Aap employees on a regular basis in the Kolkata office since the end of May.

This group wants to see itself as being a renowned food supplier through their canteen and have people crave more of their food. The group still faces a few challenges, one of them is to expand their business in Kolkata, for which they have already started to look and advertise for a larger clientele. Sonar Bangla is on a positive track to becoming a fully sustainable group in order to have a good livelihood for each of them for the future.

“Apne Aap gave us the confidence to start something on our own.  The organization has taught how one can achieve even what one hasn’t dreamt off if we act in a group.

Initially the group didn’t have any idea how to start with the venture and were even speculative about how to distribute the profits among themselves. At the beginning, the group was a bit hesitant about starting the initiative because they were worried about getting a sufficient number of clients. The high price of raw materials hindered them initially as the cost per plate would be too much. In spite of all these challenges the group kept their motivation high and have ultimately been successful in starting the business.

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Girls from Nat Community Pass Class 10

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Apne Aap had much to celebrate in June as six girls from red light areas in Bihar, India, passed their 10th grade national secondary school exams with flying colors! These girls come from the Nat Community, which has practiced inter-generational prostitution for generations.
Each girl was the first in her family to receive an education. Two of them even ranked in the first division of test scores. Apne Aap founder, Ruchira Gupta, described it as “a huge victory for Apne Aap and the mothers of these girls who faced off traffickers against all odds” to get their daughters into school.

“They have fulfilled their mothers’ dreams that their daughters have a different destiny. They are role models for other girls, and will lead the way in transforming the community and dismantling the system of prostitution,” said Ruchira.

Their achievement is significant because it shows that there can be other options for women in the Nat community besides prostitution, if they are supported, and connected with the right assets.

Apne Aap community mobilizer, Mohammad Kalam said, “The success of these girls has sent out a message that while place and circumstances of birth are a matter of fate, it is certainly possible for the society and the state to provide the necessary means and opportunities for educating children born in red light areas so that they are not condemned to a fate their predecessors suffered.”

Many girls in this position never have an opportunity to realize their potential, as cycles of exploitation of the Nat Community are difficult to break.

The girls’ education was possible because of Apne Aap’s efforts to get a special, fifty-percent quota in KGBV, a hostel for children living in red light areas, run by Apne Aap and the government. This happened because the women of the community asked for assistance getting their girls into a safe space where they could access their basic rights to education, and have the chance to lead normal lives, safe from the potential of being sold for sex.

This comes after a long, sustained struggle Apne Aap has faced in challenging the tradition and custom of inter-generational prostitution in this community. Girls raised in the Nat Community are prostituted, and boys are taught to become pimps. Pulling girls away from prostitution means closing down the only livelihood many of these families know. As a result, families resisted sending the girls to the hostel, and sadly, some of them were removed before they could complete their education.

In the face of such odds, these young women’s commitment to their education and success in these difficult national exams is a tremendous achievement. We are so proud of them, and excited for all they will accomplish in the future.