A blog written by Apne Aap team member, Juanita Kakoty, Documentation and Communication Specialist

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Blog 1 by Juanita: About the forced eviction at Topsia in Kolkata in 2012, where slum dwellers of about 2,000 people looked on as their homes were demolished without prior notice, without any legal procedure. Apne Aap and Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) made an assessment about the losses incurred by the evicted families and the vulnerabilities they have been subjected to, including the peril of being trafficked. This blog piece also covers the Delhi launch of the report.

Blog 2 by Juanita: On an open mike session conducted by Juanita along with Kari Egge (founder of Half the World) at the community in Najafgarh, Delhi NCR about a woman’s right to decide how many children she wants to have.

Week-long Theatre workshop held in Apne Aap’s Delhi Office!

Kriti Sharma, the Creative Director of The Theatre Collective, ran a theatre workshop from the 29th of June to the 3rd of July with a group of approximately 15 girls from Najafgarh in the Apne Aap office in Delhi. The workshop ran Monday through Friday every day from about 3 pm to 5 pm.

The first day Kritheatre workshop 4ti aimed at establishing a sense of trust and security with the girls and started the workshop off with crazy dancing, encouraging the girls to move freely and let go of any tension. Afterwards, she made everyone sit in a big circle for the next series of activities: she would ask a question and then throw a ball to one of the girls, and after answering the question, she would pass it on to someone else. This way everyone got actively engaged in the activity and slowly started to open up as the comfort zone was being established. The first question was “what do you love most in this world” and many answered “parents”, “siblings”, “cousins” whilst others were more philosophical, saying things like “honesty”, “friendship” and “studying”. The next step involved telling the person to your right what you like most about them, thereby creating a wonderful environment of appreciation and affection.

Kriti htheatre workshop 3ad by now laid the first stepping stone and was ready the next day to start with the theatrical aspect of the workshop. She divided the girls into two groups and instructed them to enact a scene of “kids having fun at school.” Both performances cleverly started with the school bell ringing and with the girls running into the playground with big smiles on their faces and using their scarves as jump-ropes or balls. The next scene now had to involve a “problem” of any kind; the first group came up with a teacher beating his students for not completing their homework and the second group showed one of the girls getting injured on her way home.

Time ran out so the third day the workshop started with the two groups re-enacting the two scenes, though this time Kriti asked the girls to think of an even “greater problem”, one that is deep rooted and not only causes physical pain, but also psychological discomfort. The theatre theatre workshop 2workshop was aimed at dealing with child sexual abuse but Kriti had never mentioned it… all on their own, the girls chose “greater problems” that addressed the issue of child abuse. One group depicted a scene with a male teacher holding one of the schoolgirls back and then trying to inappropriately touch her. The other group instead showed a girl coming home from college and being eve-teased by guys on the street, which lead the mother to forbidding her daughter from going to study. The final scene had to portray a solution to the problem or a way of coping with the issue at hand, so the first group decided to close their performance with the schoolgirls standing behind the victim as they decide to go to the principal and then addressing the audience with a powerful question: “are you also supporting me?” The solution in the second group was a representative from Apne Aap coming to the home of the victim and persuading the mother to let her daughter go to college since education is a fundamental tool in the path of self-empowerment.

The girls continued rehearsing their scenes all of Thursday and were ready by Friday for the big performance. With a wonderful audience of about 15 people from Apne Aap and the neighbouring office, the girls totally rocked their performance! The girls professionally acted out their roles and proudly received “Certificates of Participation” and a small children’s book at the end of the performance, whilst the entire audience was enthusiastically clapping along. And to top it all off, there were samosas as a treat for our young actors and the wonderfully supportive audience!

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Comic book workshop held in Apne Aap’s Delhi office!

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On July 2nd 2015, 15 girls participated in a comic book workshop in Apne Aap’s head office, conducted by Ram Devineni, Producer, Director and Co-writer of the Priya’s Shakti comic book.

The girls were taught basics of drawing a body and a face and how to use speech and thought bubbles. They were also taught how to draw a comic book poster. The girls drew their schools, their family etc. They were enthusiastic and did a great job!

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Urgent Help Needed for Girls and Women in Nepal

Urgent help needed in Nepal after devastating earthquake

Apne Aap’s main center in Forbesganj is only 14km away from Biratnagar in Nepal. A devastating earthquake has hit Nepal and Apne Aap needs to start a soup kitchen and get clothes and water there. Women and girls are sitting in the open with their families and they urgently need our help.

Earthquake hits Nepal - 25 Apr 2015

Photograph: News Agency/REX Shutterstock via The Guardian

Dear Friend,

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake has hit Nepal, killing over a thousand people. According to the United Nations over a million people may end up without shelter. Aftershocks are still occurring. During disasters women and girls are disproportionately affected. We work 14 km away from Nepal in Forbesganj, Bihar and have partners rooted in communities in Bihar and Nepal. We need money for food, soup kitchens, medical supplies, clothes and to run safe spaces for women and girls.

Please make a gift. Your support is urgently needed so that Apne Aap and its friends and partners can support women and girls in Nepal during this devastating crisis.

Thank you,

Ruchira Gupta

Founder, Apne Aap Women Worldwide

To read the article in The Guardian: Click Here

To read the article in The New York Times: Click Here

 

You can donate online by clicking here

Checks can me mailed to:

Apne Aap International

Peck Slip Station

PO Box 916 New York, NY 10272

An Interview with Ruchira Gupta in Women LEAD

Migrant Sugar Cane Project

Photo Credit: David Goldman (davidgoldmanphoto.com)

“I have always longed for equality and justice. I have joined any campaign or movement for social and political justice. I slowly began to see that sex was a kind of class or caste; that of any group, females were the largest group that were universally unequal. So I began to campaign for women’s empowerment to create a world which respected the full social, political and economic equality of women,” said Ruchira Gupta, Founder of Apne Aap Women Worldwide.

In this month’s article for Women LEAD, Nepal, Megan Foo, President of Women LEAD’s Hong Kong Chapter, takes a closer look at Ruchira’s history in advocating to put an end to to sex trafficking and Ruchira speaks about why she campaigns for women’s empowerment.

To read the full article in Women LEAD, Nepal: click here 

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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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/

Rape Survivor Challenges India’s Sexual Violence Problem in New Augmented Reality Comic Book.

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The epic comic book, PRIYA’S SHAKTI, creates a new Indian hero who tackles the problem of sexual violence in India and around the world, premiered at the Mumbai Film and Comics Convention from December 19-21, 2014.

Inspired by ancient mythological tales, the comic book tells the story of Priya—a mortal woman and gang-rape survivor—and the Goddess Parvati as they fight against gender-based sexual violence in India and around the world supporting the movement against patriarchy, misogyny and indifference.

Creators Ram Devineni and Dan Goldman are presenting the innovative comic book that uses the popular augmented reality APP – Blippar – to make animation, videos, real-life stories, and other interactive elements pop-out of the pages. Additionally, several large colorful murals from the comic book are being painted on the walls throughout Mumbai. Audiences will be able to see special animation and movies pop out of the wall when they scan the murals on their smart phones. Priya’s Shakti is a recipient of a 2014 Tribeca Film Institute New Media Fund grant supported by Ford Foundation.

Apne Aap Women Worldwide is the project’s engagement partner. Priya’s Shakti highlights the threat of sexual harassment and violence that women face on a daily basis unless deeply rooted patriarchal norms are challenged. Additionally, this project will help define the new frontier of integrating literary publications and exhibitions with augmented reality technology such as Blippar.

The comic book is free worldwide in every digital format and downloadable on the project’s website and at ComiXology and BitTorrent. Rattapallax, a literary publishing house and film production company based in New York City and New Delhi, is producing the entire project.

For more information, visit www.priyashakti.com

Please take a moment to listen to our voice messages on soundcloud below

Blog

A Stop on the Writer’s Journey

 

 

Anne Ch. Ostby

   By: Anne Ch. Ostby

Sometimes, life shows you a stop on the journey, and forces you to get off the bus. Makes you stay there and see what’s going on. It forces you to get your priorities in order; compels you to take stock of how you spend your time and your life’s energy.

Meeting the Nat women in Forbesganj, Bihar, was my stop. The first time I met Meena, Fatima and the others, I was unaware that this would be the first step of a long trek that would eventually lead to me writing a novel. Intrigued and impressed by the work of Ruchira Gupta and Apne Aap, I had accepted an invitation to visit their centers. Ruchira’s ambitious challenge for my visit became, ”You can write a book about it!” This at first seemed too daunting, but a book was what eventually developed. A chance meeting in Tehran in 2007 led to the researching, writing, and publishing of Town of Love, a fictional account of human trafficking and inter-generational prostitution based on countless narratives shared with me by the women in Prem Nagar, Kolkata, and the Apne Aap staff working with them.

We have all heard the stories of trafficking. We have seen the documentaries, read the news articles. So why did Forbesganj become such a sudden stop on my journey? A stop that changed me as a writer and a human being? Because, in Prem Nagar it was the heart of the mother that spoke to me. Having three daughters of my own, it was the anguish of the fellow mothers that I encountered that brought the tales of the women on to the pages. When I asked any one of them about their dreams for their daughters, the answers were almost always the same: ”I want a different life for her.” I realized in those moments that I could not just listen to their stories and then get up, thank them politely, and walk away. I realized their stories needed to be shared; again and again, in different formats and different forums, until the cruelty and indignity of human trafficking is exposed, talked about and condemned by all.

So I kept coming back. I kept asking questions, kept nagging the incredibly patient, incredibly resourceful Apne Aap staff for help with details on everything from food and crops to the meaning of names. I kept listening to the women. And though the stories of Tamanna, Amina, Rupa, and Fauzia may not exist exactly as you read them, the essence of them is painfully, brutally true.

Their stories have traveled a long way now. From its first publication in Norway in 2012, the book has reached audiences in Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, Slovakia, and India (English version: Prem Nagar, Supernova Publishers). It has been presented at literary festivals and events in Norway, Australia and Fiji, and the Prem Nagar women’s stories will soon challenge audiences at the Ubud Writers Festival in Indonesia.

I am both sad and proud to be presenting these stories. Sad that they exist and demand to be told, but proud and grateful that the incredible and courageous women who I met trusted me to tell their stories. And I will keep telling them for as long as it takes.

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Buy Anne’s book “Town of Love” on Amazon today.