Kolkata Live Music Program

Kolkata Live music program performed by Jennifer Hemstra and the children at South City International School on July 8th, 2016.

A total of 62 children and women from Khidderpore and Topsia attended the music concert.

Photo Credit: Kolkata Classic Club

Photo Credit: Kolkata Classic Club, Isha Daga

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Photo Credit: Kolkata Classic Club, Isha Daga

PeaceWalk Campaign in Delhi, 5th of July 2016

Apne Aap in collaboration with International Women’s Peace Group (IWPG) launched a PeaceWalk campaign to end sexual violence against women by spreading awareness among the masses. Women and children led the PeaceWalk, followed by Ruchira Gupta and Apne Aap activists. The Walk started from
Sapera Basti to MCD Primary School in Dharampura (Najafgarh). Thereafter, an Open Mike Session was held at the School on the theme of child marriage.

Read more about the PeackWalk in these article in the New Delhi Times and This Day

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Apne Aap Founder Ruchira Gupta writes for The Telegraph in the Bihar Safarnama series

Articles written by our Founder Ruchira Gupta, from the series Bihar Safarnama for The Telegraph.

Take a look using the links below:

Auto Ride Powered by A Woman’s Grit 

Why Smart is not Always Smart for India

English-vinglish: Language & legacy

Socialist legacy, Orwell & beyond

The victims of superstition across centuries & oceans

Future driven by glorious past

Idyllic setting, a life of ideals

Dream Soar Over Poverty

Nutty success story: makhana’s amazing journey

Nature’s bounty, poverty paradox

Weavers of history apt case for a museum of the living

Legacy of social justice, hope for change

What India can learn from Bihar

 

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.

OPEN MIKE SESSIONS, sponsored by the Canadian High Commission

Open mike sessions were conducted with the girls on various topics at the Primary School in Najafgarh. A big session was held on the theme ‘Child Marriage’ commemorating International Women’s Day on 8th March 2016. Open Mike Session is an Apne Aap empowerment tool to encourage girls to voice out their opinions, their experiences on certain social issues.
The session was conducted by Juanita, who started it with a background of why we celebrate Women’s day.  After the introduction she talked about child marriage – the legal age, its implications etc and asked the girls to share their views on child marriage. The girls also shared personal stories of their sisters, neighbors etc who had gotten married at a young age. Story books were distributed among the girls who spoke out.
The session ended with a song on women’s freedom.
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These activities are being conducted in the primary school in Najafgarh, Delhi under the school adoption program sponsored by the Canadian High Commission

 

ART RESILIENCE WORKSHOPS: Various art resilience workshops conducted with young girls

From Old to New: Girls were taught to use waste discarded products like egg trays, old cloth, buttons, ice cream sticks etc to make figures, birds etc

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Who Am I?:  An art workshop where girls and boys were asked to draw their own faces by looking into a mirror, and asked to describe how they feelabout their own identity. Children used words like “Happy”, “Pretty”, “Naughty” etc.)

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These activities are being conducted in the primary school in Najafgarh, Delhi under the school adoption program sponsored by the Canadian High Commission

 

Apne Aap supports Victims of Prostitution and Poverty Alliance against Amnesty

India’s Victim of Prostitution and Poverty Alliance (VOPPA)
and Survivor Speak, Maine, US
 has written to Amnesty International asking them to
stand by marginalized girls and women and not support pimps and brothel keepers.
Apne Aap shares their letters below.
Sign the CATW petition to Amnesty here to support their campaign.
Click here to hear Salma, the co-convener of VOPPA, a prostitution survivor.
Victims of Prostitution and Poverty Alliance1 No Shastitala Road
Watgunge Police Station
Kidderpore
Kolkata-700023
Ph.033-32585060/32511503

Dear Amnesty India,

We are members of the Victims of Prostitution and Poverty Alliance in India. We would like Amnesty International to include our right not to be prostituted in their upcoming resolution. We are from the most marginalized section of society. We are poor, female and low-caste, often from groups labeled as nomadic tribes under British colonialism and from minority religions.

We would like Amnesty to recognize that our prostitution is an absence of choice and not a choice.  We request you as Amnesty India to take into account the lived experiences of the most marginalized low-caste and poor women and girls in India who want protection from our exploiters, not their impunity. We want you to call on states to invest in our basic needs. Our basic needs are our “human rights”.

Our prostitution is based on us being the most marginalized and weakest in society -the “last”- due to the fact that we are poor, female, low-caste and teenagers. We are facing the multiple inequalities of class, caste, gender and age. Our rights are violated in every way before we are prostituted and when we are in prostitution.

We are kept out of school, sold into child marriage, domestic servitude and child labour and then finally pimped into prostitution. In prostitution we live in debt bondage, with our debt increasing, not our income as we move into our twenties. We are finally thrown out when we are in our thirties and no longer commercially viable.

Our old pension is disease, trauma and the multiple wounds due to the violence done to our bodies by pimps and clients. The pimps beat us when we say no to standing for long hours on the street, or don’t want additional customers in the same night. The customers are buying violence -they stub cigarette butts out on us, push rods into our bodies, slap us, piss on us, break our arms and punch us.

Amnesty is known for protecting the rights of prisoners. In prostitution, we are imprisoned by pimps and brothel keepers. We are subjected to mental and physical torture. Our mobility is controlled by psychological abuse and brothel managers actually sitting at the door of our brothels to monitor our movements. We cannot even decide when to stand or lie down. We suffer from sleep deprivation.

We are also imprisoned by our debt bondage. Over the years our debts increases and the income earned off our body decreases. We don’t earn an income, we earn disease and trauma. It is the brothel owners and pimps who earn an income from us.

In the guise of protecting our rights from police harassment and detention, your resolution is giving impunity to our prisoners.

You will end up legitimizing our exploitation as work, and give legally acceptable status to those who torture and imprison us. You will also give states the easy way out and an excuse not to invest in ending our marginalization or looking at the violation of our human rights.

As a human rights organization we ask Amnesty the question: Do you stand for the commodification of human beings?

Submitted by:

Asma Begum and Salma Ali, co–convenors, Victims of Prostitution and Poverty Alliance, India,

Munshigunge, Kidderpore, India

Survivor Speak

Education, Advocacy, Mentoring, Organizing

 

 

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

How can you, Amnesty International UK, claim that a person of age is able to choose

sex work as a livelihood, and also understand that they are the most marginalized group in the world?

How can the women who are being presently exploited in the commercial sex industry, that are far removed from being organized, and who remain unseen and neglected by the rest of their community, have a voice or be a stake holder when they are consistently ignored? Why are you not seeking out these exploited women? Is it because you do not see them or know they exist? These women walk the streets of my city, as sex buyers seek them out and they seek out sex buyers, in order to meet their basic needs of housing and food, and, for some, support their addiction. They are the ones right at the threshold of trafficking.  They are involved in the commercial sex industry, and are being exploited daily, even though they do not meet the legal definition of sex trafficking.

“If you truly understand the marginalization of the majority of those in the commercial sex industry, and how groups that experience the most discrimination and oppression are overrepresented, you would know that calling us “a chosen at will sex worker” is most harmful.  Calling this harm a “choice” prevents us from being able to access needed social services such as healthcare, housing, and long-term recovery.”  No one recognizes these women, my friends in Boston, in Maine, and in Canada, who don’t fall under the legal definition of “sex trafficking,” but are still facing sexual exploitation, as anything worthy of assistance. They are the least of the least. There is no one trying to provide a service and path for them to exit the street.  In the street outreach that I do, I connect with these women who are stuck at least every other day. When I have asked them, “How would you feel if we arrest the sex buyers?” they say, “Don’t arrest them, because I won’t be able to make money if you arrest them.”  However, when I have asked them, “If you had another way to live, if you could be provided with everything you need to exit the street, housing, access to recovery, education, and counseling, would you still want to do this?” they say, “No, I would not want to do this anymore, I would want something different.”  So, a lot of the perspective depends on how you ask the question.  Along with this, it is important to recognize that for most of these women these needed services are completely unavailable, which is why they continue to remain in the commercial sex industry. It’s not a choice, it is a lack of opportunity, a lack of choice. These women are in the commercial sex industry because they are so marginalized, they have no access to anything. These women know these services are unavailable because they do not meet the legal definition of human trafficking, and they’ve told me this. They have no choice. How will legalizing and regulating the commercial sex industry provide these choices and these opportunities to these women? How are you listening to and advocating for these women?

I and my street outreach partner are friends and sisters to the women you are wanting to call “sex worker” with the sex worker definition in the draft of your policy. They are not organized, and not there by their choice, in the sense of what are the choices. I, myself, am a survivor, and like these women, I ended up in the commercial sex industry because I believed I wasn’t worth anything else. I lived out of choices created by outside influences.  My family, my community, and my culture groomed me from childhood to believe that this was what I was meant for.  Like these other persons, I didn’t choose commercial sex.  Society and the systems around mepushed me into it. Legalizing commercial sex and calling it a “choice” ignores these societal, systemic forms of oppression-sexism, racism, economic inequality-that creates and fosters the path into this industry.  You list all of these forms of oppression in your draft policy, yet continue to state that commercial sex is a choice for these women.  How can this truly be a free choice? Oppression is not a choice.

I am against the criminalization of those being exploited in the commercial sex industry.  I am not arguing for the arrest or prosecution of these persons. However, decriminalizing the individuals and systems that are oppressing them-the pimps, traffickers, and sex buyers-will do nothing to help these women, will do nothing to bring systemic change, will do nothing to provide them with justice.  The Nordic model which was used in Sweden, which decriminalizes those who are being exploited in the commercial sex industry while still prosecuting those doing the exploitation.  The Nordic model provides education to law enforcement about approaching individuals in the commercial sex industry with dignity, justice, and humanity and provides resources and services for these persons to give them more choice.  While the Nordic model is not currently in place in Maine, law enforcement here has taken a stand against criminalizing these persons and are actively advocating for them to receive more services and resources.  How does legalizing all forms of the commercial sex industry provide more choice and opportunity for these persons than the pre-existing Nordic model does?

Amnesty International is one of the most respected human rights organizations in the entire world. Your decisions about this policy will influence many other important actors in this field for the foreseeable future.  This decision will influence policy creation and funding and other resources around the world. I am asking you to remember these women, who, like me, do not have a choice, those whose voice is not heard at the table of these policy discussions.  Remember those who are not organized, who do not have advocates, who are being exploited daily, even though they do not fit within the legal definition of sex trafficking. You are speaking for them without recognizing them. I am one of these women, and it has taken years for me to find my way to the table of these policy discussions. I am only just now learning more about your organization, what you do, and the power and influence you have. After years of work and experience, I am still far removed and excluded from discussions at organizations like yours. You will never hear the voices of many of the persons who will be affected by your policies.  It is your responsibility to put the needs and perspectives of these persons first in decision making.  The voices of these persons may never make it to your policy table.  They are the least of the least, unheard and ignored by those in power.  Unless you learn who these persons are, what their daily life is, you cannot be inclusive in your decision making.  You are excluding their voices and perspectives from the table.  If you knew who these persons were, you would not adopt this policy and call their oppression a “choice.”

I’m sure the stakeholders that I know stuck on the street engaged in turning car tricks and trick houses here in Maine, Boston and Canada WERE NOT a part of your SOLID RESEARCH and consultation.

OPPRESSION IS NOT A CHOICE

Dee Clarke,

Survivor Speak

a grass roots organization

educating advocating mentoring organizing

for systemic change for sexually exploited prostituted                                                 

victims and survivors

 

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

Ruchira’s keynote speech at NGO CSW/NY Forum Consultation Day before the start of UN CSW 59

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Click the image above or here to hear our founder Ruchira Gupta deliver a keynote address at the Apollo on CSW59 Consultation Day which took place at the historic Apollo Theatre on Sunday March 8th, 2015.

Please share the recording and the documents on this page with your peers and help us advocate for change.

Transcript of keynote address: Ruchira Gupta, Apollo CSW/NY Consultation Day 2015

Our Letter to UN Women: Apne Aap’s letter to UN Women

2012 UN Reports: UN reports 2012

UN Women’s note 2013: UN Women’s note on sex work sexual exploitation and trafficking