I only want to educate her further so that she can live the way I used to dream of. -Juhi’s Mother
New Delhi, June 8: It was a major milestone in Apne Aap Women Worldwide (AAWW) campaign against prostitution when, on June 5, six girls of the Nat community from red light areas of Forbesgunj and Khawaspur in Bihar, saved from their age old practice of selling sex, passed the secondary school examination of Bihar School Examination Board with flying colors.
The first girls in their lot to receive education, two of them secured first division. AAWW 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”.
“They have fulfilled their mother’s dreams and hopes that their daughters have a different destiny. They are now a role model for other women and girls and will lead the way in transforming the community and dismantling the system of prostitution,” she said.
The girls and their aggregate marks are: Najmin 356 (71%), Juhi 303 (60%), Kavita 253 (51%), Resham 237 (47%), Poonam 213 (43%), and Pooja 203 (40%).
The achievement is even more significant as the girls demolished the general perception that the locality they come from produces only prostitutes. As a community worker associated with AAWW, Mohammad Kalam said, “The success of these girls has sent out a message that while it 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 the children born in red light areas so that they are not condemned to a fate their predecessors suffered.”
For want of opportunities and treated with contempt, many Najmins and Juhis never get a chance to show their talent or realise their potential, added Kalam. In the case of these girls, it was made possible through AAWW’s efforts to get a special, 50 per cent quota in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) in the area for children living in red light areas. AAWW took this up as a programme after the women in prostitution asked for helping their girls get a safe space where they can get their basic right to access education and lead a normal life.
The achievement comes against the backdrop of a long, sustained struggle questioning and challenging the tradition, culture and custom of the community over the years. The Nats are a de-notified tribe who practice intergenerational prostitution. The girls there are groomed to be prostitutes and the boys groomed to become pimps. In the community, pulling girls away from prostitution means closing down the only means of livelihood they know as they have been living off the earnings by selling the girls in the family. There was huge resistance in the community to sending the girls to the schools and especially to a residential school, with several instances of girls being pulled out of school by their parents. They have also had to face unsupportive or hostile local officials. In the face of such odds, the girls’ clearing the schools to embark on a new life with new prospects is a real achievement for them. And for AAWW.