“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.