Most of these women are single mothers to young children who they need to care for by simultaneously giving in to their only resort — Prostitution. They are shunned by society, disowned by their families and often mistreated or looked down upon by even those who employ them. These women have been subjected to severe violence and emotional turmoil and have been forced into believing that they have absolutely no self worth or skill set. Meet Ashish Solanki, founder of Khoobsurat Foundation, a not for profit NGO commited to the rehabilitation of sex workers in Najafgarh and other districts around Delhi.
The Khoobsurat Foundation has collaborated with for-profit as well as other non-profit organizations to design an innovative and self-sufficient module to realize the aspirationsof hundreds of women. Ashish and his team have successfully created a system of dignified sustainable employment by training these sex workers as beauticians and ensuring that they get jobs thereafter.
Thus far, Khoobsurat Foundation has rehabilitated over women, giving each a fresh chance to pursue a socially respected career. Ashish Solanki, Founder, Khoobsurat Foundation. However, the path Ashish tread on was not an easy one take. More often than not, the very women he sought to help turned their backs on him. They were very reserved and did not like interacting with a whole new class of society.
However, it was not long before these women realized what lay before them, and readily seized the opportunity. Many men within the community refused to let women take the skill-set building workshops organized for them, seeing no need for empowerment or rehabilitation.
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Bound by the impositions of heavily male-dominated society, these women had to put up a tough fight so that they would be allowed to actualize their ambition. On his part, Ashish incorporated the medium of movies to make the women and their husbands understand of that a world of progress and socio-economic advancement existed outside their villages. He simply derives exhiliration from the smiles of all those women and children who have received a new lease of life through his work.
Ashish proves that all one has to do to feel truly, deeply content is be out there to give a helping hand to those who need ot most. What happens when you marry off a year-old urban girl, who has never had to do so much as wash a plate, married into a rural family where she is expected to single-handedly manage the entire household? Moreover, what happens when her in-laws begin to harass her for not paying a sufficient dowry? Even before she had graduated from middle school, Asha was engaged to a man she had never met earlier. She was informed that she was to move into a strange village, in a strange state with a strange language, and live in the company and service of complete strangers.
Even though my parents had paid a dowry well beyond their means, my mother in-law was not satisfied. She locked me in my room in a fit of rage and forbade anyone from talking to me. I cried all night.
The whole family was shattered. Asha realized that this was her opportunity to find a place not only in her family but her society as well.
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Asha knew this was her only chance to alter her fate. She was now working as a Housekeeper, using the little she earned to support her family. It was eventually Asha who found her husband a job. Together they began earning enough to afford urban living. Soon they had children, for whose education Asha saved every penny she could. Today, Asha hopes to establish her own business in tailoring.
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She has a come a long way from being the outcast of the family to being its greatest source of pride. What is most remarkable is that Asha has no hard feelings.
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A proud Gulafsha — lovely photo taken by Mansi Midha. And she knows just how to motivate them!
So, in each session, she organizes her little friends in a circle and briefs them, initiates a rigorous game of football or cricket right after, and ends with a debriefing of all the lessons learnt in personal hygiene, environment preservation, regular schooling etc! But when she managed to clear high school and expressed a desire to join college, her parents were very reluctant.
They did not have the means to support her education, and could not justify it set against a context where marriage is the natural step for a girl her age. But Gulafsha is no ordinary girl and she believes in carving her own path where there is none! In order to raise money to pay for her education she began running tuition classes for younger children who needed extra help with their school work. She charged a small amount for assisting them and soon began to earn modestly enough to join college.
Simultaneously she also joined the cadres of an NGO working in the area who gave her access to free courses in computer literacy and functional English. Now she could take on the world. She continues to work relentlessly to break barriers within her community where dropping out, early child marriage and domestic violence are a norm. For Gulafsha, no mountain is too high to climb.
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When we least expect it, life sends our way the most challenging obstacles. At age 17, Nisha was anything but ready for what was coming her way. This is her story. Nisha is a resident of Rathora village in Uttar Pradesh, India. She is the third amongst five siblings.
One afternoon when Nisha was in her senior year at school, she was faced with the sudden death of her father, the sole bread earner of the family. At this trying time of her life, Nisha found herself deserted by relatives and extended family. Nisha realized she had to take charge of the situation.
She could not bear to see her younger siblings forced out of school, and readily gave up her own schooling to earn enough to afford them an education.
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Nisha now resolved to take over this stall. But this was not an easy task. No girl had run a shop around the village before, and she faced stiff opposition from relatives and fellow villagers. As a result, Nisha was subject to boycott, and whoever she asked refused to grant her the loan she required to reopen the tea stall. Fortunately, an old acquaintance of her father agreed to lend her the rupees she so desperately required. With this money, Nisha was finally able to start business. However one problem still lingered — nobody would buy from a stall run by a girl.
But Nisha was not one to back down. Driving him to MiraCosta College every day so he could get his automotive certification. Getting him his cap and gown behind his back so he could participate in graduation. He admits today that he was in denial about his PTSD. All his wife knows is that there were IEDs, improvised explosive devices. And why they should avoid such episode triggers as large crowds. And how, in a restaurant, he needs to sit with his back to the wall. Until then, to reduce the anxiety level in the home, Blanca Jolimeau will continue meditating and doing yoga with the kids.
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