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From Red Light Area to UN Youth Courage Award Shweta Katti Shines bright

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Shweta Katti is an idol to all those women who seek to rise above their surroundings. Her life and journey have been unique full of up and downs. She underwent tremendous pain and abuse before she emerged triumphant. Shweta was born in a red-light area of Mumbai. She is an illegal child and admits it openly.

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Shweta Katti was born and brought up in Kamathipura, one of Asia’s most infamous red-light areas.

Her mother was a prostitute and loved a married man. So they could not marry. After many years Shweta discovered this truth. She was the oldest of three girls who grew up in a brothel. Shweta lived in the brothel till the age of 16. In 2012, she joined Kranti, an NGO that empowered girls from Mumbai’s red-light areas to become agents of social change. Due to her work for marginalized girls, Shweta appeared in Newsweek’s 25-Under-25 Women to Watch list in 2013 along with women like Malala Yousufzai who fought adversity and became a symbol of resistance. Shweta received a full scholarship from Bard College, becoming the first girl from an Indian red-light area to study abroad. In 2014, she was the recipient of many awards, including the prestigious UN Youth Courage Award. She studied for two years at Bard College. She won a full scholarship to Semester at Sea in 2015.

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Shweta Katti is one of those few lucky girls who were rehabilitated by an organization called Kranti. This NGO works towards the rehabilitation of girls from Mumbai’s red-light area. Kranti is founded by Robin Chaurasiya, an American NRI who studied in Seattle. Robin has been living in Mumbai for past few years.  He met Shweta at the office of Apne Aap, an NGO that works with children in Mumbai’s red-light district. The Young Professional Committee of the Share and Care Foundation supported Apane Aap for a long time. Shweta was introduced to Robin as a promising girl. Shweta told him that she wanted to study and become a chartered accountant.

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Shweta in The United States

Shweta began her term in September 2013 at New York’s Bard College, who offered her a scholarship of $30,000. She graduated in psychology as she wanted to help others like her. She is the first girl from Mumbai’s red light district to travel to the United States for her education. She traveled extensively before going to the United States and addressed young women in Nepal, Jharkhand, Bangalore, and Goa, on gender discrimination and sexuality.

 

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However, Shweta’s life hasn’t been easy. It’s tough for her to forget her past. She is quite open about her past. She talks about her life in the Pila House area, her abusive father, and how she was born. She knows that the world is favors men. Shweta’s grandfather ran a brothel. He died without money leaving her grandmother pregnant. Her own mother loved a married man in Mumbai with whom she got Shweta. After the man died, there was another man with whom her mother had a live-in relationship. That man’s surname was  Katti. So Shweta carries his surname. Shweta grew up thinking that the man was her father. Every day she saw fighting, abuse, and beating. Shweta’s mother sent her daughter to school. It was Radha, Shweta’s neighbor who herself was a prostitute, who explained to her what would happen to her if she did not study. This guidance was all that Shweta needed. From that day onwards Shweta worked hard. Every evening she would go to a tuition class run by a local NGO, this irked her step-father even more.  When Kranti was organizing Shweta’s passport and needed her birth certificate, her mother told her the truth. Shweta completed her 12th grade from SNDT College, Mumbai.

 

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Shining  Shweta

The U.S. trip has changed Shweta’s personality and increased her confidence. She is now facing journalists, cameramen, and interviewers quite confidentally. She is extremely thankful to Robin Chaurasiya and her NGO for doing such a fantastic job. She told them she wanted to educate sex workers. But her top priority is to give a comfortable life to her mother.

 

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Shweta Katti’s life is a story of courage and determination. She has proved to the world that no woman should be under estimated. If any woman is given wings to fly she will reach the sky!

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