Kamathipura is an infamous area in Mumbai that is considered to be one of the oldest and largest red light areas in Asia. There are more than 5000 sex workers operating in this area and a majority of them are victims of human trafficking. This area which is more like a maze with small lanes, couple of shops, huts, eating joints, and brothels; lacks the very basic necessities of livelihood. In fact, a large number of sex workers live on footpaths, pavements and streets of this area.

From such a place, comes the story of a girl, now a student of Liberal Arts at the Bard College in New York. Her self-narrated story, first posted on Humans of Bombay’s Facebook page, is a tale of hope, will, change, and perseverance.

Here Is What She Has To Say:

“I’ve grown up in a red light area, surrounded by the flesh trade all my life. At 12, I’ve been asked for my ‘rate’ and cried myself to sleep because I didn’t understand it.

But you want to know what’s worse?

It’s that the men who came to ask would all be from the ‘upper class’ as you call it with shiny cars and the perception that they could ‘buy’ anything.

But the women there are my family…they’ve taken care of me when my mother would have to go work at a factory nearby and treated with me so much love and kindness, but I still grew up with a very low self esteem because of my dark color.

I don’t know why you have to be fair to be beautiful…and because I’m dark I’ve always been called ugly. Once my 12th standard ended, I decided to make a change. I told the people at my Municipal school that I wanted to study, learn English and make something of myself. That’s when I went to an organization called Kranti.

I spent the next year, travelling across India conducting workshops on sex education and that’s when I realized that not everyone judges me for my background and kind of got my self esteem back.

I’ve always been a day dreamer, so I randomly just said it out loud one day that I want to go America (at that point I didn’t even know if it was a continent, city or a country) and through Kranti’s efforts I got a full scholarship at Bard College to study Liberal Arts.

We crowd sourced the rest of the money for my accommodation and day to day expenses and my life has just turned around…I’ve been to semester at Sea, I speak fluent English and have amazing entrepreneurial ideas to make a difference to my home…to Kamathipura.

Yes, open your mind about my home. Accept that people have choices and know that so many women there are in it by choice…because it’s their source of livelihood. As Indians, we need to judge less and accept things that are not always in our comfort zone, because my background is not my weakness…I’m me, and no location can define who I am.”

Kranti is an NGO that is working for empowering the girls living in Mumbai’s red light areas and are doing exceptional work to be an agent of social change.