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Join our wedding celebrations as we send Shweta and Kavita from a red-light area to a semester at sea

Hi, we are Shweta and Kavita! We were born in 1993 and we grew up together in Kamathipura, Mumbai's red-light area. At age 15, we started planning our lives – we would live together, go to university together, move to America together. But we had no idea how much our lives would change in just two years.
When we were 16, Shweta moved to Kranti, an NGO that empowers girls from Mumbai's red-light areas to become agents of social change. But Kavita stayed in the red-light area, responsible for taking care of her grandmother, a former brothel keeper.
At 18, Shweta left to study in America, and just before she left, we learned the most shocking news! Shweta had never known who her father was, and finally her mom shared with her that we had the same father – so we are not just best friends, but half-sisters! Our father passed away from AIDS when we were both four years old.
After Shweta left, Kavita's family started pressuring her to stop studying and get married. She decided to defy her family and also moved to Kranti. This year, we decided to chase our dreams of living and studying together, and we both applied to Semester at Sea, a university on a ship that travels 12 countries in 5 months.
And guess what?? Not only did we get accepted, but Shweta received one of their Presidential Scholarships, which covers 100% tuition and room and board. Kavita received need based, merit based and the Impact Scholarship, which means she will be doing a service project and volunteering in all of the countries we visit. Along with traveling the world, we will study with thousands of students from many countries and also have amazing classes and lectures – can you believe Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, and Indira Gandhi have all taught on this ship??
Now, it's 2014. And we are two little girls, best friends, from Kamathipura – girls who were always told we would never amount to anything and never leave the red-light area. We still dream of studying and living together. And we have an opportunity to sail the whole world - we just need a little financial help to get there. Will you help us fulfill our childhood dreams?
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7th December 2016
Dear supporters,

Both Shweta and Kavita plan to open a community centre in Bengaluru. This community centre is aimed at helping women like themselves and hosting cultural activities. It will also contain a cafe.

Shweta is currently in the United States studying at Watson University, Colorado. She is pursuing a degree in social entrepreneurship. Kavita is in Bangalore, researching cultural spaces in the city and the need for community centers like the one they plan to open. While Shweta is learning about the business aspect of their dream to open the community center, Kavita is busying herself with the on-ground research required for a project like this.

We have been informed that Shweta is highly benefiting from her education at the University. Kavita works as a yoga instructor in Bangalore to make a living. Both their lives have improved greatly due to the funding provided by the campaign. They have expressed their gratitude to every contributor for the support rendered to them.

Thank you.

Team Milaap

29th March 2016
Dear Supporters,

I am Ibrahim, a Milaap Open Campaigns Fellow in Mumbai. I had a chat some time ago with Shweta Katti, one of the girls who went aboard for the ‘Semester at Sea’ Program. Shweta was featured in Newsweeks’s ‘25 Under-25 Young Women to Watch’, back in 2013, along with Malala Yousafzai. She won a scholarship to New York’s prestigious Bard College. She also gave a TEDx Talk about her life, the life of sex workers, and their dreams and hopes. Well, there’s more to it. , She was also honoured at the ‘2014 United Nations Youth Courage Awards’ by none other than UK’s former PM, Gordon Brown.

Right now, she has taken a gap year from her college in NY to figure out what she wants to do. She interned at the Ashoka Foundation in Bangalore. She also went along with the rest of Krantikaris to Nepal and visited several organisations and NGOs working with sex workers and the LGBT community.
She shed light on how her association with Kranti got started. “I had high aspirations and really wanted to study. But due to my past, I was very reserved and shy, so I did not attend classes when I was in 12th. I was scared that the professor might ask me questions. Also, my step-father was an abusive alcoholic, so I could not even study at home,” she said. After some time, the people from “Apne Aap Women’s Collective” (where she used to teach kids younger than her) contacted Kranti. Soon she learned that Kavita was her half-sister, and eventually even she joined Kranti.

I asked her about the ‘Semester at Sea’ program. There is map of the world at Kranti’s home, where the girls have put dots on the places they’ve went aboard the ship. “We left from Mexico, then went to Hawaii, Japan, China, then moved south to India, Mauritius, and further. We ended the trip at London,” she said. She tells me about the other well-off kids that were with her during the trip. She would secretly giggle at their reactions when they went on-field to different slums and such places and encountered poverty in its absolute form. “For me, it was a different kind of eye-opener, because I had been there and gone through that.”

During her program, she was also supposed to do a project, wherein she had to conduct workshops, on sex-work in India, at the different places that they docked at. Being an introvert, initially she was hesitant to gather people for the workshop initially. “But on the first day itself, hundreds of people turned up for the workshop and I shared my story with them,” says Shweta. This combined with the practical learning made for a great experience for her.
Shweta chose Psychology among other similar subjects in the program. She did so because she dreams of opening a mental health care facility in Kamathipura one day. 

We, at Milaap wish her and Kavita all the success in their future endeavours and hope that their dreams of bringing a change come true.

5th August 2015
Boarding the bus to Mexico to board the ship

The famly that helped me board the ship from MX with revolutionary/my sister also on SAS @mauritiusI am writing to you aboard a ship, somewhere between Namibia and Morocco! As many of you know, this Semester I have been studying on the Semester at Sea Program, where I am travelling to 15 cities, 12 countries over 112 Days.

I want to start by apologizing for this report being so delayed. We only have intermittent internet connection on the ship at a few ports. Although, before boarding the ship, I was worried about how I would stay for so long without internet, without email and calling my mother, I found that there are many advantages of not having the internet. There are no distractions from my classes, all the papers I have to write, and I can really spend time with the 600 students aboard the ship and make many great friends.

I am taking classes on Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Theater. My classes are really very interested, mostly because we learn these subjects in the context of the countries the ship is docking at, and we go and do field trips to cultural and historical sites in these countries. I feel like I understand what I am studying really well because I am seeing these live examples in front of me, and I am learning in a way that I will never forget, because I have been to these places, met these people and have spoken with them.

As I got the Presidential Scholarship to attend the Semester At Sea Program, I had to conduct 8 workshops for the students on the ship about Sex Work and Gender Inequality in India. I was very nervous about these workshops. The students who would come to my workshops would all be my age or older, what could I possibly teach them or share with them to keep them interested? But I have conducted half of the workshops already and they are going great! I show videos of plays we have performed at Kranti, and at every workshop we discuss a different nuance of stories from the Red Light Areas in India, like child sexual abuse, children of sex workers not getting admitted in school, or sex workers not getting health services because of the taboos associated with them. Before I started the workshops I used to think only 2 or 3 students will show up, but actually so many students come that some of them have to sit on the aisles!

PS - I shaved my head! It seems to be quite a fad at Kranti, as 4 Revolutionaries have already shaved their head. How do I look?

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Beneficiary: Kranti info_outline