“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”
― John Holmes
Najafgarh – A red light district in Delhi into which not too many “decent” people venture. Here thrives the Premnagar Basti Community of commercial sex workers, a sizeable group of young women forced into the industry by desperate financial needs. 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 200 women, giving each a fresh chance to pursue a socially respected career.
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. “The women had trust issues with us. They were very reserved and did not like interacting with a whole new class of society. There existed a communication gap between two divorced classes of society”, he recalls. However, it was not long before these women realized what lay before them, and readily seized the opportunity. The larger problem though, was the exceeding interference by male influences in these womens’ lives. 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. 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.
As Ashish prepares to join Williams College in August, he has nothing to say about the lakhs of rupees (over $8000) he raised for the cause or the hours of effort that his initiative demanded. 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.