Kat-Kalrav, celebrated every year on the streets of Delhi’s largest red light district GB Road as Kat-Katha’s birthday, rejoices freedom for trafficked women and their children.
Barely five kilometers away from the Red Fort, where the Prime Minister of our country hoists the Indian flag, marking the glorious end of the centuries long British rule; GB Road is the place with thousands of women, who have been denied the freedom to a dignified life. Kalrav is our attempt to show the world that these women too, have all the rights to lead a life as free and dignified as any other.
The idea is simple: To create a safe space for the Didis, with the help of various stakeholders, so that the women and children of GB Road can come down on the streets and celebrate life in its best form, through dance, songs, and games. Kat-Kalrav, the carnival saw light in 2014 with the theme of “Kaid Mein Azaadi” followed by themes like “celebrating life”, “Peace and Prayer Chain”, and so on for three consecutive years, engaging sex workers, children, volunteers and more than one thousand people from mainstream society.
The fifth edition of Kalrav, held on 15th of August, 2018 was celebrated with the theme “Azaad Parindey” & “Bachpan ka Pitara” with much enthusiasm and grandeur. With street plays, games like cricket, badminton, hop-scotch, the entire street was full of colors of our childhood, reflecting freedom of lives, ideas and mindset. For the women bound by the barricades of social stigma and taboo, Kalrav is a view of people dancing to their panache, with the aim of eradicating the shackles that bind their ankles, and the society’s hands that have gripped their throats disallowing them from getting their voices heard. Through the mesh of their windows, these women can view themselves, that there are at least some dedicated individuals, who have declared their lives in the names of the Didis and children of GB Road. For the few women who come down to join us on the streets, it is a way to break free from the cages of stares and accusations, and live a few proud hours in the vicinity of the very people who look down upon them. Every year, the aim behind Kalrav has been single fold, to add a little more freedom into the lives of sex workers, with very simple ideas backing the festival; anything that signifies independence.
Kalrav is our attempt at telling the Didis, that their life will never go sans any celebration, and that festivals will never go unnoticed, till we are thriving to break them free from forced sex work. For the women of GB Road, especially the ones who are trafficked, Kalrav is a message sent in goodwill, reflecting the idea of hope, rejuvenation and rebirth.
Maitri Meals, an initiative by Kat-Katha became operational. The initiative where Didis from GB Road are daily cooking 130 mid-day meals for children of four PVR Nest centres across Delhi, co-managed by Art of Play. PVR Nest is a pioneering endeavour in the Indian entertainment industry which rehabilitates the “Children at Risk” in the vicinity of PVR complexes. Art of Play works on providing experience of organized sports to these children with a purpose on developing their Social, Emotional and Physical skills.
We were also supported by, Social Offline who provided us infra for the Kitchen and the planning of Menu. Inner Wheel, one of the largest women’s service voluntary organisations, helped us with the monthly rations and Utensils. AVDS (Arun Verma Design Studio) gifted us office furniture and computer facilities. Family and friends of our founder Gitanjali, also pitched in with their support. Sirona India organised a training by professional cooks. Maitri Meals has benefitted largely due to their support and are confident that the Didis will take this as their commitment to make the project successful for themselves.
Bharat Mitra, founder of Organic India, has been a visionary entrepreneur all of his life. He filled Kat-Katha and brothels of GB Road with passion, inspiration, and great love. Bharat Mitra is also the Director of The StarFire Fund (USA), a core partner of Gold Lake Mountain Resort (USA), and Chairman of The Lev Group (CO, Israel).
Our staff members and Didis had a deep sharing circle with Bharat in a Brothel. He shared joy and life lessons in our activity center with children and volunteers. Love emerged organically with no agenda on our plates. We discussed about service, relationships, kindness, and how we can co-create a space of love for all human beings with his support. His visit was a ray of hope for women and children trapped in dark brothels. The visit concluded with little dancing and exploring streets of Delhi.
In the last week of April, Kat Katha’s children added another shining feather to their cap by achieving Ashoka fellowship for the extraordinary efforts by their dance group ‘The Mystical Movers’ whose vision is to bring change on GB Road through dance. After going through various challenging rounds and multiple presentations with other teams, they were finally awarded with the fellowship at Ashoka Youth Venture Program held in Bangalore. Kat-Katha team was delighted to witness their learning and exposure in the mainstream society. The children travelled to a different city for the first time on their own. They managed their own stay and travel plans without any supervision, learning discipline and life skills to be confident. Kapil, Stephanie and Gitanjali supported Kunal, Abbas, and Sohail to achieve this dream together in this journey which has just begun.
PVR Nest & PVR Cinemas hosted a special screening for Kat Katha of “Love Sonia” at PVR Plaza New Delhi to spread awareness about the issue of human trafficking. We hosted various foundations like Manzil, Child Scrapers, Rescue foundation, Saajha and Indus Action for the screening of the movie. Didis and children from GB Road had participated in strength. Ms Swati Maliwal, DCW Chairperson, also graced the occasion and shared her stories of struggle and unending efforts to stop sex -work. Kat-Katha’s team left the theatre with heavy emotions but with a renewed resolve to work harder to end forced sex-work and make every red light district a street of love.
Marykay Loss Carlson, a member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor, is the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, visited Kat-Katha along with other staff members of US Embassy. She especially came to meet our Didis, children and volunteers and see the working of our organization. Ms. Carlson visited to discover the horizons for working with Kat-Katha towards eradicating the issue of Human Trafficking. She shared her thoughts on how chaos can be a beauty in itself if we are able to channelize its energy in the right direction. We thank the American Center, New Delhi for giving us this opportunity to have the sharing circle with Ms. Carlson and for all the love and support they have been giving us throughout this journey.
Kat-Katha’s three children (Kunal, Suhail & Abbas) who are known as “The Mystical Movers” participated in the Youth Outreach Program at Jaipur Literature festival along with the team of two volunteers (Kapil & Sunidhi). The theme of the workshop was Emotional Intelligence. It was a 15 day long workshop in which our children presented their stories through theatre and spoke about their life experiences to the audience.
The Yuva Ekta Foundation conducted this workshop where the kids explored the meaning of Emotional Intelligence. It helped them understand various human emotions. Once they completed the workshop, they tried to educate others by performing different plays based on their life stories in various Schools, NGOs and also at the biggest platform to tell stories – ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2018.
This was for the first time that our kids spoke about their lives, standing on a stage, in front of so many people. We could see the shift they had in them when they returned, the confidence they have now, the mindfulness they have towards others. It was indeed a life changing experience for them. We thank Mr. Sanjoy Roy (Founder – Teamwork arts & Salam balak Trust) and Punita mam (Founder – Yuva Ekta Foundation) for this opportunity.