Apne Aap Women's Collective

Focus: Girl Child, Livelihoods, Women

A CHILD is shaped by her surroundings. So it is natural for one born in a brothel to follow a similar path - and it is this intergenerational cycle that AAWC are trying to break.

Shockingly, three million of the world’s 4.5million women and children who have suffered sexual exploitation live in India. And Kamathipura, Asia’s largest and oldest red light area where AAWC are based, is home to about 10,000.

The statistics are unrelenting: 88 per cent are victims of trafficking, subjected to rape, torture and starvation; 70 per cent are HIV positive; and 40 per cent are homeless when not working as brothels are used exclusively for sexual activity.

Imagine a childhood with constant exposure to pornography, narcotics, gambling, sexual abuse, solicitation and corrupt law enforcement officers. Or growing up in a community where children often sleep under the bed or play unattended while their mothers are with clients.

No wonder when AAWC president Ashika Mehta took a career orientation workshop as an intern 13 years ago and asked the girls of Kamathipura what they wanted to be when they grew up, they told her they wanted to be “madams” – the most powerful person in their world.

Despite this, AAWC have been successful in their mission. As CEO Manju Vyas says: “None of our second generation beneficiaries have gone into prostitution. Many of our girls have helped their mothers quit the trade after getting a good job and have also helped their siblings gain an education.”

One unfortunate fuel of the sex trade in Kamathipura, indeed India, is myth – harmful beliefs held by customers who are mainly businessmen, tourists, or labourers.

Most think sex with children cures STIs and HIV/AIDS, that unprotected sex increases potency, and sex with a virgin restores masculinity – all of which increase the risk of young girls being coerced into prostitution and endangering their health.

Since inception AAWC have served over 3,000 women and children with their education and skills training programmes.

Their alumni boast of Bachelors and Masters degree holders who now work in various fields – from accounting and hospitality to dance, photography and teaching.

One such is 27-year-old Kavita Jain (name changed), who studied hotel management, won a national culinary competition and became a chef at an international luxury hotel. Today she is a chef on an American cruise ship!

Support AAWC to secure the future of many more Kavitas.

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AIMS to empower women in prostitution with resources to make a living outside the red light area. As most enter the trade at a young age, they are uneducated and unskilled. Under Umeed (‘hope’ in Hindi), they get educational, financial literacy and vocational training, medical assistance, nutrition and counselling services. AAWC also help them procure identity proof and bank accounts so they can access government benefit and schemes. This year Rs 25.5lakhs will serve 500 women per month.


SERVES the daughters of women in brothels and other vulnerable girls in the red light community, with the aim to prevent the intergenerational cycle of prostitution. Girls are provided with education, physical and mental health services, nutrition, extra-curricular activities, exposure visits and positive influence through mentorship. All these services are designed to help them aspire for professions away from the brothels they have grown up in. Rs 66lakhs will fund 90 girls for a year.


AIMS to help toddlers (2.5 to 5 years) of women in the sex trade to develop physically, cognitively, emotionally and socially in preparation for schooling. AAWC found kids in the red light community were often drugged while their mothers solicited, exposed to drug peddling and gambling and mimicked the violence they witnessed in the area. To provide 48 children with daily nutrition, education, counselling, medical aid, day care and night shelter services, the year’s budget is Rs 44lakhs.

About Apne Aap Women's Collective

Learning of the challenges of women and children in brothel-based prostitution and human trafficking has really opened my eyes. I came away very touched by the passion, dedication, and strength of AAWC’s management and staff.

Laura Bengford, Thomson Reuters

Earlier, I did not know how to write even a single word. However, after enrolling into AAWC’s Adult Literacy Programme, I’ve learnt to read and recently even wrote my name!

Umeed Beneficiary, Mumbai

  • Manju Vyas CEO
  • Hetal Jobenputra Sr. Manager – Programmes
  • Poonam Awasthi Field Director
  • Madhurima Sarkar Manager - Umeed, Umang
  • Jasmina M Sangma Manager - Udaan
  • Sadique Kalyankar Chief Accountant
  • Ambika Konka Documentation & Programmes
  • Aaliya Shaikh Fundraising & Communications
  • Kalpana Gharat Shelter Supervisor & Outreach