A place where she could study, laugh and make friends
N Madhavan 02 October 2014
AAWC seeks to empower the second generation to escape the cycle of prostitution
As a child, Shweta endured daily taunts about her dark skin and survived sexual abuse by her mother’s live-in partner. Yet, she thrived for eight years in AAWC’s (Apne Aap Women’s Collective) Udaan programme, where she was one of the only girls to come to the centre in the morning before school and again for regular after-school tuitions.  Today, Shweta is studying psychology at Bard College, USA and plans to return to Mumbai after her graduation to help other girls like herself escape the red light area. She remembers AAWC’s shelter as “A place where she could study, laugh, and make friends!” 
By providing services not only for women in prostitution but also for their daughters and young children, AAWC seeks to empower the second generation to escape the cycle of prostitution, secure well-paid skill-based jobs and, eventually, bring their mothers out of prostitution. 
Sudarshan Loyalka founded AAWC in 1998 as a women’s collective as an anti-trafficking organisation that serves the women and children of Kamathipura, the red-light area of Mumbai. Initially, a single-room drop-in centre, AAWC developed into a resource centre to address the women’s needs, providing them with professional counselling, medical care, micro-savings facilities and other services.
Today, it claims to provide almost everything that a mother can provide to the children, even as they grow up in Kamathipura. Manju Vyas, who joined AAWC in October 1998, has served as its director since April 1999. As its CEO, she has a professional team working with her, including women with a master’s degree in social work.
AAWC operates three programsme: Umeed for women in brothel-based prostitution (ages 18+), Udaan for daughters of Umeed members and other girls living in the red light area (ages 6-18), and Umang for toddlers of Umeed members (ages 2-5).
Since 1998, AAWC has served more than 2,800 women and children. Among AAWC’s VIP visitors has been Michelle Obama, in November 2010.
Apne Aap operates from two locations—Kamathipura, where they have a school and a night shelter, and Falkland Road where they have a school only. As you walk up to the Pochammadevi Temple in Kamathipura, you may still wonder about the location of the Apne Aap office. However, the bright pink entrance right opposite the temple and the excited squeals of the children within are landmarks enough,” says the newspaper DNA, describing the NGO’s work. 
Ashika Mehta, president of AAWC claims, “Not a single daughter from our NGO has gone into prostitution. And that’s something, because otherwise the chances are anywhere between 50% to 80%.” AAWC is also fortunate to have support from celebrities like actress Rani Mukerji and designers Anju Modi, Surily Goel, Atsu and Reema Zaveri, among others.
Interestingly, The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) is an important fund-raising platform for AAWC, since 2009. You too can contribute to its work by volunteering, partnering or donating to AAWC. Cheques in any currency can be made in favour of Apne Aap Women’s Collective and sent with a covering letter stating: (i) PAN (ii) full address (iii) email address and (iv) purpose of the donation (e.g., general purpose, Udaan, etc). Indian donors are entitled to tax benefits under Section 80 G of the Income-Tax Act.
Apne Aap Women’s Collective
61-B, Room No. 6, Ground Floor, 
Shankarrao Pupala Marg, 11th Lane Kamathipura, 
Opposite Pochammadevi Temple, Mumbai 400008, India
Telephone 91 22 2308 3326


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