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Verve People
August 07, 2015

Ashika Mehta On Uplifting The Girl Child

Text by Zaral Shah. Photograph by Tejal Pandey

The psychotherapist recalls the most unforgettable moments of her journey

Industrialists Gauri and Mohan Pohoomul’s daughter, Ashika Mehta has her days full with her active involvement with enriching girls’ lives through Apne Aap Women’s Collective (AAWC) in Mumbai. She has also recently discovered a passion for cooking.

Childhood memories
“We had a grounded upbringing. I remember swimming sessions on Sunday mornings, family gatherings at my grandparents’ home and staying in houseboats on vacations in Srinagar. I was a pretty good student and I will always continue to learn.”

Finding a vocation
“I am a psychotherapist and also work with the non-profit organisation AAWC. It works to prevent second-generation sex work in Kamathipura — Mumbai’s oldest red-light district. Back in the day, AAWC was a very small organisation which was making a huge impact in the lives of sex workers and their children, one of the most marginalised sections of society. By the time I graduated from college, some of the girls, who were at a high risk of being lured or trafficked into prostitution, were studying to be teachers and beauticians. It was then that I knew I had to be part of this organisation and was sure we could empower more women and girls to lead a life of dignity. Education and vocational skills would give them the choice that they were missing out on.”

Inspirations 
“Despite all the stigma and myths surrounding Mumbai’s red-light area, my family encouraged and supported my commitment. It was then that I decided to pursue a Masters in Social Work. Today, I am able to make time for my profession and AAWC.”

Unforgettable moments
“It’s hard for me to quantify my involvement with AAWC. It’s in my mind space every day. My involvement ranges from fund-raising and recruiting staff to planning programs for the beneficiaries to address their daily challenges. I particularly remember these two instances — when we got the funding to open a second centre and when we saw our beneficiaries graduate in the top 10 percentile of their class at municipal schools.”

Lessons learnt
“I’ve come to realise that the human spirit is indomitable. Despite the hardships faced by the women and girls in Kamathipura, they have a desire to learn, grow and derive happiness from simple pleasures. Their tenacity and courage inspire me. Also, I don’t think my privileged background has coloured their perception of me at AAWC. The girls and women recognise that I have had the privilege of education, healthcare and exposure and they aren’t judgemental.”

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