We were established in 1998, but our story took birth decades ago, in a heart that yearned for inclusion.
Our founder, Mr. Sudarshan Loyalka, who was an undergraduate student in the USA, found himself right in the middle of the scene, as the 1960s unfolded. Few of the most important shifts in world history set the backdrop for the seeds of change to take roots in his heart. He became actively involved in various student awakening movements. Soon his own words, "My heart lies with the people" manifested in his decision to come back to India and serve his home country and its people.
A visionary in his own right, his journey wasn't one without hurdles. Back in India, he navigated through the country, comprehending not just the complexity of the socio-economic systems, but of the political systems as well. He conceded, albeit with a pang in the heart, that many roads which had commenced in idealism, ended in rotting of the system. The realization, although, did not deter him from his purpose in any way and he transformed the narrative of his desire from 'changing the world' to 'changing few lives.
As fate would have it, he stumbled upon an opportunity, at the time, that helped his purpose finally find expression. It was in Kamathipura, Mumbai, when he was first introduced to the living conditions of the women and children living in the red light area. He learned about the neglected prevalence of human rights exploitation in their everyday lives. From here on, there was no looking back for him. A painter himself, Mr. Loyalka raised the initial funds for the organization's operations by hosting art exhibits.
The foundation of Apne Aap Women's Collective was thus laid, established as the anti-trafficking organization, which was soon to become an independent, and self-sustaining, impact institute. Initially a single-room drop-in center, AAWC eventually developed into a holistic resource center that addressed medical, nutritional, financial, educational, empowerment and counselling needs of the women in red light areas for their effective rehabilitation. This marked the beginning of our flagship program - Umeed. Umeed represented hoping, coping and the journey in between, for all our beneficiaries who were lured, exploited, trafficked and coerced into prostitution.
As with any marginalized community, the women of red light areas, held up a striking mirror, showing us an unjust picture of the society. The interconnectedness of their issues revealed how the daughters of Umeed beneficiaries were most vulnerable to being coerced into prostitution. Their extensive exposure to the brothels, lack of educational aspirations and zero positive role models to look up to, created an extremely unhealthy mental conditioning for the young girls. AAWC decided to intervene and work against this cycle of intergenerational prostitution. We launched the Udaan program in the year 2000. Udaan symbolized the flight, the fight and the journey that our young girls bravely traversed with nutritional, medical, educational, vocational, financial, empowerment, shelter and counselling support from AAWC.
Within half a decade, our beneficiaries reflected such an encouraging impact, that we were ready to do more. In 2002, AAWC extended its services to the toddlers of the women in the red light area. To cultivate an environment of happiness and readiness for our youngest beneficiaries. The unattended idling in red light areas, often led them to pick up and imitate unhealthy habits from the street. Their mothers found it difficult to provide a survival that was conducive for the young girls physical and emotional health. Many young girls bordered dangerously on malnutrition. The Udaan program gave them a safe space to unlearn unhealthy behaviors and facilitate healthy development. Our initiatives collectively took care of their physical and psychological growth with a caring shelter that provided nutrition, education, playful engagements and a warm and loving environment.
In 2010 December with the understanding gained of the community AAWC geographically expanded and created a new center in the Kamathipura area to work with women in prostitution and their daughters. The need for a healthy environment to live in for the daughters of the women in the community in the year 2011, August AAWC initiated their 24/7 shelter home for the girls between 2.5 years to 18 years.
Constantly working in the Kamathipura and Falkland Road area a shift and influx of women in the Turbhe red-light area was gaged by the outreach team. Considering the same and identifying the problems faced by the women AAWC geographically expanded their reach in 2019 and opened a new center in the Turbhe area, Navi Mumbai in order to meet the needs and requirement of the women. Increasing the reach to 3100 women beneficiaries in all three centers. Once we started working towards the benefit of the women in the Turbhe it was seen that the daughters of the women were in a vulnerable state and were in need of support, thus post identification in the year 2022, AAWC began with their day care activities with the daughters of the women in the Turbhe red-light area.
Thanks to the like-minded friends, supporters and well-wishers, AAWC went on to tell success stories to the world, creating awareness and attracting loyal, and long-term donor relations. We continue to write more chapters in our story with three fully operating AAWC centers in and around the red light areas of Mumbai. Our impact numbers speak volumes about the transformation we bring about in the communities we work with.