Field Notes from Ajmer

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A couple of months ago Jaimala Gupta, the founder and executive director of Vatsalya/Anoothi, sent us her thoughts about the value of the Anchal-Vatsalya/Anoothi collaboration. She writes,

‘Vatsalya has worked with the women involved in Ajmer’s sex trade for about three years. Prior to Anchal, our sole focus was to generate awareness about HIV /AIDS and promote safe sex. While these issues are fundamental to their well-being, we always wanted to offer our women something more tangible, meaningful and transformative. Alternative livelihoods based on self-sustenance and respect was precisely what our programming lacked. Anchal brought that glimmer of hope to the women we serve as well as the entire commercial sex worker community in Ajmer.’

Jaimala also noted the new routine taken up by many of the artisans. Once adrift and waiting for customers, today a team of women arrive regularly to the office in Ajmer where they spend the day sewing together. She recounts,

‘As they work together in a group of ten to twelve each day they sing songs, laugh and make jokes amongst each other. Sometimes they share their stories from childhood and cry on each other’s shoulders. At the end of the day they return home feeling light and happy. The daily visit to our office has become a joy in their lives – they LOVE it and plead for more work so that they can continue with this new refreshing routine for the rest of their lives.’

As we approach our 1-year anniversary with Anoothi/Vatsalya we extend our gratitude to Jaimala, the artisans and the entire Anoothi/Vatsalya team for giving us the opportunity to test and expand this unique cross-cultural collaboration.

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