The recipient of the 2014 United Nations Youth Courage Awards ceremony is a 19 year old, Indian girl, Shweta Katti, who comes from a red-light area in Mumbai. Winning a scholarship at Bard College in the US, with the help of an NGO, ‘Kranti’ that assists the daughters of sex-workers; Shweta went to the US to study last year, where she is pursuing a degree in psychology.
The United Nations Special Envoy for Education for the Youth Courage Award is given to girls from around the world for showing exemplary courage in promoting the cause of girls’ education and dignity of women. Before she left for the US, she had revealed the circumstances she studied in.
In a makeshift room above the brothel, Shweta, with many other girls, used to study with great difficulty. When she was 11 or 12 years of age, she was also sexually abused by a man. But with motivation and support from her mother and Kranti, she managed to win the scholarship and is now spreading the word about the state of the Dalit community in India.
Named one of 25 women under 25 to watch by Newsweek magazine for her efforts to break the social stigma associated with Dalits, she told Aljazeera, "I am humbled that my voice and journey have been appreciated but this award is for my mom first and then my friends at Kranti. I hope they will recognise their own potential and make their own stories."
Even though her mother is not a sex worker, she grew around the women who cared for her and treated her like their own. With her degree in psychology, Katti hopes to help these women back home.
Having studied in Marathi medium schools all her life, Shweta initially found it difficult to adjust in the U.S. but is now getting used to the language barrier. She has even made some friends. She says, "Most people here don't judge and this has helped me appreciate people in different ways. I don't have to hide anything from anyone here. No one points fingers at me any more."