Sex Workers: Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives

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by Katie Pollom on Sunday, March 10, 2013


Session type

Technical level


We believe other communities can learn a lot from sex workers and their children, and this workshop will be an opportunity to share the knowledge in a creative, engaging workshop.


Sex workers are some of society’s most stigmatized, marginalized women. But they are actually ordinary women: mothers, immigrants, laborers…they just happen to have extraordinary life stories. “Catchy workshop name” will introduce participants to the lives, dilemmas, and perspectives of commercial sex workers. Participants will walk a maze which will force them to make decisions that lead women to sex work and also choose between paths that sex workers walk every day: you earned enough money today to feed all three of your children or buy medication for your HIV+ child: what would you do? The workshop will be led by Shweta Katti and Sheetal Jain, 18-year-olds who has grown up in Kamathipura, India’s largest and most infamous red-light area. Shweta and Sheetal are from Kranti, a Mumbai-based NGO which empowers the daughters of sex workers to become agents of social change. They will be assisted by Katie Pollom, Kranti’s director of education and former Teach for America program director.


An open mind, desire to see life/society from the perspective of sex workers.....but why? Sex work is frequently referred to as the world’s oldest profession but is never legitimately recognized as a job. India is a leader in both recognizing and violating sex-workers’ rights: we have the world’s largest, most active and powerful sex workers’ unions but the average sex worker faces daily discrimination and harassment from the police, legal system, and healthcare providers.

Speaker bio

Shweta Katti is from Kamathipura and came to Kranti 18 months ago. She completed her 12th last year and is currently taking a gap years. For her social change project at Kranti, Shweta designed and implemented an empowerment program in rural Nepal for teens at risk for trafficking. She has also worked on Adivasi women’s issues in Jharkhand, spoken at seven conferences throughout India and been accepted to Semester at Sea. She plans to attend university in America beginning summer of 2013.

Sheetal has grown up with her mother and in other NGOs and has been at Kranti for one year. She is currently studying for her 10th exam and will spend her summer at a development institute and volunteering in Kashmir.

Assistant Bio—Katie Pollom is Shweta’s and Sheetal's assistant. She is the director of education at Kranti and a former Teach For America program director.