Shweta Katti has been lucky enough to win a scholarship to Bard College, New York. It is high achievement indeed for any youngster, but more so for Shweta. She was born in unfortunate circumstance in red-light district of Mumbai. Never in her dreams did she imagine her desire to go abroad for studies coming true. But it did.
She now wants to study psychology and help women who have been victims of sexual abuse and run a shelter for sex workers and their children.
Shweta is an inspiration for many of the underprivileged women. She is a living example of how no one has to be limited by their gender, caste, complexion, parents' occupation, or where they come from.
Her nonchalant appearance belies the fact that she has been selected for a course at the prestigious Bard College in New York to pursue a degree in psychology. In April this year, she was featured in Newsweek’s Women in The World: 25 Under-25 Young Women To Watch, along with Pakistani education activist Malala Yousufzai, for her efforts to uplift young marginalized girls.
Shweta’s mother Katti, was a devdasi ( women dedicates to a life of sex in the name of religion). Her grandfather owned a brothel in the area. But his addiction to alcohol and drugs led to the family leading a hand-to-mouth-existence, compelling her grandmother to work as a domestic help.
She remembers fondly how her depleted, infamous neighborhood was a home for her, “As my mother would work from 9 am to 7 pm, the sex workers would dress me up for school and take care of me once I returned”.
However, she still remembers the horror of being sexually traumatized by her step father and thrown lewed propositions at by men when she was as young as 10-years-old. "I was young. I didn't know how to deal with the situation," she recalls. "There were men who used to ask me, 'Do you want to sleep with me?' "
Things have changed for her now, though. Her dreams and hard work have paid off. "I don't know what I'm going to find out there, but I'm really excited," she told CNN. "This is going to be an adventure for me: a new place, new people, new culture."