Dr Girish Kulkarni is the founder of Snehalaya, an NGO based in Ahmednagar, India. Snehalaya means 'Home of Love', and was founded in 1989 to provide support for women, children and LGBT communities, who have been affected by HIV and AIDS, trafficking, sexual violence, and poverty. In India, 93 women are raped every day. It is estimated that 135,000 children are trafficked every year. Over 120,000 women a year will suffer domestic violence. There are 2.1 million people living with HIV, and an estimated 130,000 people die of AIDS each year.
At Snehalaya they believe that grassroots outreach and education is the key to drastically reducing these figures. Their mission is to provide rescue, rights and rehabilitative services to the communities in most need and to offer a safe exit point to women and their children trapped in the crippling cycle of poverty and abuse.
Thus they aspire to develop the awareness and capabilities of individuals who have been deprived of their fundamental rights as a result of the inequalities that exist in our society. They provide services to over 45,000 beneficiaries and are a strong and passionate family, united in the belief that no one should stand alone.
About Dr Girish Kulkarni: He grew up in Ahmednagar enjoying life in a middle class, loving and supportive family. A former journalist with several graduate and postgraduate degrees to his name, he now combines working as a political science lecturer with driving Snehalaya, which he founded in 1989. For the past 32 years, he has been connecting with other NGOs, social workers, politicians, celebrities and anyone else who can help raise awareness of the plight and make positive changes for those who society would like to ignore.
“I was motivated by my own burden of guilt. I found that working to satisfy that, was much more sustainable than being moved by compassion. To me, that creates unrealistic expectations and places the burden on others. Ultimately their responses to your actions remain out of your control which can lead to frustrations and dissatisfaction, it’s much more rewarding to be clear and focused on your own purpose.”
Manthan Shah, Girish Kulkarni
Hi, before we begin, I want to quickly notify you that we are going to do two parts of this podcast. The first part is a deep dive into what's Niala is all about. And the second part is going to be to get to know Mr. Girish Kulkarni further we have a very exciting guest for us today's planet impact podcast. You know, there are often these NGOs whose impact is heard and felt beyond countries and geographies. But their name is not as famous as the other NGOs. One of these NGOs is called Mahalia. It is situated in this town called Mr. Naga in Maharashtra, India, and the founder name today is Mr. Girish Kulkarni, so it's an honor to have you in today's forecast. same year, I
am also feeling very happy to sit in front of you manthan Thank you so much.
Interestingly, we are sitting in Mr. Naga and this is a radio station that is one of the functions that this NGO does. It's a state of the art technology radio station and I'm privileged to be able to use it and speaking with you here today. Thank you, Mr. Girish Kulkarni was grew up in himmatnagar, enjoying a life in the middle class family with a loving and supportive family. He was very good at academics. When he was eight, he went to a tuition class after school, his parents put him into that class. And as soon as one class ended, the other class started. So all these students used to rush from one class to the other. There was a one kilometer distance for Mr. Kilkenny being as smart as ever. He chose to take another path, which was a shortcut. And this shortcut was through the red light area of the city. So grish, sir, you were eight years old? What was this experience of yours when you were walking through the red light area of the city and what experiences shaped you
when I was a small child and as you know, I'm born and brought up in America. So I used to go pass through a red light area called cheap rallies. while passing through that red light area, I used to see the girls of my standing there. And these brothel keepers, pimps and guns, they were forcing the girls to do the sex with the customers. Sometime I saw that there were four or five, six people, mostly the army persons, because ahmadnagar is surrounded by army establishments. And most of the clientele was from the army areas, they were forcing a small girl, and they abused her very badly. And she cries. And many times I saw that the girls were beaten badly and their clothes were removed. And sometimes the chili powder was put into their vagina. And when they went to wash it to the handpump, not the bones of the brothel keeper, they were sitting there and they were beating them and not torturing them, making fun of them. So I saw these scenes, and they were horrified my mind my heart. And I thought I have to do something. No, this is this is a very pitiable condition of some and, and I want to do something, but I was not sure what to do. But later on, when I went to the red light area when I was in college, and one of my friend is from the community, whose family tradition is of sending the girls and women for the flesh trade. And they were in dancing in color cameras and dance bars. So when I went to him, I saw all the male communities sitting out of the home and sending customers for his 16 year old sister, 40 year old mother, and 70 plus grandmother. And when I asked my friend Oh, don't you feel bad? He said, No, it's a caste tradition. And nothing happens even if I feel it very bad, because everyone has accepted it as a cost professional. So I am just helpless. at that particular time I felt if someone God has placed me in a good family, my parents were teachers, but if I bought there in the Red Lake area, or I bought there in that particular cost, and if I see my own sister mother or a grandmother during the this profession, and they were forced to have sex with many, many people, then what can I do? Can I just see and just move away or I will do something. And I that made me very upset. And there was a strong desire in my mind, in my heart, our eyes that I will have, I will do something for this social section. So this was the journey how I was about 13 when I was first time I saw the red light area and the girls know I was 13 years old, but when I was in the red light area in my college days, I was about 1718 years old. And yeah, I was in I think 12th standard. That all incident made me very upset and the rest in my mind and I will was slowly feeling very guilty. No, it there was a guilty conscience in my mind that, yes, I can't do everything, I can't transform the life of anyone, but I can do a small thing, I can bring a small change in the life of others. But I'm not doing it. I'm just thinking and thinking and I was thinking that, okay, when I my education will complete, I will do it when I share the idea of doing something. So people tell me Oh, you get settled in your life first. And don't do it right now.
So that is very true of you to point it out. In Indian society, it is very common for us to have a very linear progression towards life, you're supposed to be good at studies, which you were, but then we are advised to finish our college, get a good job settling down on enough money and then eventually start volunteering or do something if it's too late. So you when you were 17, when you're 18, you decided, Okay, you know what, I'm gonna put my foot down, and I'm gonna make a difference. So, you mentioned that you kind of went into this red light community alone. And you started interviewing, you started asking questions to these prostitutes about how much money do they owe? And and what what kind of things go around that. So what was this experience? Like? Did you get answers right
away from them. Truly speaking, they were making fun of me, because they were not believing that someone is coming there with true intention to do some study all of their problems, because as you know, I was thinking very theoretically, so, I thought that I will first make the study of the problems, I will have the interview of all the people I will just fill up their questionnaires, and then I will jot down the problems, I will have some percentage of income groups language, his educational background, then I will plan the strategy and then I will work. So this normally happens in corporate now you can do a study and forecasting strategies, SWOT analysis, and then you start doing something. So I asked a lot of power, who was a senior prostitute there, but she was very compassionate lady. And she, at that time, she was able to read English, she was writing English law, she was talking English. So she was a clerk in government department, but some circumstances forced her to do the prostitution. So it was a bit tragic story of her. But when I asked her, she has affection for me, because she realized my intentions for coming there. So she told me that I asked her why they are making fun, she said, if you want to work for them, or if you want them to be serious, then you have to gain their trust. And lo, and this if you gain these two things, then only your communication will be actually started. So I thought, How can I can trust and love them? So it was my question. So then I was thinking I was coming there, same things happening. So I asked the girl there who was having already two kids and one child in her woman says you are just 17 years old. I asked her, can I help you? And she said, How can you help me? I said, I will help you to get rid of all these brothel keeper pimps, I will help you to give up this profession, I will help you to give up the addiction of liquor you have and I will protect you. If you give up this profession, I will protect you from the people know who are troubling you. And I will give good education to our kids. She said what I should do. I said just give up the bright light area and come with me right now then only I can get a chance and I will do everything which is believe in me. She said no, I don't believe in you. So I asked, I said why I said she told me that there are many people every day we meet and they are giving us promises they are talking very sweet language. And after the end of the six physical intercourse, they will very rudely and they go with all no bad words if they are not satisfied. So this is what our usual experience. So we never believe in no good words and no sweet language. This is all false. We know. So I said okay. But she said you can take my kits. I said why she told me that at the evening time, the brothel keeper appears now they engage us in prostitution, we can pay attention to our kids, there is a total dark and blackout in the red light area. So customer comes in, I abused my our kids also. And they asked our kids to bring liquor and cigarettes for themselves. And while bringing all the things that the small children also start taking test of it and they get addicted. And also they saw all these unethical things, bad language and it impacts their life. So I really want that my child should be away from the red light area at the evening time. So I said yes, just give me the children. So she immediately gave up her two children to me. And I went these two children in front of the children the red light area, there are the municipal school, school number 14 of municipal corporation and there is a small political So I went there, and I started playing with them talking with them. They became my friend and I went to my home, I've created them a food. And I asked them whether they like it, they were very happy because someone is talking to them. So I told him stories, and they become good friend of me. After three months, I have 80 children from all red light areas. And every mother is sending the child to me saying that Okay, keep them safe at the evening time till late night. So I started a program. And I was very happy that no one was believing me but now woman has started believing me they have started sharing their problems to be like brothel keepers are troubling them police half of the money is taken by brothel keeper policies taking their commission, then these pimps and brokers are harassing them, their regular partners are torturing them. So they started sharing their personal stories to me, I realized that when I was I came to first I came to red light area with ideas and knowledge. But I that couldn't work out. So when I gained their trust and love, the things have started moving, and they became a close associate of sneer. They are slowly, slowly, then when I started my night, then a winner Saturday night shelter in the red light area, they send all their kids for the night Care Center. So there was a program from 6pm to 6am next day, so it's a different type of program, but they'll send their kids to me, then I have started shelter at my home because I was not having any space in institution. But there were many children who were expecting shelter, because their mother cell ran away, and they were having their orphans, there was no one who can look after in the red light area. So if I keep them there, only, then they will be abused Surely, because there is no one who can look after them. So I brought them to my home. The woman supported me, many women know they came to my home and they know fight with me to keep their kids in my home. So I allowed them to keep them. Then after I started institution and at MIT See, then all women they everyone was interested to give their kids to me. So that all transformation I saw, and because I gain trust and love. So I learned a lot. I went there to teach, but actually I learned a lot from them. And I learned a very important thing in country like India, you cannot transform the life with knowledge. You have to use love and trust. These are the two weapons which can bring the change in the minds of the people and build it till today. Now if you ask me, what is the motivating force of social change? So love and trust, knowledge comes later?
That's a very interesting point that I wanted to purge in this whole interview. When I was listening to your other interviews and researching for this thing, that thing settled hate very deep inside me because as a 21 year old college student, I'm very fortunate to get an international education, we are growing the world which talks about knowledge, the wit how great questions you ask, and how much knowledge Do you know but the real world changing change making creating an impact is the knowledge comes last but this building trust in the community with a lot of love and affection comes first. So what are the tools or how did you approach this relationship like how what did you do to build that love and affection.
I consider them as my family. This very small thing because there is no strategy and planning in that know how to gain a trust and love it is just you consider them as your family when they were suffering from HIV, tuberculosis and Syphilis and Gonorrhea sexually transmitted diseases. I was treating them like my family member when they were suffering from HIV and AIDS. They hold my hand till at their last breath. No at the last breath I tell you, people always want the person of their trust at their last breath. So you can spend a life with anyone that is not a problem. But if you are sure that you are going to die You always need a very close people with you and you hold their hand is what the human nature. So most of the women I saw were 1500 deaths in from 1990 to 2003 because of HIV and AIDS, and they were mostly the women from the red light areas and their children. So many of the women know they hold my hand and they were sure that I will save them they are a lot of trust in me. They were not saying that what will save them they were looking at me and they were they said you just stay here. We know if you are here. dates will not come to us. So that trust and it is because emotional bonding with them. I think loves speaks a lot. You need not have to use the words and the Seva or the service, that also speaks a lot. So the most of the women are from the nomadic tribe, the elite communities, the economically and socially backward communities. And people don't look at them, never acknowledge them in the daytime, when nighttime people goes to them for the six, but I hold their hand, I sit with them, I take a food in the same tally, we share the same pool, we share. And they were telling all their personal things to me. And I was also advising them and helping them as per my capacity, I'm teaching their kids. So it is a family bonding, which has created a trust. And it's very general, if you really want to grow the organization, company factory, you have to create that family bonding and relations between the people working with you and your team in the car. If we were going somewhere, no, I always choose the last seat, which is normally our debt because I know that I have to take care of other family members. So everyone is nearly no tries to go back. First. It's a culture. So it's a culture of sneer layer of family culture. And that has created emotional bonding with the women and we always thought we should not work for them, we have to work with them. For them. This is again a formula of sneakily where we import them. And people say
I when people ask us what problems are solved of them. So I always, the strategy of snap Alia is making them empowered to solve their own problems. We never feel and we never give a feel that we are solving your problems. Absolutely. And what you've shown us a representation of what a servant leadership leaders eat last, and just listening to you married the whole city gave me goosebumps, just order the sheer empathy and love and affection that you've shown for all the people since day one. So this was you started Sinhala in 1989. And it was in you insisted that three of the sex workers become trustees of the organization and you did coaching counseling, and they had the new roles in the company. And you always have been associated giving the people in the bottom of the pyramid an opportunity to grow and learn. So in the last 31 years, it has just created a massive impact. So what is one of the impact stories that you love the most?
The first impact story is this work has transformed myself, because I don't know how many lives this nearly a family and a force of collective force of sneller has changed. But I consider myself the first beneficiary because this work has made me a good human being than I was in the past. And it's a true it's a true story that I met many great people in this journey. I met Ramesh khatola. I met in Nigeria I met Bob armed a Vj lewat, a private Parker pretty Parker, all good passionate human beings. I learned a lot from them. And I was very fortunate that they were considering me as their son or as their grandson. And they were sharing everything to me very openly. There were many people who have impacted my life. And yes, there were many great impact stories also I have experienced during this journey that has impacted life of many, many people working with me. There were a lot of stories I can tell you. We've got information of a minor girl doing a prostitute she was forced to do the prostitution in a show about red light area. It was a story of 2006 seven, we are rescued a girl and that girl Her name is Pooja. So she had lost a mother mother was also a prostitute and she was burnt alive in a local quarrel by some customers. So you know that story was very tragic. She was burnt alive in front of her daughter and then daughter was used again by the brothel keepers for the placement and she was sold in 10,000 rupees to a brothel in Chihuahua. So we have rescued we have fought a great battle with the brothel keepers because all brothel keepers now they are Nexus with political leaders and police departments. So in many times no laws are very great. But there is no civil society and system is very corrupt. So many times you have to fight on multiple battlefields so you have to fight with police also if you do something you have to fight with brothel keepers organized gangs so all these things known and they have connections with political circles, clashed organizations, so all these things were there so we rescued that girl fight a great for the great battle then she was staying is nearly as she was very upset not too interested to stay in the LA because her test was totally damaged. No she needs liquor. At the evening she has a lot of noise. She wanted chicken and mutton to eat not so nalla can provide this. So she said Oh, if you don't provide this, and then I don't want to stay here because all these no read like their impacts are horrible. they spoil your lifestyle, they spoil your economics, they spoil your habits, then you naturally stay with them only you cannot think of rehabilitation or reintegration with the society so she wasn't like that. So are taken very efforts, groomed, she was taken the education of the nursing she become an e&m nurse. Today, she is earning say 16 17,000 rupees and she is a very skilled nurse in one of the pediatric hospitals in ahmednagar. And she was invited to inaugurate the first survival conference in India who those who were survived after having experiences of trafficking and sexual abuse from the red light area. So it was in Hyderabad in 2015. She was called as a guest of the inauguration and she was she got the chance to first share her story to lakhs of people. I can tell you the story of a car a car was at the year of 12. So the family wants there is a land dispute. So family forced her to child marriage. Her husband was about a 28 year old person having a family and children but still, he married her. And his eldest daughter was about 13 year old and she's just really old or 12 years old. So that was a scene. So she was raped, she was abused, she ran away from the district. And she came, she came to us, because she was found at 12 o'clock night in the bus stand. And some people were no again, trying to chase her for sexual abuse, but then our volunteer saved her. So, she came to us, she was pregnant at that time, her child was there was a we producer in front of Child Welfare committee, her child was given to an option the girl was there she has taken a again a course of fashion designing she was liking very much. So today she is at Mumbai, earning about 25,000 rupees got married living a very happy life, we will learn that you cannot 100% transform the life but you can minimize the pains and traits of the life of the women. So it is not a ready made solution to every problem of every women we give tailor made solutions to them. So I will lot of 1000s of stories of change in life.
Wow, that was quite a podcast. You are listening to the founder of spear liar and NGO founded in ahmednagar, India in 1989. And so far, they have over 25,000 beneficiaries. They have 22 running projects in education, health care, rehabilitation and awareness for the people in the bottom of the pyramid. Currently, this podcast is being recorded in radio nuggets, and the links of the radio station in the organization are given below. This was part one of the podcast. You can catch the second part in a few days. Thank you
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