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Giving Back: Apne Aap Women’s Collective

by Bernard Henin

In January 2010, we began making a charitable donation every time we released a new version of our software as our way of giving back to the global community that makes our success possible. Inflection team members nominate causes and organizations that they want to support.

To celebrate our 6.11 release this week, we decided to donate to the Apne Aap Women’s Collective (AAWC), a non-profit that makes a “positive difference in the lives of the women and children in the Greater Kamathipura Area, the red light area of Mumbai, India that is also the largest and oldest red light area in Asia.”

apneaap.jpg This week, we had the opportunity to talk to Elizabeth Tang, an investment banker who left her job last September to work for AAWC in India.

1. How did you get involved with AAWC?
I have always been interested in gender-based violence and was part of a sexual assault peer counseling group in college. When I graduated and moved to New York to work for an investment bank, I continued reading about global and domestic women’s issues and decided that I wanted to focus on sex trafficking, which can be expressed more explicitly as commercial rape. I found AAWC online and spoke to different people from the U.S. and Australia who had been involved at AAWC. I’ve been at AAWC since October 2012 and very much regard it as one of the best decisions of my life.

2. What is the impact AAWC is having on India and the larger world?
We operate programs for women in brothel-based prostitution (ages 18+), girls (ages 6-18), and toddlers (ages 2-5). We provide our members with the tools and resources to make choices for a better quality of life, and in particular, to prevent intergenerational trafficking of the girls into prostitution. Since our inception in 1998, we have served more than 2,500 women and children. Our alumni have entered professions like accounting, teaching, photography, social work, and even luxury cuisine. One alumnus, Shweta Katti, currently attends Bard College in New York and was named one of Newsweek’s “25 Under 25 Women in the World.” Besides our impact on the red light community in Mumbai, AAWC is also demonstrating to the wider Indian and international community that women and girls from marginalized backgrounds should not be underestimated or dismissed; if given the opportunity, they have the ability to achieve amazing things.

3. How has working for AAWC and being in India changed your perspective on life, women’s issues, etc.?
I have learned how unexpectedly challenging it can be to advance women’s rights. It is often easy to abstract away the complexities as an outsider and imagine the many ways you can rapidly improve a situation. But when you deal in the day-to-day you begin to understand how many layers and nuances there are to any issue. There are a lot of harmful belief systems to break down. I have learned how to be patient with results without losing the impatience that drives change. But once again, I cannot understate the wonderful support of people in India and around the world. I only need to point to our current campaign to raise $15,000 for our 15th anniversary. In the first 4 days of our month-long campaign, we have already raised more than $5,000.

4. How can we support AAWC?
In order to expand our presence to multiple centers in decentralized locations around Mumbai, we will need to attract the right talent to deploy resources and operate our programs to best serve our beneficiaries. As in all industries, the talent must be compensated accordingly, and so we hope to be able to offer more competitive salaries. Simultaneously, we will require significantly more capital to purchase additional facilities and to operate more comprehensive programs for our beneficiaries. As we work toward these goals, we hope to have the support of ambassadors like Inflection, who can raise awareness in the technology / startup community about the challenges faced by our women and girls. AAWC is very grateful for Inflection’s generosity during our 15th anniversary fundraising campaign, and we look forward to a continued partnership!

For more information about AAWC, you can check out their website. For a list of all the organizations we have donated to as part of our release cycle donations, check out our Giving Back page.

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