After adopting 5-year-old Gayatri in 2001, Gauri Sawant is working on her pet project, a home where children of sex workers will be provided with shelter, food, healthcare, and basic education.
She fought society and broke barriers to adopt and raise Gayatri, the girl child of a sex worker, as her own. Now Gauri Sawant, the trans ‘mommy’, has taken a step to provide a home, ‘Naani ka Ghar’, to many more children of sex workers.
Gauri recalls how Gayatri blossomed with the right care, and says this is something every child is entitled to. “Naani ka Ghar was born from this thought. What can be more welcoming for a child than his or her grandmother's house: a place where every child is pampered and loved the way they deserve to be,” she says.
At this Mumbai-based abode she aims to not only shower children with love and care, but also impart basic education and healthcare. Anyone below the age of 18 is welcome here.
While the land for the home has been donated, Gauri has already put in the money she won on Amitabh Bachchan’s quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati. She is currently raising more funds for the home through crowdfunding.
Gauri, born Ganesh Suresh Sawant, was born and raised in a conservative family in Pune. As a child, she was always more inclined towards the female gender. With the help of Humsafar Trust, she went from Ganesh to Gauri.
The children’s home is very important to Gauri. Through this initiative she hopes to shelter other children from the cruelties she experienced in her childhood, and her adult life as a trans-woman in streets of Mumbai.
Sex workers are vulnerable and their children are more vulnerable, as their surroundings are often deplorable.
“Life choices and opportunities are limited or nil as there is no scope for quality education. Growing up watching their mothers lead the life of a sex worker, and being dragged into the shackles of the flesh trade at a very tender age, these children, especially girls, find it very difficult to battle the stigma in the world outside. Very often, they end up in the same place,” she says.
Once, in Kamathipura, Gauri came across a little child playing with her mother's dupatta in one of the shacks. She stepped closer and was shocked to see the mother with a man even as the child was in the room; the mother had no place to leave the child while she worked.
Gauri was extremely disturbed to think that children were growing up in these circumstances, and decided to do something to change the lives of these kids.
“Children, specifically girls are unsafe in this environment where they grow up watching their mothers at work due to very small houses or kholis," she says.
Just like she raised Gayatri, Gauri hopes to make a better life possible for children of other sex workers.
Gauri came across Gayatri when was at her most vulnerable. Gauri feared that Gayatri would be sold off to Sonagachi, the red light area in Kolkata. She decided to adopt Gayatri in 2001 and provided her with all support and care she could - from education, food, healthcare to , most importantly, a shelter.
Gauri has sent Gayatri, now 17, to a boarding school for her education. “Gayatri is a strong, independent-minded girl who is in a position to help others. The life ahead of her is full of opportunities that were once denied to her,” she says proudly.
Gayatri has often been bullied and taunted for being the child of a transgender person. However, Gauri has taught Gayatri to take pride in coming from hijra community, and plans to do the same with the children of other sex workers.
“I want them to take pride in their mother's profession and be able to handle it with grace. Without the trauma of growing up watching the terrors of life in a brothel, they will also be in a better position to understand and respect their mothers for the hardships they have faced in life,” she says.
Nani ka Ghar seems to have become a symbol of Gauri’s purpose in life. She is dedicating all her efforts to make this safe haven for children a reality. Gauri believes she can provide a secure future and better opportunities to these children by providing them with love, affection, safety, healthcare, and education, helping them live a dignified life with options.
Nani ka Ghar will be constructed away from the city, away from the shackles of the life the children are born into.
Detailing her dream project, she says, “When you talk about facilities, the basic needs are shelter, food and clothing, apart from safety, and mental and emotional well being. One of our transgenders is a doctor, and can provide in-house medical care as and when needed.”
Gauri has begun the planning of the house with her architect. The proposed plan is of a two-storeyed house. The first floor will have the kitchen and common area. The second floor will house dormitories and toilets, along with a small “medicine” room for children. “Polio doses and timely vaccination will be purely handled by us,” she adds.
“With respect to education, we plan to begin with primary education. In the future, we will introduce some vocational courses that can make these children capable of securing jobs,” Gauri explains.
The home will be able to accommodate 70-80 children. Gauri hopes this will perhaps be the “biggest change” the children will see— a place where they can enjoy the innocence of childhood, and grow up to be free individuals with equal opportunities.