“They’ve been told they can never be role models, never pursue their dreams, and never be happy, and yet, they have done all of these things passionately and unapologetically. That, to me, is success.”–Robin Chaurasiya
On the 17th of February, Stephen Hawking announced the Top 10 Global Teacher Prize finalists. The ten finalists are truly incredible and inspiring. They are a diverse group of people representing 5 continents, 9 countries, a wide range of subjects and teaching in diverse settings. In the build up to the event and announcement of the winner, in Dubai on the 13th of March, we will be featuring each of our top 10 teachers on their own special day.
Today we feature Robin Chaurasiya
Giving India’s forgotten victims a voice
“Randi ki beti randi banegi” – “a whore’s daughter will only become a whore.” This is the society’s view of the girls who inhabit Kamathipura, Mumbai’s notorious red-light district. They are on the margins – without hope or prospects.
To break out of this cycle of despair takes revolutionary action and that’s what is brewing in a 1400 ft2 classroom in the centre of the district. There, Robin Chaurasiya lives with two fellow teachers and 15 teenage girls, all survivors of trafficking or daughters of sex workers. Together they are Kranti, a revolutionary organisation that empowers girls from Mumbai’s red-light areas to become agents of social change.
Robins knows what it’s like to be rejected by mainstream society – she was forced to leave her position in the US armed forces because of her sexuality. When she started Kranti four years ago, she came to realise that education was essential if she was to help the girls to stand up for themselves. She believes that through teaching, the world’s marginalised people can make the best leaders – not despite their background, but because of their background.
She has created a classroom that embraces the girls’ wide range of ages, literacy, languages, ethnicities, castes, religions, and abilities. Each morning, the school day starts with yoga and meditation, followed by writing, creative thinking challenges, and logic puzzles. Evening classes include English, computers, theatre, and health and sex education and weekends can involve plays and films, as well as volunteer work.
She focuses on developing communication skills , creative thinking, community leadership, and compassion. These key skills she believes will bring about change.
In 2014, the Revolutionaries led workshops for more than 100,000 students and parents and delivered 11 TEDx talks around the world. The following year, Kranti’s girls wrote, directed and performed Lal Batti Express (“Red-Light Express”) a one-hour play about their childhood in Mumbai’s brothels, and their future hopes and dreams. The play toured the United States, and was seen by 100,000 people. Through initiative like this, Robin and her Krantis are changing the way people regard sex workers and red-light areas, both in India and around the world.
Robin is proud of her girls. “They’ve been told they can never be role models, never pursue their dreams, and never be happy, and yet, they have done all of these things passionately and unapologetically. That, to me, is success.”