• Girl from red-light area to run Canadian Consulate General in Mumbai for a day

    Snigdha HasanMumbaiOct 11, 2017, 11:22 IST

    If there was ever any doubt that girls can run the world, take a look at Mumbai's very own Shweta Katti. All of 22, she took over the reins of the Canadian Consulate General, albeit for a day.

    Shweta Katti and Canadian Consul General Jordan Reeves at CSMT, which is lit in pink in honour of the International Day of the Girl Child. Pic/Atul Kamble
    Shweta Katti and Canadian Consul General Jordan Reeves at CSMT, which is lit in pink in honour of the International Day of the Girl Child. Pic/Atul Kamble

    On the eve of the International Day of the Girl Child, as Consul General Jordan Reeves introduced Shweta Katti to his Indian and Canadian colleagues, the petite girl flashed a bright smile, her body language exuding confidence.

    Being in the limelight is not new to Shweta, who was featured in the Newsweek's list of '25 Under-25 Young Women to Watch' alongside Malala Yousafzai in 2013. She was the first girl from an Indian red-light area to study abroad and, in 2014, also received the UN Youth for Courage Award.

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    But as Reeves officially handed over the reins of the consulate general and invited her to address those gathered in the conference room, the memories of her childhood in Kamathipura's red-light area came flooding back. "This means a lot. Very few times while growing up, had I been given such importance," she said, her voice quivering. But she quickly cleared her throat, wiped her face, and brought the house down with, "This is why I don't wear make-up!"

    Taking charge
    The first order of the day was an exercise to break down gender stereotypes. Shweta asked questions like whether the employees thought long hair is for girls only, if boys shouldn't play house, etc.

    Also read - Mumbai: Air ticket stands between girl from Kamathipura and her dreams

    The 22-year-old then veered towards a more personal subject. "I am an illegitimate, Dalit girl who grew up in a red-light community," she said, without blinking an eye. But this acceptance of her history did not come easy. "I used to hate myself for who I was, until I joined Kranti in 2012," she adds, referring to an NGO that empowers girls from Mumbai's red-light areas.

    Because it's 2017
    "When [Canadian] Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the gender parity in his cabinet two years ago, his reply, 'Because it's 2015', drew international attention. And feminism has been the overarching theme for all our programmes under our International Development Assistance Policy. We couldn't imagine a better suited, more genuine candidate [than Shweta] to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child," said Reeves.

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    It was a packed day for Shweta, who after her interaction with the consulate employees, went to a radio station for an interview. "Radio is a powerful medium and I wanted to send out the message that when given a chance, women can contribute so much to society," she shared. After a quick lunch, she met educationists at an entrepreneurship and management school in Lower Parel, followed by a few more meetings.

    In the evening, she set out to meet the assistant general manager of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT). Basking in the glow of the building, which was lit in pink in honour of girls, Shweta said that all they need is "the right opportunity and a meaningful education."

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