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Abused mother of six plans shelter with jackpot money

Fatima Khatoon with Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukherji on the sets of KBC; (above) Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap receives the ABP Ananda Sera Bangali Award in 2012 from Fatima

Q: What does a 28-year-old mother of six want to do with her lakhs won on Kaun Banega Crorepati?

A: Build a safe home for women in need of shelter.

If the dream isn’t ordinary, the dreamer isn’t either.

Fatima Khatoon, 28, was born into one of Bihar’s most backward communities engaged in inter-generational prostitution. She was trafficked at the age of nine. After six children and sustained abuse at the hands of her husband, she fought back to emerge as a role model helping women from backward communities stand up for their rights and bust trafficking rings.

Fatima has earned herself a passport to pursue her dreams in the form of a jackpot on Kaun Banega Crorepati’s Season 8 — build a safe home for women in need of shelter within the home that she hopes to build for herself and her children.

“I had never even dreamt of going to the sets of Kaun Banega Crorepati or meeting Amitabh Bachchan. In fact I was a little scared when the time came and I had to step on to the sets. But Amitabh Bachchanji was very nice to me. He told me that I should not be afraid of him. I was tongue-tied while he spoke so much, wanting to know all about me, my work and where I get my courage and strength from,” said Fatima.

More than the prize money, Fatima is overwhelmed by her encounter with Big B. “Mere zindagi ka sabse khubsoorat din, jis din main Amitabh Bachchanji se mili...,” gushed the woman who had told the organisers that “I can only talk about the world I come from and my fight and struggle”.

Behind the scenes of the Sony show, Fatima also met actress Rani Mukerji who was there to promote her Friday film Mardaani that deals with sex trafficking. “She spoke to me with so much love. She wanted to know all about my work. She told me about this film and then said ‘Mardaani medal aapko jaata hai’ and put the medal around my neck,” said Fatima, from the train on her way to the village of Forbesganj in Bihar where she lives with her six children.

Fatima was married off at nine to a man 20 years older. She soon found out that she was married into a brothel and the husband was a trafficker. While fleeing from bondage and violence, she also helped four other women trapped in that house escape.

When Apne Aap Women Worldwide started its community centre in the red light area of Forbesganj 10 years ago, Fatima was one of the first two women to join and later start the first women’s group.

“With the money that I have won, I want to build a house where I can keep my children safe. I also want to build rooms for girls and women who have run away out of desperation, have nowhere to go or no one to seek help from. I will house them here and help them get proper justice,” said Fatima who leads the Apne Aap girls programme in the Uttari Rampur red light area and organises women to fight for their rights and for their daughters to live their lives free of sexual exploitation.

Ruchira Gupta, founder president of Apne Aap who had found Fatima eight years ago, said: “Fatima would cover her head, not challenge her husband’s beatings, had six children and trembled when she came to Apne Aap meetings. She fought with her husband to close their home-based brothel, kept her daughter in school, filed a police complaint and then suddenly she was ready to testify in court and address a public rally. Her courage gives me courage to carry on. Her victory is the victory of the 20,000 families in Apne Aap.”

The KBC episode featuring Fatima Khatoon will be aired on Thursday at 8.30pm on Sony