Painting the Walled City of Lahore

Painting the Walled City of Lahore

Zerka Tahir defines herself as a simple mother of two. However, she is in reality the mother of an entire community in a red light area of the city of Lahore, Pakistan. This gritty neighborhood, named ‘mini Heera Mandi’, is largely inhabited by the marginalized and underprivileged. But Zerka is creating change from the shadows, redefining humanity and hope.

The Communal Hubs – Zerka’s creation – is a safe haven for the children of ‘dancing girls’, musicians and those at risk of being exploited. It operates in an area where prostitution is a foremost form of work, and children are often collateral damage. Zerka´s vision: to have red light areas declared as conflict zones. This film exposes harsh realities from women sold into prostitution by their family, but also offers some promising spells of light in the form of community organising and projects.

In the 1980s, during the crackdown, many families migrated to this area of Lahore for work and opportunity. But as little as two years ago, many children of these families were left without opportunities for learning or guidance, and youth violence and disorder rates were high. When the Communal Hub´s school was first established, Zerka could not envision what it has evolved into today. At the Communal Hubs, the children of sex workers now receive a quality education in which their social, practical and artistic skills are nurtured and nourished.

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