Published: 26th September 2018
How Kolkata NGO Sanlaap is ensuring girls saved from prostitution are rehabilitated with great jobs
This Kolkata NGO has rescued and rehabilitated over 10,000 girls from at-risk situations, ensuring they all have good jobs and a place to call their own
Aamina and Pinki* stay at an NGO-run home in Narendrapur, situated 17 km away from central Kolkata. Their future seems to be uncertain but not as much as thousands of other minor girls sold almost every day into sexual slavery in the state of West Bengal. Aamina's story could be considered relatively happier — at 15, she fled her home in Bangladesh after her uncle forcibly married her off to an already married man with two children. She ran away from her husband's house and soon found herself across the border in West Bengal. She had no clue what to do until she was picked up by the police at Howrah Station and sent to Sanlaap's shelter home in Narendrapur.
Sanlaap, formed in 1987 and registered in 1989 by Indrani Sinha, works to prevent trafficking in children as well as second generation prostitution and even has an informal school set up for the children and women within their shelter home. Srijoni, their economic rehabilitation programme, provides the girls with different kinds of training and workshops — which helps them create unique items which are for sale at the Sanlaap Hub and can also be ordered online. Some of their products include clothes, accessories, household décor and stationary — block print, batick and embroidery work. "We offer an all-encompassing psycho-social (residential) rehabilitation program for the survivors. These adolescents face countless difficulties such as being ostracised by society, being labelled as ‘bad girls’ and face a lot of stigma and ignominy from people. Sanlaap believes in child participation. We embrace the girls in all the activities and ensure that they play a proactive part in the decision-making process," explains Pinaki Ranjan Sinha, Executive Director, Sanlaap.
Speaking of the unspoken: Mental health intervention for the trafficked victims is done through counselling sessions with therapeutic activities like dance, music and art
A Legal Aid department named Salah was also initiated to provide legal assistance in 1996. "We make visits to the Child Welfare Committee and the Juvenile Justice Board followed by the court visits and then restoration (for Indian Nationals) and repatriation (for Bangladeshi Nationals). We also work closely with our partner NGOs like Justice and Care and International Justice Mission in providing legal assistance to the girls," adds Pinaki.
Helping through performing arts: Sanved is a programme for girls at Sanlaap to be involved in Dance and Music. They are also taught block print, batick and embroidery work
Through the work of Sanlaap over almost three decades now, more than 10,000 children have been restored, reintegrated and repatriated cumulatively. Over 3000 Bangladeshi and Nepali children have been traced, rescued and repatriated back to their families. "The girls who have been restored and have gone back to their families have been provided with economic sustainability. Some girls have been given sewing machines to be able to set up their business from home. Some have been set up with stationery shops and tea stalls. About 100 girls have also been empowered, educated and are working across different fields of therapy, law enforcement and business management," says Pinaki. Much of the children have been given education and thus dropout rates have been prevented. Others have been provided vocational training and put in touch with placement agencies for jobs.
The 4R principle
Rescue: Sanlaap in collaboration with the Anti–Human Trafficking Unit, CID, and other like-minded organisations, conducts rescue operations. Through these operations, they aim to rescue minor girls who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation — from any country
Rehabilitation: Sanlaap provides shelter to the survivors of trafficking and sexual exploitation. They also provide counselling keeping in mind the traumatic condition in which the girls come to the shelter home. During their stay, Sanlaap also engages the girls in various finance generating activities
Restoration: With the help of a Home Study Report, Sanlaap is able to judge how safe the girl would be in her own home. Then, with the permission of the Child Welfare Committee, if the environment is determined to be safe, they restore the girl to her family
Reintegration: This is a process which begins as soon as the girl starts to take in the rehabilitation. They believe that a number of girls, who have once been a part of their shelter home, are now successfully reintegrated. They now lead a normal life without stigma and discrimination
Reach out to them at sanlaap.org