Kolkata sanved Saving Lives Through Dance

Another day, another long bus ride to our Partner Kolkata Sanved. First let me say that every time our bus embarks on a road trip in these parts, we are a complete spectacle. The word TOURIST, in caps about 1 foot high, is plastered across the windshield of our bus. We are driving on the same road as men pushing carts, bicycles, scooters, cows, goats, dogs and pedestrians. We are indeed a rare sight in the rural communities we are driving through. Mix that with the fact that about 1/2 of the group are blondes, and it is a total WOW factor. We are tantamount to a UFO, complete with aliens, driving down anywhere, Main Street USA !!!!
We arrive and meet the beautiful and inspirational women of Kolkata Sanved. We were all guided through a Dance Movement Therapy session, (DMT ) that a girl who had been recently rescued would go through. We experienced first hand the transformational power of DMT. DMT can heal and empower the victims of sex violence to be bold, confident, advocates for themselves.
Kolkata Sanved has implemented a “Training of Trainers” or TOT program, which empowers victims to acquire the skills to have a career as a DMT teacher, enabling them to integrate back into mainstream society.
The TOT girls escorted us to the red light district to show us how they work with the at risk children at the Apne Aap drop in center. This is a different red light district than the one at Bowbazar, but no less dark and scary. The poverty here is ineffable for me to express, but this is the only reality the children here know. We walk up to the open roof area of the building. Both the TOT’s and the children were so eager to to show us their routines, and once again, the polite and proud ritual of the children introducing themselves is so heartwarming and endearing.
Not 5 minutes into the routine came loud aggressive Hindi screaming from the neighbors, telling the group to be quite. It was frightening. The children were un phased by the abrupt ending to their show, which to me , was the saddest thing, as it was clear that disappointment and disempowerment is the rule and not the exception in their experience.

Kolkata Sanved believes that all individuals, from marginalized and mainstream populations, should live with dignity and self-respect. This basic sense of empowerment and integrity is achieved through their DMT program.

Kolkata Sanved has had great success using DMT as a modality to heal, empower and rehabilitate survivors of trafficking and violence. Transforming Steps in London, 2012. Kolkata Sanved launched an international campaign in both Kolkata and London called “Stand with Survivors of Sex Trafficking, Stand Against Exploitation”. They collaborated with Sadler’s Wells, a world renowned theater, and Living Lens, an organization utilizing video as therapy for the survivors of human trafficking. Together they raised awareness around sex trafficking through the creation of a film starring the Sanved dancers as they performed at the famous venue of Sadler’s Wells in London. The film was screened across London prior to the Olympics in 2012.


Kolkata Sanved also received the prestigious “DVF Award” The Diane von Furstenberg Award for Transforming the Lives of Women in March of 2011. The Award ceremony took place at United Nations, at the Women in the World Summit. This award gives recognition to those who are using their resources, commitment and visibility to transform the lives of other women. These are women who have had the courage to fight, the power to survive and the leadership to inspire.

Kolkata Sanved has also won the Beyond Sport Award 2009 in the “Best Project For Health” category. Kolkata Sanved’s flagship programme “Saving Lives Through Dance” has emerged among 265 projects from 40 countries.
If you would like more information on Kolata Sanved please see the Partners and Projects section of my blog.
Abolish 21st century slavery.
With love and gratitude









We arrived at Sanlaap Shelter which is approximately a 1 hour ride into the country.
We had a conversation with one of the directors there , a wonderful and dedicated women named Priyanka, who explained what it is like for the girls after they get rescued from the red light district and put into their care. The young girls have a 3 month integration time whereby they live in a house separate from the group that have been there longer. They have very loose schedules as they have been severely abused and traumatized, so this time is meant to be therapeutic. It is difficult to fathom that it is so complicated to get a minor child out of a brothel… There has to be viable and credible information in order for the police to preform a raid, as prostitution is legal for women over the age of 18. Even though there is a high demand for young female children among men in India, there are some johns that take pity on the children and they sometimes will allow the girls to call their parents to tell them that they have been kidnapped and held against there will.
There are currently 137 girls at this shelter. The resiliency of these children is awe inspiring. Sanlaap teaches them to sew and to do block printing. I was guided through the process of Batik’ing a linen scarf with one of the girls.These girls are like any other kids you may know. They love to play games, sing and dance. When you see the physical scars on their bodies, it is a painful reminder that their childhoods have been tragically eclipsed by their abusers. Many of the seva participants who are on the tour, have girls at home. they say their girls are just like these girls on the surface, except they are not…They have been kidnapped, brutalized, tortured, raped, and forced to use drugs in order to be compliant with the horrendous and unimaginable things they were being forced to do.
The active sex workers here are victims of sexual violence themselves and were trafficked as children. They want to protect their children from the same fate. These sex workers are shunned by he Indian society, therefore, it is virtually impossible for them to get out and work in another trade.
Sanlaap center provides a ” drop in center” for the children of these active sex workers in the red light district of Bowbazar, Kolkata. If not for this center, these children would be either under or next to the bed that their mother is servicing clients on.

After our visit to Sanlaap, we were given unprecedented access to the red light area. Priyanka escorted us, as our convoy of vehicles descended on the red light district of Bowbazar. There are no adequate words to convey the palpable feeling of poverty, desperation, and evil. This is the Hades or underworld that I have read about in Greek mythology. The only thing missing were the flames in the background.
This place has left an indelible wound on my heart and soul. Walking down that 3block stretch seemed like an eternity. The putrid smell of the combination of body fluids that you can only imagine was overwhelming, was the indicator that We had passed a brothel. There were at least 25 or more brothels in that small area, and many young children being abused within the walls.
As Priyanka navigated us through the maze, we reached the ” drop in center”
This was a place where heaven and hell coexisted simultaneously. There were about 25 children cramped into this tiny place where they are supervised, given supplemental education and a meager amount to eat while their mothers are working. They all one by one sweetly and with great pride announced their names and where they were from.The female children ( only 4 were girls ) did a Indian dance for us. The boys did many Bollywood routines that where absolutely hysterical. They could have preformed for us all day, but we had to be out before sunset.
It was and still is so difficult to comprehend that this is the norm for these children.
Organizations like Sanlaap continue to work selflessly to prevent this from happening to current and future generations.
Sanlaap can currently only run the drop in center until 8 p.m. This leaves the children with no place to be between the hours of 8 pm and 7 am.
I continue my commitment to support this cause. If you are interested in helping to fund Sanlaap’s evening drop in center, OTM is working on raising funds to cover the cost. The cost of running the drop in center is $ 600 per month , which covers rent, teacher salaries, night watchman and some food. We will be making a commitment to cover the next 3 years. The total cost will be $21, 600.
If you would like to learn more about Sanlaap, please see my Partners and Projects blog.
With gratitude and love
Abolish 21st Century Slavery