If you've seen the documentary Born into Brothels, you'll know about Kolkata's red light districts, and the heartbreaking problem of prostitution and sex trafficking. The positive thing is that there are many non-profit organizations doing excellent and inspiring work to help rehabilitate affected women and children, and also prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. If you'd like to offer assistance in this field, the following organizations are the best places to volunteer in Kolkata. Each has different types of programs, so see which appeals the most.
Interested in dance? Kolkata Sanved could be the perfect place for you to volunteer in Kolkata. This organization uses the therapeutic properties of dance and movement to heal, empower, and rehabilitate survivors of trafficking and violence. It was founded in 2004 by Ashoka Fellow Sohini Chakraborty, a sociologist and dance activist. Now, Kolkata Sanved has expanded its program to work in rural and urban India, Bangladesh and Nepal. In addition to rehabilitation of victims of violence and trafficking, dance and movement are also used to help mental health patients, women and children suffering from HIV/AIDS, domestic workers, railway platform children, and mainstream school children. If you can't volunteer in person but still want to help, online opportunities are also available and include translating, workshop designing, and writing.
New Light is a secular, nonprofit charitable trust that provides a safe shelter, educational opportunities, recreational facilities, health care and legal aid for the females who have been victims of trafficking and abuse. It's located in Kalighat, one of the oldest red light areas of Kolkata. Started by a sociologist, who is the daughter of a physician, New Light has evolved into a comprehensive community development project with a special focus on HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment. Volunteers are accepted for a minimum duration of 14 days. All kinds of opportunities are available ranging from teaching to nursing.
The All Bengal Women's Union is perhaps the organization that needs volunteers the most. It was formed in 1932, not long after legislation was passed to enable the police to rescue women and children from the brothels. Its founders were a group of like-minded women who wanted to help other women who were exploited and victimized. The union has a wide range of projects including a school, children's welfare home, rehabilitation center, nursing home for the elderly, vocational training, and bakery. Women who have suffered all kinds of violence and abuse are helped. Free legal advice is also provided.
Sanlaap is a developmental organization that works against trafficking of women and children. It aims to make the world a safer place by protecting their rights. Sanlaap has a shelter home, child protection program in the red light districts, medical program, youth group, and women's support group. It also runs campaigns to generate community awareness, and has an economic rehabilitation initiative that specializes in producing fabrics and textiles. Both professional and non-professional volunteers are welcomed. Roles range from marketing and design, to simply playing with the children and helping teach them skills.
Destiny Foundation was formed in 2007 to help provide livelihood opportunities for rescued women who have been victimized by human trafficking and women whose circumstances make them vulnerable to being trafficked. They produce a very attractive range of high quality products with innovative designs, including yoga mat bags and kantha blankets made from recycled saris. (There's a catalog on their website). The organization welcomes volunteers to help with marketing, fashion design, workshops, fundraising, administration and any other means to help it grow. Travelers can also visit their shop to buy products.
Missing Link Trust aims to save girls from trafficking by creating awareness of the issue through an award winning anti-trafficking campaign. The campaign uses art and technology to engage the community. It includes a role playing game (which won NASSCOM’s Indie Game of The Year Award), public art installations, interactive murals, and education programs in schools. The trust has volunteer opportunities for graphic designers, content writers, and anyone who has other useful skills to contribute.