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Workshop focus on sex trafficking

A group of around 25 people from various backgrounds came together at Jadavpur University for a daylong workshop and orientation on building a movement to end sex trafficking.

From the nature and root causes of sex trafficking to tools, information and ideas on how to “protect and prevent” more women and girls from being trafficked, the six-hour workshop on Tuesday put the participants through an intense exchange.

The workshop and orientation programme to educate more mainstream professionals was organised by Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a grassroots movement towards ending sex trafficking, in partnership with the department of women’s studies, Jadavpur University.

Ruchira Gupta, founder president of Apne Aap, said she wanted to open a dialogue “with one of the best women’s studies departments in India on how to reach the most disempowered or the last girl and improve choices for her when trapped for prostitution, child marriage or domestic servitude”.

“Right now, there are people in the department who have been looking at the Sonagachhi model supported by DMSC (Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee) as a very good model for promoting women’s empowerment. Through this workshop, we will influence them to realise the flaws in the model that actually disempowers girls and protects the sex industry, which is not helping the girls. JU has the best minds and we would like them to talk to all other goodwill ambassadors to help the movement,” Ruchira added.

Twenty-year-old Uma Das from Kidderpore, whose mother was in the sex trade and now works as a community mobiliser, was there to learn more about the legal aspects and to film the session. Fine-art photographer Leena Kejriwal, on the other hand, was there for a greater insight into the issue that could reflect through her art. “I look at things from a more emotional angle and these women and girls have been subjects in my photographic artwork in the past,” said Kejriwal, who will be working on a large installation art campaign reflecting the issue.

Apart from laypersons whom the workshop was trying to educate, participants included women’s rights activists such as Malini Bhattacharya, Ratnabali Chatterjee and Jashodhara Bagchi.

The participants were broken up into groups to chalk out various plans of action. How to build advocacy groups, gender-sensitive training, youth involvement and the importance of generating livelihood and education options were some of the take-home points from the group work session.

“We have often faced individuals who have come to us for help in this regard but we were never well-equipped to help out. We do eye and blood donation camps but never anything about sex trafficking, which is a major issue today. We were very keen on attending this workshop which has helped us gain knowledge, learn about the legalities and how we can start by spreading awareness at the para level,” said two members of the Lions Clubs of Rishra and Maheshtala.

Samita Sen, director, school of women’s studies, Jadavpur University, said: “Our department has had a long engagement with the trafficking issue, so when Ruchira approached us for the workshop, I felt it would add to our research agenda. Since it’s already in the curriculum, this makes for a richer experience where students hear many voices and are provided a more interesting context. It rounds up our work and helps in terms of network. Classroom interventions such as these help generate a greater interest in these issues.”