A red-light district in Kolkata on August 11 witnessed the celebration of "Raksha Bandhan" (the bond of protection and love)—with 75 children tying hand-crafted "Rakhi" (wrist band) on each other's hands.
These bands were made by the children themselves during their art and craft therapy class organized by the Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre (KMWSC), West Bengal, eastern India.
KMWSC is a Loreto resource and development center for social change managed by the Loreto Nuns.
In India, " Raksha Bandhan” is observed to celebrate the bonds of love that exist among brothers and sisters (either among biological siblings or otherwise).
The term "Raksha Bandhan" refers to a ritual that originated in Hinduism but is now prevalent among many different religions as a social practice. It denotes "the bond of protection, obligation, and care."
KMWSC celebrated the occasion with the children and beneficiaries in the various social development project field areas, instilling the bonds of fraternity, relationship, and love.
The children at the red-light project in Kolkata, (formerly Calcutta), the capital of India's West Bengal state, celebrated a special bond by tying "Rakhi," which they made as a symbol of "the bond of protection and love," on each other's hands. The Rakhis were made entirely by hand by the children.
The 75 children who participated in the celebration are from Sonargachi in Kolkata. The area falls under the Red Light Area Project of the KMWSC.
In Sonagachi, where people are treated like a community, children find refuge by tying the band and becoming each other's protectors.
A 13-year-old girl who participated in the celebration said, "We see a very difficult side of our families every day. Our mothers get busy entertaining the clients while we are left alone to celebrate these occasions."
"Sometimes, we do not have enough money to celebrate any important occasion or feast. Under the KMWSC center at Sonagachi, we get the opportunity to celebrate all the festivals in a safe environment with more children like us," she added.
A sex worker who is also a mother said, "I am happy to have a safe, child-friendly zone inside Sonagachi where I know my children are safe and learning something new every day."
"Thanks to KMWSC’s efforts, children are made aware of their rights and child protection issues while they are also taught whom to contact at the time of risk," the mother added.
According to one of the staff in the project area, KMWSC’s main objective is to create empowerment among the children.
Today, children have shown the zeal not just to fight to protect themselves but to fight for one another.
"In this area, we have introduced education, counseling, music therapy, art and craft therapy, and other skill development classes to give them an opportunity for a safer future," the KMWSC staff said. "We are hopeful that they will achieve that one day."
KMWSC was registered in 2014 as a non-government organization in West Bengal.
Over the years, KMWSC evolved as a social resource center under the Loreto Indian Province. It expanded with several outreach programs catering to the needs of the marginalized, underprivileged, deprived (red light area, slum) and migrant communities.
KWMC now works in West Bengal and beyond. KMWSC is successfully implementing 14 projects in four districts of West Bengal and Nawada district of the state of neighboring Bihar. - Teresa Rozario
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