M3 Features

Children of Kolkata sex workers document the lives of their mothers

July 27, 2014

The noble cause of fostering the aspirations of children of sex workers born in the red light areas of Sonagachi and Munshiganj in Kolkata, was furthered through a recent workshop arranged by Alliance Française Du Bengale and the NGO, Apne Aap Women Worldwide. 

It was a four-day film-making workshop for the children, where Aseem Asha Usman taught them the art of storytelling through motion picture. Fifty children participated, and on the last day, Friday, July 18, two of them presented the roughly edited tapes. Aseem Asha Usman is an award-winning film-maker who, through his NGO, Flying Birds of India, has taught people to make short films on issues like girl child discrimination, healthcare and education for women, eve-teasing, domestic violence, and changing gender roles in society, amongst many others. 

Following in the footsteps of Zana Briski, the widely acclaimed director of Born Into Brothels, which was also shot in Sonagachi, Aseem too assisted the children living in the red light areas in the hope that they can capture the lives of their mothers and possibly improve their lives through this documentary.

“I want to study and help my mother. I want to show the world how difficult the life of my mother is through my video,” said one girl participant who presented a video.

The perspective on life, that these children live day in and day out in the trauma that one day they too might suffer the fates of their mothers, is what is so moving about these short films (or digital stories, as Aseem calls them). A hard-hitting thought like whether their mothers would ever get to see the light of the day (as opposed to their often hellish lives as sex workers) is an invigorating feeling in itself, and these documentaries endeavour to throw light upon the direction people need to move in for the betterment of a free country.

An eight-year-old who also presented a video said, “I am writing a story for the first time in my life. I saw a camera for the first time. Now that I am learning to use it, maybe I will become a movie-maker in Bombay, when I grow up.”

Children trying their hand at film-making

Children who are entitled to education at this juncture of life are pushed to run errands in the absence of their mothers, who struggle to feed the mouths they are responsible for. Even though India achieved freedom in 1947, modern slavery has spread like wildfire. Oppression of women ever since has been the chief menace in the country.

The French embassy is helping in this endeavour, and has assured that these films will be screened at the French Film Festival. It is hoped that these could be sold to TV channels so that they can be shown to create awareness about the happenings in areas otherwise considered as taboo to step into.

“The money raised out of selling the films will be used for the girls to further their education,” says Ruchira Gupta, founder Apne Aap Women Worldwide.

Similar workshops have been suggested to be conducted in New Delhi and at Forbesganj in Bihar to propagate the idea of a better future for children who were born into brothels, an aspiration which many of these children cannot even dream of.

Written by Ankita Bose for Team M3.tv

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Comments (2)
Patricia Reply
July 30, 2014
Hope these kinds of workshops/sessions are held more and more all over the country. Opportunities like these must be extended to these children. It would encourage these children to dream big.
Deepti Reply
July 30, 2014
It is wonderful that Alliance Francaise made this possible. Talent can be inside any person; it is immaterial the situation one is born in or living in.
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